John McCain, back to being mavericky after a stint as the most conservative senator, says he's not sure who he'd vote for if Hillary Clinton ran against Rand Paul for president in 2016. In an interview with The New Republic's Isaac Chotiner, when asked about that hypothetical 2016 contest, McCain said, "It’s gonna be a tough choice." Then he clarifies: "Let me just clarify that. I think that Rand Paul represents a segment of the GOP, just like his father. And I think he is trying to expand that, intelligently, to make it larger." McCain is reestablishing himself has the No. 1 Republican who criticizes Republicans. All it took was some dinner and phone calls with President Obama.
For McCain, the personal is political. Right now, the people who've gotten under his skin are Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. McCain has had several testy exchanges over foreign policy and other issues with them the Senate floor. He's rebuked Cruz for his questioning of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, saying it was "disrespectful." Cruz's aides occasionally mock McCain on Twitter. As Chotiner notes, after McCain lost to George W. Bush in 2000, he was very critical of Republicans. After he lost to Obama in 2008, he was one of the president's top antagonists. McCain denies he's driven by emotion — "I am sometimes puzzled by, McCain is angry and bitter," he says — but he credits more attention from the White House for his new spirit of bipartisanship:
In 2009, I was invited over to the White House, and I was maybe the only Republican there. They said they would get in touch with me [about immigration reform]. I never heard another word. Later, Obama had me over to the White House and said, “There’s [then–Chief of Staff] Bill Daley. We are gonna work with Senator McCain, blah-blah-blah.” I even called Bill Daley up, but never a word. Now, that has changed dramatically in the last six or eight months between me and the president.
McCain denies he's feuding with Paul and Cruz, whom he called "wacko birds." He says, "it’s important for me to be respectful. After I called them wacko birds, I apologized." But he say he still wants to debate them "every chance I get."
Elsewhere, McCain mocks Fox News for being "schizophrenic" about immigration, given that Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes support it. "I saw a guy on Hannity, maybe Huckabee, and the guy said, 'You know, the Chinese are coming across our border, and they are going to commit cyber attacks,'" he says."Honest to God! 'They are going to commit cyber attacks.'"
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.