John McCain loses his marbles: Tries, fails to contain zest for possible Russia escalation

McCain doesn't want to speculate about the downed plane. So what he'll do is... speculate about the downed plane

Published July 18, 2014 1:20PM (EDT)

Senators John McCain, R-Ariz., Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.          (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
Senators John McCain, R-Ariz., Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

America's leaders did not devote much time to speculation following yesterday's crash of a Malaysian Airlines flight over eastern Ukraine. There are still a lot of facts -- which is to say, nearly all of them -- left unreported, after which the appropriate rhetoric and possible international response can be leveled.

President Obama, during a visit to Delaware, said that there were "reports of a downed passenger jet near the Russia-Ukraine border, and it looks like it may be a terrible tragedy." He added the government was looking to determine whether there were American citizens on board and would "offer any assistance we can to help determine what happened and why." He offered thoughts and prayers to the families of the passengers.

Speaker Boehner was even more brief: "Many innocents were killed today. It is horrifying, and we await the facts. Right now, we should all take a moment to reflect, count our blessings, and convey our prayers to the loved ones of the victims."

It's never a bad idea for government leaders to wait for facts to come in before engaging in hypotheticals and talking shit.

And that's why we should all once again be thankful that John McCain will never progress higher in the ranks of American government than a senator from Arizona.

McCain, who popped up on MSNBC minutes after the first reports of the downed plane surfaced, at first said, "To leap to conclusions could be very embarrassing and really inappropriate until we have more information." That would have been a fine place to stop. You just say "I dunno" then you go to the Senate floor and vote to name a post office or whatever. Have lunch, vote for another post office, early dinner, bed. But then he added: "[I]f it is the result of either separatist or Russian actions mistakenly believing this was a Ukrainian war plane, I think there’s going to be hell to pay and there should be."

A little while later, guess who appeared on CNN?

If the Malaysia airliner in Ukraine was shot down, then the United States will need to take action against the assailants, two Republican senators argued Thursday.

"If it is the case, then we're going to have to act and act in the most stringent fashions, including real sanctions, including giving the Ukrainians the ability to defend themselves, which we have not done so far," Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said in an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper. [...]

"If, if -- I keep emphasizing if -- it was a missile that was launched, either by Russia, or the quote separatists which in my view are indivisible, it would have the most profound repercussions," said McCain, who serves as the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"It would open the gates for us assisting, finally, giving the Ukrainians some defensive weapons (and) sanctions that would be imposed as a result of that. That would be the beginning."

McCain's colleague in arms, Sen. Lindsey Graham, also engaged in this I'm not saying they did it, but if they did we're going to beat up those dirtbags! business, on television. "If they are responsible – and I have no idea they are – you would take the sanctions we’ve unilaterally imposed, toughen them and get the world behind them... Start arming the Ukrainian military is what I would do." So, again, they're not saying they know anything, but maybe they did it, and if so, let's go to war with Russia.

Graham suggested that if pro-Russian separatists shot down the airliner, it would be a "game changer." McCain suggested that if pro-Russian separatists shot down the airliner, it would be a "game changer."

Most other senators/responsible government people kept their mouths shut and awaited briefings.

By Jim Newell

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

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