The Grand Old Party is far from grand these days and not much of a party. That it is old is beyond dispute. That the party is increasingly seen as not only old, but cranky and "off its meds" has largely been the work of Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
McCain has had a storied career in American life. The son of a Navy admiral, the young McCain was a Navy pilot when he became a celebrated POW during the Vietnam War, when, after being shot down in 1967, he spent five and a half years in the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" prison in North Vietnam. He later ran for and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and then the U.S. Senate. He developed a reputation as both a leader of conservative Republicans and a maverick, breaking with party regulars on social issues such as immigration reform and government support for embryonic stem-cell research. At the same time, he gained nothing but respect from the "hawks" of both parties for both his war hero status and his consistent championing of a strong national defense and an interventionist foreign policy. He was an early advocate of war with Iraq and takes special pride in the role he played in championing the "surge" of troops in 2007 that appeared to have the effect of diminishing the violence that was plaguing the country and the American troops stationed there.
Now McCain has been railing against his former Senate colleague and fellow Republican Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, President Obama's nominee for Secretary of Defense. Some of this is personal, as Hagel broke with McCain over the Iraq War, the authorization of which both supported in 2002, and Hagel opposed the vaunted surge. What's more, Hagel — who supported McCain's campaign for the party's presidential nomination in 2000 — did not support the Arizonan's White House bid, either in the primaries or in the general election in the 2008 campaign. He also accompanied Democratic nominee Barack Obama, a consistent opponent of the Iraq War and then the junior senator from Illinois, on fact-finding trips to the war zones. McCain demonstrates a case of "Irish Alzheimer's": He forgets everything but his grudges.
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