John McCain Takes on Donald Trump
by Gabriel Sherman // New York Magazine
John McCain was hustling down the hallway in the Russell Senate Office Building with the purpose of an Aaron Sorkin character. It was not yet two weeks into Donald Trump’s presidency, and McCain had already become the fiercest Republican critic of the new administration. While party leaders like Paul Ryan were contorting themselves to defend even Trump’s most ill-conceived executive orders, McCain had been, for a member of the president’s party, on fire: He had criticized Trump for banning immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries, for his failed first mission in Yemen, for his suggestion that he might lift sanctions against Russia; he even took diplomacy into his own hands, reaching out to Australia to assure the country of our continued friendship after Trump had bizarrely confronted its prime minister in their introductory phone call. By many measures, there is no one better positioned to challenge Trump from within his own party. The so-called maverick was just reelected to the Senate by a 13-point margin; at 80 years old, he has both significant stature and nothing to lose. Still, for McCain, opposing Trump is not a simple matter. For one thing, it’s tricky to challenge a vengeful president who has taken to Twitter to accuse McCain of “emboldening the enemy” and “trying to start WWIII.” For another, McCain is not a Republican in Name Only; he is a true believer, an elder of the tribe. He does not exactly relish being deemed the loyal opposition.
“What? What!” McCain barked as he ran into a throng of reporters.
“Some people are saying you’re Trump’s No. 1 nemesis,” a reporter said. “Is that the role you’re trying to stake out?”
McCain shook his head. “It’s very convenient for the media to say that,” he grumbled. “If interpreters who worked for us in Iraq are not allowed into the United States, then I’m going to speak up. If that makes me a nemesis of the president of the United States, then you can label me as such.”
“They want a scenario of, quote, ‘confrontation,’ ” McCain told me as we stepped into the elevator. ***