President Donald Trump accused Republican Sen. John McCain of “emboldening the enemy” for criticizing the recent military raid in Yemen. He may not have encouraged the enemy this time, but McCain does have a long history of being on the wrong side of foreign policy.
McCain on Tuesday characterized the Yemen raid as a failure because it resulted in the loss of Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens’ life. But given the very nature of military action, that’s quite a bar to set for combat operations under any president.
Trump lashed out against McCain via Twitter Thursday morning, saying the lawmaker was essentially emboldening America’s enemies and discounting the sacrifice of a U.S. service member.
“Sen. McCain should not be talking about the success or failure of a mission to the media. Only emboldens the enemy!” Trump tweeted.
“He’s been losing so … long he doesn’t know how to win anymore, just look at the mess our country is in — bogged down in conflict all over the place. Our hero … Ryan died on a winning mission (according to General Mattis), not a ‘failure.’ Time for the U.S. to get smart and start winning again!” he continued.
The Trump administration has characterized the Jan. 29 raid as a “huge success,” citing a trove of information reportedly obtained from the operation as a windfall for future operations.
For the Trump White House, having the raid characterized as a failure, no matter what may have occurred, is simply not an option.
And that’s where McCain comes in.
If you remember back to the campaign, it becomes obvious that the Arizona senator was long ago selected by the establishment to be Trump’s top GOP detractor. It’s probably even safe to say that McCain and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton discussed how the lawmaker would factor in to anti-Trump messaging to weaken support among hawkish Republicans.
McCain began hitting Trump hard late in the GOP primary with claims that the president was unfit to handle national security matters.
That’s what led to Trump’s now infamous remark about McCain: “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
Clinton lackey John Podesta, surprised that Trump’s remark didn’t lose him some GOP support, remarked soon thereafter that Trump’s electoral chances were good because a “mere mortal” in the Republican Party couldn’t attack the Arizona lawmaker.
The political establishment still sees McCain as political royalty.
But Trump, a political outsider, sees the Arizona senator through the same lens much of the rest of the nation does. He’s a lawmaker who’s been in office far too long thanks to an aging voter bloc, hefty campaign funds and name recognition.
It’s time for McCain to quietly hang up his legislative hat.
And if he doesn’t, he risks getting seriously skewered by playing establishment attack dog to every little move the Trump administration makes with regard to foreign policy. The president, after all, has plenty of ammo against McCain when it comes to foreign policy failure.