Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was awarded the Liberty Medal by the National Constitution Center on Monday night, and delivered remarks that sounded like a not-so-subtle shot at Donald Trump. The veteran senator said that "some half-baked, spurious nationalism" should be considered "as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history."
Asked yesterday whether this was a rebuke of his party's president, McCain added that he was really referring to "America Firsters" -- which only reinforced impressions that Trump and his followers were his intended targets.
As the Washington Post reported, the president was asked about this during a radio interview yesterday.
"People have to be careful because at some point, I fight back," Trump said in an interview Tuesday with WMAL, a D.C. radio station."I'm being very nice. I'm being very, very nice. But at some point, I fight back, and it won't be pretty," Trump said.
Soon after, McCain didn't sound overly concerned about the president's warnings. "I have faced tougher adversaries," he said of Trump.
This has the benefit of being true. As the Associated Press noted, McCain "spent five-and-a-half years in a Vietnam prisoner of war camp and is battling brain cancer." Not to put too fine a point on this, but there's literally nothing Donald Trump could realistically do to intimidate the Republican senator.
What is it, exactly, that Trump believes "won't be pretty"? Does he intended to publish some mean tweets? Question McCain's military service again? Threaten to support a primary rival for McCain 2022?
Under the circumstances -- it's still a 52-48 Senate -- Trump needs McCain far more than McCain needs Trump.
For his part, Barack Obama, who traded shots with the Arizona senator during their 2008 race, tweeted on Monday night, "I'm grateful to [McCain] for his lifetime of service to our country. Congratulations, John, on receiving this year's Liberty Medal."
Sometimes, a little decency goes a long way.