During a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing yesterday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) threatened to oppose President Obama’s pick deputy secretary of Interior, David Hayes, over comments that Hayes had made about former President Ronald Reagan in a 2006 report for the Progressive Policy Institute. “I will be considering seriously whether I can support your nomination or not,” said McCain.
“The conservative political agenda in the West is grounded in hoary stereotypes about the region and its people” and that “out of this conservative world view emerges the stereotypical Western man (and it is unquestionably a ‘he’)—a rugged, gun-toting individualist who fiercely guards every man’s right to drill, mine, log, or do whatever he damn well pleases on the land” and that “Like Ronald Reagan before him, President Bush has embraced the Western stereotype to the point of adopting some of its affectations—the boots, brush-clearing, and get-the-government-off-our-backs bravado.”
Though McCain did not defend Bush, he said that Hayes’ reference to Reagan was “highly offensive.” “You had to throw Reagan in there?” asked McCain after Hayes said he regretted the “overly florid” prose of the article.
McCain has long revered Reagan, even callling himself a “a foot soldier in the Reagan revolution.” But Will Bunch, who recently wrote a book debunking myths about Reagan, notes that “Reagan and much more so Bush really were urban cowboys with a strange obsession for brush clearing that seemed to evaporate the same hour their presidencies expired.” Bunch calls McCain’s threat against Hayes’ nomination both “chilling” and “anti-speech.”
But McCain’s clash with Hayes is more than just “chilling.” It also continues his move away from his early efforts to not needlessly hold up Obama’s qualified nominees. Just yesterday, McCain came out against another Obama nominee, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Chris Hill, who has been nominated to be ambassador to Iraq.
Matt Yglesias writes:
That’s right, a member of one political party has, in the past, said something disparaging about a prominent member of the other party. This is McCain’s objection. Seriously. How on earth would you staff an administration of people who pass that test?