One way of interpreting the results of the November 6th election, which resulted in Democrats retaining control of the presidency and Senate while Republicans held onto a majority in the House of Representatives (or in other words, exactly the same thing we’ve had for the past two years), is that Americans desire compromise.
Of course, part of the reason Republicans were able to retain control of the House, and at such a large margin, has to do with their sweeping victory in the 2010 midterm elections, which allowed for them to control redistricting after the census, gerrymandering in their favor.
Nonetheless, this is the government chosen by the people. But if the message the American voting public was sending on election day is that they wanted the two major parties to stop bickering and start working together, it’s clear early on that Sen. John McCain wasn’t listening.
McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee who lost to President Barack Obama, has been one of the most vocal and persistent critics of this administration, even when facts and logic are not on his side. This has been especially true in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which claimed the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.
In recent days, McCain, alongside his longtime friend and colleague Sen. Lindsey Graham, McCain has renewed right-wing claims that the administration has been involved in a cover-up around the events that took place. The source of his ire has been reports stating U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice will be tapped to fill the position of Secretary of State to replace Hillary Clinton during the president’s second term.
In the days after the Benghazi attack, Rice made the media rounds and attributed the attack on the consulate to a spontaneous reaction to an obscure YouTube film that disparages Islam and had earlier sparked protests in Cairo, Egypt. As more information was obtained by the CIA, this was revised to note the possibility of the attacks have been planned and carried out by an Al Qaeda offshoot.
It’s not quite clear what exactly McCain and others in the conservative media believe is the scandal here, other than their assertion that the president and his administration have not called what happened in Benghazi a terrorist attack. Obama has repeatedly referred to the incident as an act of terror, though that does not seem to please his conservative critics. Perhaps they are looking for a response similar to that of Obama’s predecessor post-9/11, in which he vows to hunt down those responsible, invades Libya, drains the country of resources, and entangles the U.S. in another long war with no endgame or exit strategy.
Republicans have tried to build a narrative that Obama has diminished U.S. standing across the globe and failed to protect Americans at home and abroad. Aside from false claims about the president’s plan for military spending and apologizing for America, the Benghazi attack is the only evidence they have to support their claims.
The Obama administration has mishandled this affair, to be sure, and any number of violent unnatural deaths is a tragedy, but insofar as the idea that they have been involved in a cover-up, there is no there there.
With that in mind, McCain seems to be more invested in settling a personal vendetta against the president than adhering to any principled critique of him, his administration, or its policies. The once well-respected statesman has become little more than a partisan attack dog.
His opposition to the idea of Rice as Secretary of State (the administration has not nominated her, and says it has no plans for considering who will fill the cabinet positions that are opening up next term until at least after Thanksgiving) is petty, referring to her as “not very bright” because he feels she passed along misinformation about Benghazi when the facts had been established.
However, the deputy CIA director is on record as saying Rice went on television with the best available information at the time, though the intelligence proved to be incorrect later. He might know this if he had attended the briefing held Wednesday to discuss Benghazi, one which he missed due to what his staff has called a “scheduling error.”
The once well-respected statesman has traded in his reputation as a “maverick” for that of a sore loser. This isn’t new behavior for him, as Steve Kornacki points out in Salon. To fight tooth and nail when you are clearly in the wrong is deeply misguided and unbecoming of someone of McCain’s stature, yet he appears to have no problem with it.
In 2008, he claimed to be willing to work across party lines. In 2012, it’s clear he meant only if he was president.
Follow Mychal Denzel Smith on Twitter at @mychalsmith