Some Republican senators admitted Wednesday they were caught off guard by the backlash to a letter warning Iranian leaders against a nuclear agreement with President Barack Obama. And Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Republicans -- many of whom blessed the missive during a brisk signing session at a Senate lunch a week ago, as senators prepared to flee a Washington snowstorm -- should have given it closer consideration. "It was kind of a very rapid process. Everybody was looking forward to getting out of town because of the snowstorm," McCain said.
After putting his signature on the Senate Republicans' infamous sabotage letter, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) started hedging Tuesday night, saying the GOP's missive to Iranian leaders may not have been "the best way" for his party to achieve its goals.
By late yesterday, the longtime senator offered an entirely new rationale.
McCain went on to tell Politico that he and his colleagues "probably should have had more discussion" about the document, "given the blowback that there is."
Note, this appears to be the third excuse Republicans have come up with for the letter intended to derail American foreign policy. The first rationale was that the 47 GOP senators were kidding, and this was all an attempt at being "cheeky." The second was that Republicans tried to undermine international nuclear talks, but this is all President Obama's fault.
And here's John McCain rolling out the option behind Door #3: Republicans were concerned about snow, so they rushed.
Oddly enough, that's probably slightly better than the rationale Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) came up with.
On NBC's "Today" show yesterday morning, the Kentucky Republican told Matt Lauer that he signed on to the sabotage letter because he wanted to "strengthen the president's hand."
If there's a way to see this as a coherent argument, I can't think of it. Rand Paul thought it would strengthen Obama's hand at the negotiating table if Republicans told Iranian officials not to trust or cooperate with Obama?
In the larger context, let's not forget that Republicans tend to consider foreign policy and national security as their signature issues, and polls, reality notwithstanding, generally show Americans trust the GOP more on matters of international affairs. Credibility on foreign policy is generally seen as a birthright throughout the Republican Party.
And yet, consider what we're seeing from Republican senators right now and the degree to which it's amateur hour within the GOP.
At a certain level, the fact that so many in the GOP are scrambling to address the scandal they created is itself a heartening sign. All things considered, it's better to hear Republicans making bizarre excuses than to hear then boast about how proud they are of their sabotage letter. Senators like McCain and Paul aren't defending the letter on the merits so much as they're looking for excuses to rationalize their participation in a dangerous stunt.
But I'm nevertheless reminded of Fred Kaplan's assessment from earlier this week: "It is a useful thing when a political party reveals itself as utterly unsuited for national leadership."