McCain showers praise on Marco Rubio, calling him a ‘valuable candidate for president’

Jamie Weinstein | Senior Writer

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain doesn’t think much of America’s military leadership.

In an extensive interview with the New Republic on a wide range of topics, McCain slammed the military’s top leadership as the “worst” he’s seen in his lifetime.

“Can we just talk a little about what happened at the hearing [on Syria]?,” McCain said, referencing a confrontation between himself and current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey at recent Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

“Dempsey was asked a question by Carl Levin, which we ask of all nominees, ‘If asked for your personal views by this committee, will you give your personal views even if they are contradictory to administration policy?,'” McCain said, explaining his version of the incident.

“No sooner does he say that than I asked if Syria was better or worse off by the fact that the U.S. has not been involved. He said he wouldn’t answer. He would talk to the president, blah-blah-blah. He had just said he’d give his personal view! It got really testy. And he didn’t answer. I went to see Carl Levin, and asked if we could send a letter with these questions. And we got the answers yesterday. In all the years I have been associated with the military, I have never read anything as bizarre as those answers. Basically, Dempsey said we would have to declare World War III in order to help the Syrians. One phrase was ‘hundreds and hundreds of planes and tanks and thousands of troops.'”

“This affirms everything bad I have seen about military leadership in my time,” McCain, a staunch advocate of greater intervention in the Syrian civil war, concluded. “It’s the worst I have ever seen.”

McCain also suggested, perhaps in jest, that he would have a difficult time deciding if the 2016 presidential race pitted libertarian Republican Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“It’s gonna be a tough choice,” McCain said, while laughing.

Since Paul was elected to the Senate in 2010, McCain and Paul have battled over many issues, from how and when American power should be deployed to what encroachment on civil liberties should be permitted in the name of security.

“Let me just clarify that. I think that Rand Paul represents a segment of the GOP, just like his father,” McCain said, referring to former Texas Rep. Ron Paul. “And I think he is trying to expand that, intelligently, to make it larger.”

McCain also showered praise on Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who was an ally of McCain’s in the push for comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate, saying Rubio “is a valuable candidate for president.”

“Marco Rubio has played a tremendously important role. He is very articulate, and he has been going out there on the talk shows,” McCain said of Rubio’s role in the battle for a Senate immigration bill. “He has a bright future in the party. He is a valuable candidate for president.”

McCain said he doesn’t put Rubio in the ‘wacko bird’ category of Paul and Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Ted Cruz of Texas — colleagues McCain has had fierce policy and ideological clashes with.

“Oh no. I do not. Not in any way,” McCain said.

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