Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) blasted Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) Sunday, saying the U.S. is “very lucky” that President Donald Trump is in office instead of McCain during an interview on ABC News’ “This Week.”
The former 2016 Republican presidential candidate derided the 2008 GOP presidential nominee for allowing his “personal dispute” with Trump to cloud his criticism of the new administration. McCain on Friday said Trump’s tweet that a biased media is “the enemy of the American people” was the sort of assault on a press press that could lead to dictatorship.
“I would say John McCain’s been wrong on just about everything over the last four decades.”
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“I would say John McCain’s been wrong on just about everything over the last four decades. He advocated for the Iraq War, which I think destabilized the Middle East,” Paul said on “This Week.” “He would bankrupt the nation. We’re very lucky John McCain’s not in charge, because I think we’d be in perpetual war.”
In particular, Paul suggested that McCain dislikes Trump so much because the Arizona senator and the president vastly differ on their approaches to U.S. military deployment.
“Everything that [McCain] says about the president is colored by his own personal dispute he’s got running with President Trump, and it should be taken with a grain of salt, because John McCain’s the guy who’s advocated for war everywhere,” Paul added. “So that’s a foreign policy that is at odds with President Trump, and also the idea of engagement. The idea of foreign policy realism, I think, fits more neatly with President Trump. And with John McCain, the neoconservative label of ‘let’s make the world safe for democracy and we’re going to topple every regime’ hasn’t worked.”
McCain made headlines over the weekend for comments made during an interview which aired Sunday on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” in which he warned the president to take care over the words he uses to describe the press.
“If you want to preserve … democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press,” McCain had said. “And without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That’s how dictators get started.”
The Arizona Republican took particular issue with Trump’s Friday tweet that sent the mainstream media and Sunday talk show hosts into a frenzy.
“The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!” the president had tweeted.
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McCain pushed the reaction to Trump’s tweet far into hyperbolic territory.
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“[Dictators] get started by suppressing free press,” McCain added. “In other words, a consolidation of power when you look at history, the first thing that dictators do is shut down the press. And I’m not saying that President Trump is trying to be a dictator. I’m just saying we need to learn the lessons of history.”
But Paul said he disagreed with McCain’s “analysis,” adding that McCain has a difficult time remaining objective when it comes to the topic of Trump.
“I haven’t seen any legislation coming forward that wants to limit the press. I see President Trump expressing his opinion, rather forceful in his own — you know, his own distinct way,” Paul said. “But I see no evidence that anybody is putting forward any kind of legislation to limit the press. So I think people — you know, this is colored by John McCain’s disagreement with President Trump. It all is.”
As Paul noted, McCain has been a frequent and vocal critic of Trump, his new administration and his policies.
On Friday, McCain told the Munich Security Conference in Germany that the U.S. was carrying out “an increasing turn away from universal values and toward old ties of blood, and race, and sectarianism” under Trump while showing “the growing inability and even unwillingness to separate truth from lies.”
McCain, who refused to vote for Trump, also took a swipe at the president over his immigration and travel ban executive orders.
“I worry about the president’s understanding of some of these issues and his contradictory articulations. And I think the rollout of the, quote, immigration reform was an example of a need for an orderly decision making process in the White House,” McCain added.
For his own part, Paul has shown a willingness to work with Trump on carrying out his policies — especially regarding the repealing and replacing of Obamacare, one of Trump’s most oft-repeated campaign promises.
“Well, you know, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And, from where I sit, we have done a lot of good things,” Paul said. “You know, we’ve repealed regulations for the first time in 20 years using the Congressional Review Act. Three regulations that were going to cost the economy hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs. That is big progress. We’re on schedule to repeal Obamacare. Big progress.”
“[Trump’s] cabinet picks, from a conservative point of view, have exceeded my expectations,” Paul added. “I think we’re really going to do some conservative things. Supreme Court justice, somebody I could have picked. So, I’m actually very, very pleased with where we are.”