John McCain | Media Matters for America

John McCain

Tags ››› John McCain
  • The predictable hero story of the health care vote -- and what it misses

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Late last night, the GOP effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act was defeated in a Senate vote, with two members of the Republican Party voting against the measure in full force, and a third Republican senator voting no because it’s part of his brand, I guess.

    Republican Sens. Susan Collins (ME) and Lisa Murkowski (AK) came out strongly against the repeal efforts early on, opposing previous bills aimed at repealing the ACA and voting against the procedural motion to begin debate on the repeal proposals.

    Let’s be clear: Opposing an absolutely devastating disaster of a bill that would lead to higher uninsured rates and, likely, the deaths of some of your constituents is the bare minimum any competent lawmaker can do. As The New Republic’s Sarah Jones wrote, “Obamacare’s real saviors have been dragged out of wheelchairs, arrested, and assaulted for weeks. They are, as you would expect, the people who stand to lose the most if Obamacare is repealed. They are people with disabilities: activists associated with [the disability rights group] ADAPT, and the unaffiliated individuals and carers who came forward to share their experiences and to demand better from the GOP.”

    Collins and Murkowski aren’t exactly heroes, either. But at least these two senators committed to opposing dangerous repeal measures from the start, in the face of thuggish tactics from the men they work with. Collins and Murkowski faced escalating, sometimes physically oriented, threats from male colleagues in Congress and the Trump administration because of their opposition to the bill. Murkowski was reportedly threatened by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in a personal phone call. President Donald Trump tweeted that Murkowski had “let the Republicans, and our country, down” after she voted against the motion to begin debate on the repeal earlier in the week. Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) said somebody ought to “go over there to that Senate and snatch a knot in their ass,” in defense of Trump’s tweet singling out Murkowski. Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) ominously threatened to “duel” the two lawmakers (if only they were men).

    And then there is Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the media’s favorite political figure despite his signature tendency to say one cool, “maverick” thing to reporters and then immediately do the other -- often falling into line behind his party, though occasionally going rogue to further secure his media darling standing. McCain also did the absolute bare minimum and voted against the bill in the end, after months of hedging on his stances about a repeal effort. He would have been applauded by the media either way.

    Guess which senator a bunch of reporters chose to cast as the hero? The average news consumer, scrolling through headlines on social media or on email, would draw one clear and utterly false conclusion about who really did the most to defeat the repeal measures: an indecisive, press-conscious dud of a senator instead of his much stronger female colleagues, or the grass-roots activists who far, far, far surpass them all.

    [CNN, 7/28/17]

    [The Washington Post, 7/28/17]

    [The Washington Post, 7/28/17]

    [Politico, 7/28/17]

    [The New York Times, 7/28/17]

    [The New York Times, 7/27/17]

    [NBC News, 7/28/17]

    [USA Today, 7/27/17]

    [The Associated Press, 7/28/17]

    [The Daily Beast, 7/28/17]

  • When it comes to John McCain, some journalists will never, ever learn

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Sarah Wasko /  Media Matters

    Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) voted yesterday to proceed to debate on an unknown Republican health care bill (or bills) written in unprecedented partisan fashion outside of the normal legislative process. Then he stood in the well of the Senate and decried partisanship and legislative hijinks. Many political journalists applauded his words and scoffed at liberals who pointed out the inconsistency with his actions, even generating convoluted, nonsensical explanations that he was setting himself up to oppose the eventual bill. Hours later, McCain proved the liberals right by supporting a proxy vote for a partisan bill written outside of the legislative process that had not been fully reviewed by the Congressional Budget Office.

    It’s not a coincidence that political reporters missed the story on McCain in their rush to canonize him. They’ve been wrong about him for decades.

    Political journalists love to tell the legend of John McCain, the noble, straight-talking maverick who says what he means and means what he says. The reality is much less interesting: McCain is a standard-issue Republican senator with few legislative accomplishments but an immense talent for press relations.

    McCain won the affection of the press in the simplest way possible -- he worked them. Beginning in the late 1990s, as he and his ghostwriter Mark Salter were reinventing him and positioning him for his first presidential run, McCain gave reporters access, treated them alternatively to respect and jocular insults, and provided a steady stream of good quotes. The deployment of the Straight Talk Express, the presidential campaign bus McCain used to charm and disarm reporters on long trips through the countryside, was a brilliant maneuver. And it worked. “The press loves McCain,” MSNBC’s Chris Matthews said in 2006. “We’re his base.”

