In danger of losing his credentials as the Democrats’ favorite Republican to the insurgent Jeff Flake (who just happens to be his fellow senator from Arizona), John McCain wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post this week warning President Trump to lay off his attacks on the press.

“President Ronald Reagan recognized that as leader of the free world, his words carried enormous weight, and he used them to inspire the unprecedented spread of democracy around the world,” McCain wrote, falling back on the tried-and-true name drop conservatives use when they want to reach for the moral high ground. “President Trump does not seem to understand that his rhetoric and actions reverberate in the same way. He has threatened to continue his attempt to discredit the free press by bestowing ‘fake news awards’ upon reporters and news outlets whose coverage he disagrees with. Whether Trump knows it or not, these efforts are being closely watched by foreign leaders who are already using his words as cover as they silence and shutter one of the key pillars of democracy.”

While the rest of the sane country was bashing Flake for having the audacity to compare Trump to Stalin, McCain apparently thought his fellow senator was on the right track. So instead of denouncing Flake’s hyperbole as unhelpful and, well, quite insane, he decided to go him one better. Not only is Trump comparable to dictators of the past, he’s actually giving aid and comfort to dictators of the present. All by calling out trash reporters from CNN and other biased media outlets for covering his presidency like they were card-carrying members of the Democratic Party. Which, of course, they are.

“Without strong leadership in the White House, Congress must commit to protecting independent journalism, preserving an open and free media environment, and defending the fundamental right to freedom of opinion and expression,” he wrote. “We can do this by encouraging our partners and allies to review their laws and practices, including the abuse of defamation and anti-terrorism laws, to better protect press freedom and ensure that they do not unduly shrink the space for free speech. We can authorize U.S. foreign assistance to support independent media outlets and programs that create greater media pluralism. We can do more to foster conditions in which freedom of expression and information can thrive, including working to change increasingly political attitudes toward journalism. And we can condemn violence against journalists, denounce censorship and support dissidents and activists as they seek to speak the truth.”

Cool, do that. But guess what? You can do all of that without turning your op-ed into another excuse to attack the president for his supposedly authoritarian approach to the media. Which proves, incidentally, that you are less concerned about the state of journalism in Russia or wherever than you are with getting your digs in again at a president who once questioned your unquestionable status as a war hero. But hey, you’ve got to keep that left-wing praise coming in somehow.