When partisan politics turns petty

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Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), as recently as a few days ago, said he would not try to stop an up-or-down vote on Chuck Hagel’s Defense Secretary nomination. And then yesterday, he did the exact opposite.

I’m sure he’ll be coming soon to a Sunday show near you to explain his thinking, but in the meantime, take a look at what McCain told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto after the first-ever instance of a Senate minority blocking a vote on a cabinet nominee.

For those who can’t watch clips online, this was the key portion of the senator’s comments:

“[T]o be honest with you, Neil, it goes back to there’s a lot of ill will towards Senator Hagel because when he was a Republican, he attacked President Bush mercilessly, at one point said he was the worst president since Herbert Hoover, said that the surge was the worst blunder since the Vietnam War, which is nonsense, and was very anti his own party and people. People don’t forget that. You can disagree, but if you’re disagreeable, then people don’t forget that.”

It was a fascinating take on recent events because McCain finally put aside his talking points and told the truth: he and his Republican colleagues engaged in obstructionism unseen in American history because … McCain and his pals hold a grudge.

Keep in mind, cabinet nominees like John Kerry and Hillary Clinton also condemned George W. Bush and opposed the “surge” policy in Iraq, but Kerry and Clinton sailed through the Senate confirmation process with nary an opposition vote.

But that’s what makes McCain’s comments so fascinating: while Republicans hate Democrats, they really hate Republicans who occasionally side with Democrats. So much so that a guy like McCain – who previously said he’d consider Hagel for his own cabinet – is willing to break his word and participate in an unprecedented filibuster.

Before we move on, though, I’d be remiss if I neglected to mention McCain’s concerns about those who are “disagreeable.”

It’s a fact that generally goes unmentioned, but John McCain is not especially well liked by his own colleagues. During his two failed presidential campaigns, there was a noticeable lack of endorsements from other Republican senators – folks who’ve worked with him every day for years, if not decades – who threw their support to almost anyone else.

There’s no mystery as to why, exactly, McCain’s colleagues don’t really like McCain

* In a “heated dispute over immigration-law overhaul” [in 2007], McCain screamed at Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), “F*** you!” He added, “This is chickens*** stuff…. You’ve always been against this bill, and you’re just trying to derail it.” [5/19/07]

* In a discussion over the “fate of Vietnam MIAs,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) asked McCain, “Are you calling me stupid?” “No,” replied McCain, “I’m calling you a f***ing jerk!” [Newsweek, 2/21/00]

* At a GOP meeting in fall 1999, McCain “erupted” at Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) and shouted, “Only an a**hole would put together a budget like this.” When Domenici expressed his outrage, McCain responded, “I wouldn’t call you an a**hole unless you really were an a**hole.” [Newsweek, 2/21/00]

This guy has the gall to say, “You can disagree, but if you’re disagreeable, then people don’t forget that”? Even for McCain, the irony is rich.

Chuck Hagel, Cabinet and John McCain

When partisan politics turns petty

Updated