    McCain talks a good game to reporters, at times providing them with juicy quotes criticizing his party’s excesses. But his voting record in recent years is basically in line with that of Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT). No one calls Hatch a maverick. On the rare major legislative issues in which he has defied his party -- the Bush tax cuts, campaign finance reform, and comprehensive immigration reform -- McCain has repudiated or abandoned his attempts to break with the party as they came under increasing fire from the right.

    The “maverick” reputation largely unraveled among the press late in the 2008 presidential campaign, helped along by his nakedly cynical decision to pick the woefully unqualified Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. But old habits die hard, and for years we have seen declarations from political journalists and commentators that Maverick McCain is “back.”

    The label even survived McCain’s decision to endorse Donald Trump (a man he fairly clearly did not trust with nuclear weapons), a clear admission that, to the extent McCain ever represented a different kind of Republican, he lost and was willing to bow to those that won. After McCain offered criticism of the president in the early days of his administration, reporters again rushed to praise his willingness to stand up for his beliefs, ignoring that he had voted for almost every member of the president’s cabinet.

    Yesterday’s paean to the “need for bipartisanship” and a demand to return to “the old way of legislating in the Senate” immediately following a vote in favor of partisan legislation crafted in secret should have exposed McCain to his friends in the press. Instead, as FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver noted, there was a divide between “less traditional reporters” who pointed out McCain’s inconsistency and television and newspaper reporters who warmly received his remarks.  

    Here, for example, are the opening paragraphs of a CNN.com news article by White House reporter Stephen Collison: “In a Washington moment for the ages, Sen. John McCain claimed the role of an aging lion to try to save the Senate, composing a moving political aria for the chamber and the country that he loves. With a deep-red scar etched from his eyebrow to his temple, the legacy of brain surgery less than two weeks ago, McCain beseeched his colleagues to forsake political tribalism and restore the chamber to a spirit of compromise that had helped forge national greatness.”

    Some in the press, noting McCain had said in his speech that he “will not vote for the bill as it is today,” created convoluted explanations for how McCain was “laying the groundwork to vote no” on a final bill. This made little sense at the time -- McCain doesn’t need to lay “groundwork”; if he has a problem with how the bill was put together he could have opposed it and forced the return to regular order he championed. And in any case, McCain effectively voted for “the bill as it is today” later that night, proving his media backers wrong in embarrassing fashion.

    Maybe McCain will find a way to vote “no” on one of the health care bills that will apparently come before the Senate, while voting “yes” on other versions of the legislation. If that happens, his “base” in the media will surely grab ahold of that vote with both hands and declare the senator and themselves vindicated, regardless of how little sense that makes. But expecting McCain to be the deciding vote preventing Republican health care legislation would be foolhardy. He’s a run-of-the-mill Republican senator who can be counted on to fall in line. Indeed, he almost always has.

  • Joe Scarborough Shut Down By Sen. McCain After Claiming Sleep Deprivation Isn’t Torture

    Scarborough: “I See Absolutely No Problem About Doing A Study On 'Enhanced Interrogation' Techniques"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    On the January 25 edition of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough complained that “suddenly” so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” became “abhorrent” after public outcry over abuses during the George W. Bush administration. After it was reported that President Trump may sign an executive order that would “order a review of the Army Field Manual to determine whether to use certain enhanced interrogation techniques” again, Scarborough said that he “see[s] absolutely no problem about doing a study on enhanced interrogation techniques.” He added later in the segment that “there has been such a broad brush put across this entire topic of, quote, ‘torture.’ Suddenly sleep deprivation is torture.”

    In the final hour of his show, Scarborough, who previously told a former naval intelligence official that he was wrong in saying that waterboarding doesn’t work, asked Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a former prisoner of war in Vietnam who experienced torture, to “define torture,” inquiring whether “sleep deprivation and other techniques like that” in fact “fit” McCain’s personal “definition of torture.” McCain shut Scarborough down, stating unequivocally that “extreme sleep deprivation is certainly not allowed and, again, it is very clear and laid out” in both the Geneva Conventions and the Army Field Manual:

    SCAROROUGH: Can you define torture? Because -- I was saying this morning, we had this discussion at 6 o'clock -- there has been a broad brush, and everything from waterboarding all the way back to sleep deprivation, basically anything outside the Army Field Manual. And certainly the definition of torture became very expansive post-2005, 2006. What's your definition of torture, and does sleep deprivation fit -- and other techniques like that -- does that fit in your definition of torture?

