America’s least popular senator slams Ted Cruz

Sen John McCain (R-AZ) took a snide jab a his colleague, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), for his suggestion that the Republican presidential nominees have a history of not standing on principle. The lack of a clear distinction, the Texas senator told CPAC attendees, is why Democrats win elections.

“I spoke to Ted Cruz. He and I have a cordial relationship about this,” McCain told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. ”And he can say what he wants to about me — and he can say anything he wants to, I think, about Mitt. Mitt is capable of taking it.”

“But when he throws Bob Dole in there, I wonder if he thinks that Bob Dole stood for principle on that hilltop in Italy when he was so gravely wounded and left part of his body there fighting for our country? Bob Dole is such a man of honor and integrity and principle,” he said. “I hope that Ted Cruz will apologize to Bob Dole because that’s — that has crossed a line that to me is — leaves the realm of the politics and discourse that we should have in America.”

McCain said that he talked to Cruz on the Senate floor shortly after Cruz’s speech, adding that his “beloved Bob Dole,” who isn’t in good health, “doesn’t need that in the twilight of his years.”

Dole served in World War II and was severely wounded when he was struck by German fire. He lost use of his right arm. He would recover and enter politics, becoming a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Kansas in 1961. He was elected to the Senate in 1968, serving as the Republican leader from 1987 to 1996.

Dole won the Republican presidential nomination in 1996, but lost to President Bill Clinton. Though he did offer some substantive economic reform proposals, Dole was seen as too old, at the age of 73, and allowed Clinton to set the tone of the race from the start. Many conservatives also say that the Kansas Republican won the nomination because it “was his turn.”

In an interview with Fox News Sunday in May 2013, Dole lamented the lack of compromise in Washington and criticized Republicans for a lack of ideas. “I think they ought to put a sign on the national committee doors that says ‘Closed for repairs’ until New Year’s Day next year,” he said. “Spend that time going over ideas and positive agendas.”

For Cruz’s part, he didn’t assail Dole’s military service or say anything even close to what McCain is trying to make of this. What Cruz said, sarcastically, was: “All of us remember President Dole and President McCain and President Romney — now look, those are good men, they’re decent men, but when you don’t stand and draw a clear distinction, when you don’t stand for principle, Democrats celebrate.”

There’s nothing wrong with that suggestion. Though perhaps Cruz may not be the best person to say it — given that he has staked his claim in the Senate on firebrand rhetoric, not ideas — there is a lot of truth to what he said about Dole, McCain, and Romney. Rather than present new ideas to voters and offer a clear distinction, they often appeared weak, restrained, and uninterested.

McCain, of course, has never been a fan of the Tea Party presence in the Senate Republican Conference. Shortly after Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) 13-hour filibuster, in which Cruz and Sen. Mike Lee (R-KY) participated, McCain decried the trio, calling them “wacko birds.”

He won praise from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) for his support of gun control. McCain also indicated that he would have a “tough choice” to make in the 2016 presidential election between Hillary Clinton and Rand Paul.

But, rather than throwing bombs at his colleagues, McCain should probably spend time figuring out why he’s America’s least popular senator. Not only is he underwater with Democrats and independents, just 35% of Arizona Republicans approve of his job performance, while 55% disapprove.

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