On Fox’s Studio B this afternoon, Shepard Smith put the pressure on Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) to explain his seeming disdain for Sen. Rand Paul‘s (R-KY) Wednesday filibuster regarding the executive branch’s authority to use targeted assassinations against American citizens on U.S. soil. At one point during the interview, McCain became offended at Smith’s suggestion that he is an “interventionist” when it comes to foreign policy.
Following Paul’s nearly 13-hour long filibuster, McCain and his friend Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) took to the Senate floor to sneer at their colleague’s “stunt” and call it “unserious” and only meant to “fire up impressionable libertarian kids in their college dorms.”
“About what is [Paul] confused?” Smith asked McCain.
“No one is going to be struck by a Hellfire missile, from a drone, that is not an enemy combatant,” McCain asserted. “That’s just a fact. By the way, the reason why we use Hellfire missiles overseas in places like Yemen, we don’t have the ability to capture them. We want to capture these people, not kill them.”
Of course, McCain’s response clearly misses the point of Paul’s filibuster. The libertarian-leaning senator made clear, multiple times, that he doesn’t believe the U.S. government will actually drop a missile on an American in some NYC café anytime soon — but he wanted the White House to confirm that they do not believe they have such vast authority to do so.
Shep Smith, who himself has strong opinions about drone strikes, asked the senator whether it would be more prudent to try and kill enemy combatants under what is allowed in the Constitution rather than through secretive drone strikes.
“The reason why we kill people with drones is because we don’t have military on the ground to get them,” McCain responded. He then went on to mock Rand Paul’s assertion that, under the president’s undefined authority, someone who is seen as a “threat” — such as actress Jane Fonda during the Vietnam War — could become fodder for a domestic drone strike.
“No one believes, no matter how egregious her activity was, that any President of the United States would launch a Hellfire missile on Jane Fonda. That is ludicrous,” he said, again missing the point. He then took the opportunity to launch into explaining why his own foreign policy crusades are more important subjects:
“Right now the centrifuges are spinning in Tehran. The North Koreans are threatening to launch a nuclear weapon against us and are threatening their neighbors. 70,000 people have been massacred in Syria while we sit and watch, and the Middle East is a tinderbox. That’s what we should be discussing and debating, not the impossible scenario.”
“Very few Republicans, if any, minded when President Bush was president about launching drone strikes,” McCain later said, yearning for the days when all of the GOP (save for Ron Paul) agreed with his foreign policy vision.
When confronted with the younger Paul saying McCain and Graham are “on the wrong side of history” and that America is not the battlefield they envision, McCain briefly spoke about how the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks reminded us that people seek to attack us from within before turning to the sequester for whatever reason.
It became increasingly clear as the interview went on that McCain was growing testy with Smith’s prodding. This particular question seemingly offended the senator the most:
“Part of this is about the battle for the heart and soul of the party. The long-held Republican and conservative view on war is to avoid it at all costs. That sort of a voice has had a difficult time. The Rand Paul wing, if you will, has had a difficult time having its voice heard. You and others have been interventionists. Let’s intervene in Syria, intervene in Libya, let’s ‘bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.'”
“Do you really believe that?” an astonished McCain asked. “You really believe that?”
The Arizona senator then attacked Paul for being the one senator to vote against a resolution forbidding Iran to acquire nuclear capabilities before chiding Smith for referencing his infamous “Bomb Iran” “joke.”
Asked whether the GOP’s impending upheaval on foreign policy matters is a “good thing,” McCain said he’s from the “party of Reagan,” explaining that “there’s always been that [anti-war] element [within the GOP] but the winning part of our party is that which believes, like Ronald Reagan did, and that is peace through strength and that’s the best way to avoid conflicts.”
Watch below, via Fox:
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