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: Yeah, obviously some of it depends on the extent of it, but I can tell you it's the Geneva Conventions for the Treatment of Prisoners of War. Joe, after World War II, we tried and convicted and hung Japanese who had -- and one of the charges against them was waterboarding. And soo look, there is no doubt, just look at the Geneva Conventions, which we are signatories to, for treatment of prisoners, and you will see that it's very well laid out there, and waterboarding is one of those that is prohibited. And I'm entertained, and sometimes frustrated, when I have members of the Senate say, oh, well, I don't think waterboarding is that bad. It's one thing to do it in practice in one of our escape innovation schools. It's something else when it's real.

    SCARBOROUGH: I understand, that's why I'm asking you -- we understand waterboarding -- General Mattis and I think Mike Pompeo, others, said they would not follow through with orders on that. I'm asking on the other side of the spectrum, though, pushing back towards the Army Field Manual for things like sleep deprivation.

    MCCAIN: Well, again, it's laid out in the Army Field Manual, which is guided by the Geneva Conventions. Extreme sleep deprivation is certainly not allowed and, again, it is very clear and laid out, and I'd be glad to send it to you. There's a bright line.

    SCARBOROUGH: That would be awfully kind of you. I'd be sure to read it, or I'll just look at it on the internet.

  • Newspaper Editorials Slam McCain For Unprecedented Pledge To Block Any Clinton Nominee For Supreme Court

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Newspaper editorial boards are sharply criticizing Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) for promising that he and his fellow Republican senators would block any and all nominees for the Supreme Court put forth by a President Hillary Clinton, noting that McCain’s promise upends the GOP’s stated reasons for refusing to even hold a vote on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland.

  • Breitbart News’ History Of Attacking Establishment Republicans Under Trump’s New Chief Executive

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    Breitbart News, under the leadership of Stephen Bannon -- the newly hired campaign chief executive of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign -- has repeatedly attacked “establishment” Republicans such as House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on a variety of issues, particularly immigration. Its articles have accused these Republican leaders of being a “champion of open borders,” of being “insulated from the Real World,” of being “Everything voters have come to despise about the GOP Establishment,” and of “acting more like a Democrat than a Republican.”

  • Media Slam The Republican Leaders Disavowing Trump’s Feud With Khans But Not Rescinding Their Endorsements

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Media figures are criticizing Republican leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), for refusing to rescind endorsing Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump while condemning his attacks on the Khans, an American Muslim family whose son was killed in action in Iraq in 2004. They are calling the statements refusing to flat-out disavow Trump “acts of cowardice,” “less than worthless,” and “empty words.”

  • John McCain Speaks Out Against Torture As Fox News Praises Trump For Waterboarding Comments

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    Senator John McCain (R-AZ), former POW and survivor of torture, denounced the use of torture as ineffective and counterproductive after Donald Trump advocated waterboarding and “much worse” to fight terrorism. Fox News figures praised Trump’s advocacy of illegal interrogation and pushed for President Obama to adopt similar strategies.

    During a June 28 campaign rally at Ohio University Eastern Campus, Trump called for the United States to “fight so viciously and violently” against terrorists and “fight fire with fire.” Trump also advocated for the use of waterboarding and “much worse” against enemy combatants.

    Trump had previously advocated for techniques “tougher than waterboarding” as well as proposing the killing of innocent family members of enemy combatants. In May, Trump attempted to walk back those comments by acknowledging “that the United States is bound by laws and treaties,” but has since returned to proposing policy that he once recognized would force a “military officer to disobey the law.”  

    Fox News hosts largely supported Trump’s plans for the illegal techniques. Fox’s Peter Hegseth argued that the United States “can maintain our values while still ruthlessly going after ISIS,” and Fox host Eric Bolling downplayed torture, saying “God forbid we pour water on terrorists’ faces.”

    But on June 29, Senator McCain joined Fox’s On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, where host Greta Van Susteren asked McCain about Trump’s advocacy for torture. McCain pointed out that numerous military leaders have said “that it not only doesn’t work, but it is counter-productive because you get bad information.” Furthermore, McCain argued that “it’s about us, not about them,” making the point that torturing enemy combatants is a contradiction of American values:

     

     

    On October 26, 1967, McCain, then a Navy pilot, was shot down over Vietnam, and captured by the North Vietnamese. McCain was subjected to torture by his captors, explaining that, he “was beaten every two or three hours by different guards,” and after four days agreed to write a confession.