For a time after his loss in the 2008 presidential campaign, John McCain was the unquestioned leader of the hawkish wing of the Republican Party. Now, with others taking up the muscular foreign policy mantle in the Senate and the presidential campaign, that's no longer true—and that's just fine with him.
"The more, the merrier," McCain said in the Capitol on Tuesday. "The more people we have that are engaged in national-security issues, the better. I like it."
Then for the first several months of the year, McCain must have felt giddy among the many colleagues who have taken the spotlight to showcase their national-security acumen—or brazenness. In March, freshman Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas led many of his GOP colleagues, including McCain, to sign and send a controversial letter to Iranian leaders reminding them that a nuclear deal with President Obama could be modified by Congress. A few months later, Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker led the passage of the Iran nuclear review bill, which passed with only one nay—Cotton, who, like McCain, is extraordinarily skeptical of the administration's negotiations.
This week, the Senate passed an NSA-reform bill over the objections of Sen. Rand Paul, a presidential aspirant with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's endorsement, and the hawks. McConnell and Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr played the biggest roles in trying to keep the Patriot Act alive. But along the way, McCain found himself reprimanding Paul—telling his colleague on the chamber floor to "learn the rules of the Senate"—with almost the entire GOP conference.