Tracking the latest developments in the controversy over what Susan Rice said about the September 11 Benghazi attacks has devolved into an exercise in tracking every single word John McCain says — and it's getting more than a little tiresome, and not even the least bit maverick. On Tuesday afternoon, after a closed-door meeting with Rice that got his friends in the Senate 'disturbed' as well, McCain said he was "significantly troubled by many of the answers that we got, and some that we didn’t get." Rice then released a statement saying she was "incorrect" in saying there was a protest in Benghazi. We now await word of whether McCain was satisfied with Rice saying she was wrong, as he'd demanded. (Update: He is not satisfied.) Why?
McCain's press conferences will never be truly newsworthy, because they will never truly signal how Republican senators might vote if Rice is appointed Secretary of State. (They might not have the votes anyway.) The Arizona senator has never been known as a politician who can bring together the entire Republican caucus — he earned praise that he was a "maverick" by saying things that annoyed his own party. And in his opposition to Rice's still-hypothetical nomination to be Secretary of State, McCain hasn't even been able to bring along Sen. Joe Lieberman. "I respectfully separate from my two amigos on this one," Lieberman said earlier this month. McCain has pulled in New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte as a substitute, and she echoed his comments in their press conference Tuesday. While it helps to have a female senator attack a female official when the opposing party is calling you sexist, the Tea Party-backed Ayotte has not yet cultivated the bipartisan-making-tough-choices gravitas that McCain, Graham, and Lieberman enjoy.