SENS. McCAIN AND PAUL ENTER THE OCTAGON

Battling on the Senate floor over Montenegro’s bid to join NATO, Sen. John McCain (R-Az.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, lashed out a Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) for opposing the matter. Paul, who ran against President Donald Trump for a short time in the 2016 GOP primaries, agrees with Trump on avoiding more foreign wars. McCain accused Paul of aiding-and-abetting Russian President Vladimir Putin, someone he’s called a “thug and murderer,” not the kind of talk needed to reset U.S.-Russian relations. McCain has vowed with his buddy Sen. Lindsey Graham (R.S.C.) to block Trump’s attempt to pull U.S.-Russian relations out of the latrine, the lowest point under former President Barack Obama since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Paul’s opposition to Montenegro’s NATO membership prompted McCain to call Paul a Russian-backing traitor.

Paul saw the dangers firsthand of what happen when a NATO member Turkey shot down a Russian warplane Nov. 24, 2015, nearly starting of WWIII. While Russia and Turkey, two pariah states, have mended fences for mutually beneficial reasons, largely to oppose the U.S. and European Union, McCain goes over the deep end ripping Paul for holding a different opinion. Had Russia starting bombing Istanbul, what would NATO have done for Turkey’s defense? Only two years ago, whey Putin invaded Crimea March 1, 2014, pro-Western elements, led by former heavyweight boxer Vitali Klitschko, begged for Ukraine to gain NATO membership. Paul recognizes, if that were to happen, the NATO alliance would be forced to defend Ukraine against an attack by the Russian Federation. Paul sees the problem with NATO spreading itself too thin, especially if there’s high risk of conflict.

Insulting Paul saying he was doing Putin’s bidding, McCain can’t have a debate about Montenegro without hitting below the belt. “I have no idea why anyone would object to this, except that I will say, if they object, they are now carrying out the desires and ambitions of Vladimir Putin, and I do not say that ligtly,” said McCain, going against Senate rules to impugn a fellow senator. Paul thinks McCain has a propensity toward armed conflict since entering the Senate Jan. 3, 1987, with only two years left to President Ronald Reagan’s second term. Paul knows McCain was a big backer of former President George W. Bush’s Iraq War, throwing the already unstable Middle East into chaos. McCain makes no bones about his hearty support of the six-year-old Saudi proxy war in Syria, opposing the Kremlin, backing various rebel groups to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Paul struck a cautious, less interventionist approach since joining the Senate Jan. 3, 2011, backing Trump’s approach in Syria to no longer back the Saudi proxy war to change regimes in Damascus. “I think he [McCain] makes a really, really strong case for term limits. I think maybe he’s past his prime. I think maybe he’s gotten a little bit unhinged,” Paul told MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough. Lashing at each other only makes the Senate look worse than it really is, especially to foreign powers. When you consider the House and Senate are embroiled today investigating the 2016 election, accusing Trump of collaborating with the Russians to win the election, it’s no wonder the U.S. has lost prestige around the globe. Whether Putin tried to influence the U.S election, it’s no different from time past whey the Kremlin used propaganda and disinformation to advance its agenda.

When Trump dropped his bombshell on Twitter March 5 accusing the Obama White House of tapping his phones, it created a hubbub in the media and on Capitol Hill. Senate and House committees now waste precious time trying to corroborate the Obama administration’s spying on the GOP nominee. Chairman of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and Sen. Richard Burr (R-Va.), both say Trump has presented no evidence supporting his eavesdropping charge. Yet front-page articles Jan. 19 and 20 in the New York Times confirmed electronic surveillance of the Trump campaign. It’s hard to know what Nunes and Burr expect as hard evidence, when the nation’s most respected newspaper put its credibility on the line verifying eavesdropping on the Trump campaign. FBI Director James Comey expects to answer questions Monday, March 20.

Watching McCain and Paul go after each other over Montenegro shows how today’s House and Senate are divided on the future of NATO and U.S. intervention in foreign wars. Paul mirrors Trump’s view that the days of the U.S. backing unnecessary foreign wars are over. McCain clearly echoes the Obama White House backing the six-year-old Saudi proxy war in Syria. McCain lashed out at Paul for opposing expanding NATO at a time when the alliance can’t afford to defend more countries. Making his case that Putin tried to promote a coup in Montenegro, Paul’s correct that if added to NATO, the alliance would be obliged to go to war against Russia. McCain and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton Syria foreign policy was so scary, it prompted former German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeir to warn the world about WWIII, something Paul wants to avoid.