Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) talked to msnbc's Andrea Mitchell last week, and seemed eager to put some distance between himself and Donald Trump, calling the Republican candidate "offensive
The senator went further
talking to the New Yorker
's Ryan Lizza.
"It's very bad," McCain, who was eager to talk about Trump, told me on Monday when I stopped by his Senate office. The Senator is up for re-election in 2016, and he pays close attention to how the issue of immigration is playing in his state. He was particularly rankled by Trump's rally. "This performance with our friend out in Phoenix is very hurtful to me," McCain said. "Because what he did was he fired up the crazies." [...] "We have a very extreme element within our Republican Party," McCain said. ... "Now he galvanized them," McCain said. "He's really got them activated."
His criticisms have real merit. By national standards, McCain is pretty far to the right, but for much of the GOP base -- inside Arizona and out -- he's a moderate sellout worthy of conservatives' wrath. The senator has seen the "crazies" and the Republican Party's "extreme element" up close, so he knows of what he speaks.
But reading McCain's concerns, there's a nagging question: isn't this the guy who wanted to put Sarah Palin one heartbeat from the presidency of the United States?
When McCain elevated the former half-term governor to national prominence, was it because the senator saw her as a brilliant visionary, or was it because he wanted her to "fire up the crazies" and get them "activated"?
For what it's worth, McCain isn't just annoyed with Trump. When his conversation with Lizza turned to immigration
, the senator noted Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) didn't give up on comprehensive immigration, unlike Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).
I noted that Rubio, like many other Republican politicians, has been hard to follow on the issue and no longer supports the compromise approach that the Gang of Eight took in 2013: combining a pathway to citizenship and tough new border measures in a single bill. McCain licked his finger, held it up in the air, and laughed. "You know that old song from before you were born?" McCain said, speaking of the Bob Dylan classic "Subterranean Homesick Blues." "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."