What Is Wrong With You? Axelrod, Gergen Lash Out at McConnell, Ryan After McCain Service

What did David Axelrod and David Gergen want to see happen on Friday morning that the U.S. Capitol Rotunda ceremony honoring the late John McCain? A 2018 version of the Paul Wellstone memorial from 2002?

Following the moving event as McCain lied in State at the place he spent over three decades in both the House and Senate, Axelrod and Gergen condemned the remarks by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for failing to properly honor John McCain’s values and, more broadly, not sufficiently opposing Donald Trump.

 

 

Axelrod told host Wolf Blitzer that “the thing that struck” him most was that “if you were writing a novel about Washington today, you might start in this chamber that all of these people — Speaker Ryan and Senator McConnell, who are managing this very tumultuous time and maybe not living up in every way to John McCain's standards of the ways things should run.”

Ah yes, this was what one of Barack Obama’s former advisers thinks was what a takeaway from the ceremony should be. Sigh.

But wait, Axelrod continued on with his list, whether it was Trump not being there, “the Vice President awkwardly saying the President asked me to be here” plus “Rod Rosenstein, who is running this investigation, standing in front of Kellyanne Conway in the — you know, in the chamber.”

A fellow CNN senior political commentator, Gergen acknowledged those who spoke as having done a good job, but he reverted to his blatant partisanship and, well, just kvetching:

At the same time — to be honest, I thought there was a big difference between yesterday and today. I just thought....[t]o come back to it, yesterday, which was meticulously planned by the senator himself, had this real air of bipartisanship. We talked about that again and again yesterday. 26 sitting or former Senators. 13 Democrats, 13 Republicans. And Joe Biden: “I'm Joe Biden. I’m a Democrat. I love John McCain.” You came away from that was an effort to unify. What was missing, I thought, in these — in the eulogies today, was a call to what that — what those values were. It was a description more of his service and his bravery, but not what he stood for. 

Axelrod hopefully stated that “we will hear more tomorrow” and chief political correspondent Dana Bash agreed.

“I think we will hear more of it tomorrow. But it was striking not to hear much of it today,” responded Gergen.

Of course, it should be noted that it was these same two who helped make the reaction to McCain’s Arizona funeral feature an unnecessary focus on the President.

In the next hour, political analyst and Politico writer Rachael Bade also went negative by attacking the President and complaining about the lack of bipartisanship (again, read it as Democrats not caving to Republicans despite her admission that the former is moving further left) (click “expand” for more):

And you have to wonder, the people here today listening to is memorial, if anybody starts taking this to heart right now? You know, with Washington being such a bitterly divided, partisan city with the ongoing — the President attacking the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, the midterm elections coming up, Republicans not pushing back on their president even though a lot of them disagree with him, Democrats, you know, crawling around in their own corner, becoming further and further to the left. You have to wonder if anybody is stopping and saying, okay, McCain was the best of bipartisanship. What can we learn from him? Are we going to take this forward? And I think that is what a lot people are wondering. I don't know if it changes anything here on Capitol, but at least for a day, we have that solidarity.

To see the relevant transcript from CNN’s coverage of John McCain’s Capitol Rotunda ceremony, click “expand.”

John McCain Memorial Service
August 31, 2018
11:32 p.m. Eastern

DAVID AXELROD: Wolf, I mean, the room was filled with political luminaries of both parties. It was extraordinarily moving. I actually found the family approaching the — the casket the most moving. Just more than anybody's words. But the thing is that struck me as I was watching this was —

WOLF BLITZER: By the way, this is former senator Joe Lieberman and his wife Hadas —

AXELROD: Great friend.

BLITZER: — who was one of the best friends that Senator McCain had.

AXELROD: — but if you were writing a novel about Washington today, you might start in this chamber that all of these people — Speaker Ryan and Senator McConnell, who are managing this very tumultuous time and maybe not living up in every way to John McCain's standards of the ways things should run, the absence of the president, the vice-president awkwardly saying the President asked me to be here. Rod Rosenstein, who is running this investigation, standing in front of Kellyanne Conway in the — you know, in the chamber. All of these people who are warring on normal days coming together. It was really dramatic. 

BLITZER: Yeah. It certainly was.

(....)

11:35 p.m. Eastern

DAVID GERGEN: Wolf, this solemnity and dignity of this event real drives home just how serious it is, how important it is. It also brings out the best in people. I thought it brought out the best in the speakers, especially Mitch McConnell. One doesn't ordinarily associate him with that kind of speech. [PANEL LAUGHS] At the same time — to be honest, I thought there was a big difference between yesterday and today. I just thought —

BLITZER: Senator Lindsey Graham, one of his best friends as well. 

GERGEN: He did — he did a shave and haircut. To come back to it, yesterday, which was meticulously planned by the senator himself, had this real air of bipartisanship. We talked about that again and again yesterday. 26 sitting or former Senators. 13 Democrats, 13 Republicans. And Joe Biden: “I'm Joe Biden. I’m a Democrat. I love John McCain.” You came away from that was an effort to unify. What was missing, I thought, in these — in the eulogies today, was a call to what that — what those values were. It was a description more of his service and his bravery, but not what he stood for. 

AXELROD: Yeah. I suspect we will hear more tomorrow. 

DANA BASH: Definitely.

GERGEN I think we will hear more of it tomorrow. But it was striking not to hear much of it today. 

JAMIE GANGEL: Except as Dana pointed out earlier, John McCain made sure that something bipartisan did happen, which is a break with protocol, when they came up with the wreaths. He specifically had asked a Democrat and Republican to do it together, both on the senate side and the House. So he got the message in. 

BLITZER: That’s why we saw Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer together with Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan presenting those wreaths that we see there surrounding the casket. 

(....)

12:18 p.m. Eastern

RACHAEL BADE: And you have to wonder, the people here today listening to is memorial, if anybody starts taking this to heart right now? You know, with Washington being such a bitterly divided, partisan city with the ongoing -- the President attacking the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, the midterm elections coming up, Republicans not pushing back on their president even though a lot of them disagree with him, Democrats, you know, crowling around in their own corner, becoming further and further to the left. You have to wonder if anybody is stopping and saying, okay, McCain was the best of bipartisanship. What can we learn from him? Are we going to take this forward? And I think that is what a lot people are wondering. I don't know if it changes anything here on Capitol, but at least for a day, we have that solidarity.


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