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John McCain Made No Sense at the Comey Hearing and Everyone Is Worried About Him


It might be time for a vacation, Senator. Have you considered the lovely town of Retirement?

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“Maverick” Republican John McCain, who had led a long and distinguished Senate career but will also be remembered for introducing Sarah Palin into national politics, seems like he needs a nap—or that he was just waking up for one.

As the last Senator to question ex-FBI director James Comey at the bombshell Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, McCain appeared confused, bordering on incoherent, and kept returning to the closed FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, which he conflated with the Russiagate shenanigans. At one point he called Comey “President Comey.”

Here’s a sampling of what McCain said to kick off his allotted question time: “In the case of Hillary Clinton, you made the statement that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to bring a suit against her, although it had been very careless in their behavior, but you did reach a conclusion in that case that it was not necessary to further pursue her. Yet at the same time, in the case of Mr. [Trump], you said that there was not enough information to make a conclusion. Tell me the difference between your conclusion as far as former secretary Clinton is concerned, and Mr. Trump.” (via WaPo)

If you have trouble tracking this, and get the impression that McCain is dangerously lost about the difference between Hillary Clinton’s email and Russian electoral intereference, you are not alone. Listen, I used to get pretty perfect reading comprehension scores and I’m having trouble making it through these transcripts.

To say the Internet took notice immediately is an understatement. Within seconds of McCain’s rambling start, my Twitter feed was full of people wondering after the Senator’s health.

Confusion at McCain’s line of questioning abounded, and continues: he’s currently the #2 trending topic on Twitter, after Comey himself.

His fellow Senators, and ex-Director Comey, appeared baffled as they struggled with McCain’s reasoning.

I don’t particularly feel bad for McCain, as his strange questions were clearly intended to direct attention back at the old standard GOP bogeywoman Hillary Clinton, and away from the serious investigations into Russian intereference with the election and possible collusion by Trump’s associates. The first words out of McCain’s mouth were “In the case of Hillary Clinton,” after all:

Even McCain later admitted that something was off about his questioning, though he attributes this to staying up too late watching the baseballs. It’s a bit odd that he’s trying to claim that his questions “went over people’s heads”—because they were too complex? Too profound?—and that he was too tired at the same time. Which one is it?


His office has further elaborated, making me wish someone on his staff had simply helped prepare the questions he wanted to ask earlier. Today’s hearing was the equivalent of political Superbowl, and everyone brought their A-game—this was no time for McCain’s odd fumbling.

The fact that McCain’s questions were so impenetrable as to demand an official explanation is worrisome. McCain isn’t even a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, but according to Time he was invited as an “ex-officio member” because he is chairman of the Armed Services Committee. As a senior ranking member of the Senate, McCain still wields a lot of power and influence at age 80—but not enough wherewithal to arrive prepared to the hearing of the century (so far).

John McCain is a man who has served his country well for decades, but as of late has failed to live up to any kind of “maverick” image once cultivated, issuing statements as mealy-mouthed as his questions today were whenever the GOP or Trump takes a dive off the deep-end. Previously he had expressed that he was “disappointed” with Trump’s firing of Comey, but you’d never know it from his bizarre performance today. Senator, we won’t blame you if you need a break.

(via Time, Washington Post, image: FOX)

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Kaila Hale-Stern
Kaila Hale-Stern (she/her) is a content director, editor, and writer who has been working in digital media for more than fifteen years. She started at TMS in 2016. She loves to write about TV—especially science fiction, fantasy, and mystery shows—and movies, with an emphasis on Marvel. Talk to her about fandom, queer representation, and Captain Kirk. Kaila has written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.

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