The Sore Losers Club Welcomes New Members Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan
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As I’ve written before, McCain’s various self-reinventions as a politician are best understood as acts of sore loser-dom. A decade ago, for instance, he took up a sudden interest in closing the gun show loophole, enacting a patients’ bill of rights, and stopping tax cuts for the wealthy. Not at all coincidentally, this came just after he’d lost a bruising campaign against George W. Bush. Bush and his team had been rough – very, very rough – on McCain, and McCain had deemed them unworthy victors. His sudden cooperation with Democrats in 2001 was his version of payback, giving the new Bush White House fits.
When he lost to Obama in 2008, McCain shifted in the other direction, becoming a more reliable Republican vote in the Senate and playing a leading role in the right’s attacks on the new president. At a 2010 White House summit on healthcare, McCain communicated something approaching contempt for Obama, and he threw himself into Romney’s campaign against the president this year. Nor is he giving up in the wake of the election. Along with Lindsey Graham, McCain is now the GOP’s point-man for going after U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice over the Benghazi incident. This week, McCain vowed to filibuster her nomination if Obama chooses her to run the State Department, a threat that prompted an unusually heated response from Obama at his Wednesday press conference.
“When they go after the U.N. ambassador,” Obama said of McCain and Graham, “apparently because they think she’s an easy target, then they’ve got a problem with me.”
Obviously, McCain got under the president’s skin, which surely makes him happy. But this is probably short-sighted. For years, McCain was one of the most popular politicians in the country. His reputation took a hit in ’08, but he had an opportunity to restore it in defeat. Instead, he’s behaved like an embittered partisan warrior. And so far, it’s an example that Romney and Ryan are following.