As the Obama administration scrambles to hammer out an interim nuclear deal with Iran, John McCain had harsh words for his “friend” and former Senate colleague John Kerry.
“This guy has been a human wrecking ball,” the Arizona senator said on Thursday in an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg at the Washington Ideas Forum in Washington, D.C.“I’m very disappointed.”
McCain’s blunt characterization of the secretary of state (which may or may not have been influenced by the music of Miley Cyrus) was just one stroke in the bleak picture he painted of America’s receding influence in the world and specifically the Middle East.
“Our whole policy in the Middle East—and it reverberates around the world, by the way—is in such disarray that I have never seen anything like it in my lifetime,” McCain said. “Fly into Riyadh and talk to the king of Saudi Arabia. Fly into Egypt and praise their steps toward democracy.” The Obama administration, McCain argued, is practicing diplomacy by “fire drill.”
“If America doesn’t lead, then bad guys will lead,” he added. “And that’s just an historical fact and that’s the way the world is today.”
The Obama administration’s approach to striking a nuclear deal with Iran, McCain noted, was fundamentally flawed. “Why should Iran have the right to enrich [uranium] when they have a clear record of seeking to and taking action to acquire nuclear weapons?” he asked. “Canada doesn’t exercise a right to enrich uranium. Mexico doesn’t.”
After backtracking earlier this week from his call for Keith Alexander to step down, McCain renewed his criticism of the outgoing NSA chief and the agency’s overreach in tapping into world leaders’ personal phones. “He’s leaving,” he said. “If he wasn’t leaving, I would say that he should make plans to leave.”
McCain declined to issue specific critiques of Senator Ted Cruz’s foreign policy, noting that the Republican Party has had an isolationist wing since before World War I. Instead, he reserved his most biting criticism for Cruz’s role in the government shutdown.
“Shutting down the government injured the people of my state,” he said. “We had to fly food from the food banks in Phoenix up to Tuscon … because people on minimum wage were out of food. Then I have to say, ‘Stop. You’re wrong. You’re crazy’… If there was a snowball’s chance in Gila Bend, Arizona of [the shutdown] succeeding, then I could understand it. There was no chance of success. And anybody who believes there is is very naive about the constitution of the United States.”
When the conversation turned to Sarah Palin, McCain demurred. “There is a statute of limitations on Sarah Palin questions,” he said.
Update: It turns out Miley Cyrus did not inspire John McCain to call John Kerry a “human wrecking ball.” “No offense to Miley, but Senator McCain is strictly a Golden Oldies listener–Sinatra, The Platters, The Four Tops, etc.,” McCain spokesman Brian Rogers tells me. That’s unlikely to make Kerry feel any better about the description.