According to Esquire, President Donald Trump gave Sen. John McCain a call only minutes before the Arizona Republican headed to the Senate floor for July’s vote on repealing Obamacare. During that call, Trump attempted to get McCain on board with the vote to no avail. Despite promises to Republicans in the Senate that an affirmative vote would simply keep the bill alive, send it over to the House, and allow both houses of Congress to continue working on a full repeal and replace healthcare plan, McCain flatly told the president that he couldn’t come through in the clinch.
“I thank you, Mr. President, for your involvement,” McCain told Trump. “I cannot vote for something called Skinny Repeal. I can’t do it. I didn’t even see the bill until today. I mean, this is insanity. I appreciate the call and now I have to go vote, and I’m sorry.”
Thanks to a thumbs down from McCain and Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, the so-called skinny repeal died with a 51-49 vote, ending the Republican Party’s 2017 efforts to follow through on their promises of the last seven years. They immediately moved on to the issue of tax reform, which is now facing some of the same intraparty divisions and problems that plagued the healthcare debate.
The entire Esquire piece is worth a read, if only to show you what happens when you try to play the role of “honorable rogue Republican” the way McCain has for the last little while. You get long, snide articles like the one in Esquire. This thing is full of quasi-admiration for those moments when McCain single-handedly thumbed his nose at the Trump agenda, but it makes up for them by reminding readers that we are, after all, talking about that most LOATHSOME of creatures: A conservative Republican senator.
Take this snippet:
While he’s talking regrets, I raise a campaign ad he cut at the Mexican border for his 2010 senatorial campaign. McCain has often advocated immigration reform: In 2005, he joined forces with Kennedy to push a doomed bill, and seven years later he tried again with the so-called Gang of Eight, which included four senators from each party. But in the 2010 campaign ad, McCain invoked the dangers represented by immigrants crossing the border without permission. “Drug and human smuggling, home invasions, murder,” he intoned. “Complete the danged fence.”
I asked how this differed from Trump’s smear against Mexicans. (“They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists,” the future president had said back in June 2015.)
“Oh, yeah,” he responded glumly. “Listen, I’ve been living with that statement for all those years. At my funeral there will be somebody who will flash that up: ‘See? This is what he was really like!’ ”
You’ll notice that McCain didn’t say, “Right, well, I now think we should just let anyone and everyone come into the United States,” but that’s almost the way it comes across in the Esquire piece. It comes across that way because liberals desperately want to believe that McCain is “one of them” – a true inside-the-ballpark leader of La Resistance…when really, he’s just a cranky old bastard who hates Trump for what he said on the campaign trail about his war service. And instead of settling those differences in a manly, respectable fashion, he decided to devote 2017 to sabotaging his own party. By the time he’s finished, he’ll be disliked by Democrats, loathed by Trump supporters, and shunned by everyone except Lindsey Graham.
Are you paying attention, Jeff Flake?