The chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, GOP Sen. John McCain of Arizona, has escalated his criticisms of President Donald Trump. The Arizona senator blasted the president's foreign policy vision during a speech and has welcomed a potential war of words with the commander-in-chief.
On Oct. 16, McCain was awarded the Liberty Medal in Philadelphia for his record of military service. The Senate Republican, who is undergoing treatment for brain cancer, chastised nationalist and isolationist foreign policy in remarks that were widely perceived as an indirect critique of Trump's "America First" approach.
"To fear the world we have organized and led the three quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain the last, best hope of earth, for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems, is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history," McCain said, according to Business Insider.
McCain had previously been critical of Trump's approach to foreign affairs, from his attitude towards strongmen to his view of international trade.
On Jan. 24, McCain told CBS News that he believed Trump's decision to withdraw America from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal was "not good for the United States of America."
On May 2, McCain blasted Trump after the president praised Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and invited him to visit the White House. Duterte has been accused of spearheading thousands of extra-judicial killings of Filipinos.
"I just don't understand it. The statements, and the comments, obviously fly in the face of everything that I've stood for and believed in all my life," McCain told NBC News.
On Oct. 17, McCain told reporters on Capitol Hill that his speech was not exclusively aimed at Trump, Politico reports.
"I was referring to the whole atmosphere and environment," McCain said. "No, there's a whole lot of people besides the president who have said 'America First.'"
That same day, Trump responded to McCain's speech during an interview on WMAL.
"Yeah, well I hear it," Trump told radio host Chris Plante. "And people have to be careful because at some point I fight back. I'm being very nice. I'm being very, very nice. But at some point I fight back, and it won't be pretty."
When journalists relayed the president's comments to McCain, the Arizona senator appeared ready to take the president on.
"I've faced far greater challenges than this," McCain told political reporter Dan Merica of CNN.
During the Vietnam War, McCain was captured while serving as a Navy pilot and held for nearly six years in captivity in a North Vietnamese prison, where he endured torture. In July 2015, Trump dismissed McCain's military record after the Arizona senator was critical of Trump's campaign rhetoric.
"He's not a war hero ... He was a war hero because he was captured," Trump said of McCain's time as a prisoner of war. "I like people who weren't captured."
Sources: Business Insider, CBS News, The Chris Plante Show/AudioBoom, Dan Merica/Twitter, NBC News, Politico (2) / Featured Image: Gage Skidmore/Flickr / Embedded Images: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff/Flickr (2)