McCain pillories 'bombastic loudmouths' in the media during dramatic return

Sen. John McCain derided "bombastic loudmouths" in the media as he dramatically returned to the U.S. Senate Tuesday and called for senators on both sides to show spine and compromise on healthcare.

"Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and television and the internet. To hell with them," he said to rare applause in the chamber.

"They don't want anything done for the public good. Our incapacity is their livelihood."

His comments came as he returned from Arizona after being diagnosed with brain cancer and played a part in a vote to advance an Obamacare repeal bill by agreeing to at least formally debate the matter.

It was no surprise to confirm that Mark Salter, a former longtime McCain aide and co-author on many speeches and books, was a collaborator on this effort.

"Yes," he confirmed in an email. It simply had Salter's adroit touch.

McCain was in rare form, living up to his gadfly and forceful image, as he conceded he was part of the problem in a body where nothing has gotten done this year other than confirming Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

"We’re getting nothing done, my friends," said McCain, a huge scar vivid above his left eye after his recent surgery. "We're getting nothing done."

If there was any doubt about the power of his oratory, it was dispelled when the Senate press gallery emailed a transcript of his remarks. That doesn't happen much.

Much of McCain's address had little to do with the press but with legislative gridlock, the impulse to seek victory at all costs, the gamesmanship of the Senate and the ultimate lack of success.

He underscored that on the substance of the primary piece of healthcare legislation, he found it wayward and could not possibly vote for it. But he was there to at least help spur formal discussion, as he called for both sides to actually compromise.

It's a longshot.

Along the way, there was typical humor from the acerbic Arizonan, who does not have a large fan club among colleagues, given his abrupt manner and at times especially harsh rhetoric in private.

"Many of you have reached out in the last few days with your concern and your prayers, and it means a lot to me. It really does. I've had so many people say such nice things about me recently that I think some of you must have me confused with someone else."

It is an honor to serve the American people in your company," he said, winding up.

He said he would stick around to help oversee Senate consideration of the Defense Authorization Bill (he heads the Armed Services Committee) and then return home for what surely will be the difficult treatment of his cancer.

When he finished, the body rose and, in a rare bit of seemingly genuine spontaneity, applauded him once again.

Now one will see if he has any impact on replacing Obamacare. It's not likely that his words will serve any moderating impact on the bombastic media he took to task.

But it will surely serve as a subject for many TV, radio and internet debates.

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    James Warren

    New York City native, graduate of Collegiate School, Amherst College and Roosevelt University. Married to Cornelia Grumman, dad of Blair and Eliot. National columnist, U.S. News & World Report. Former managing editor and Washington Bureau Chief, Chicago Tribune.

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