Elder Sen. John McCain, who this week engaged in friendly fire when he launched his "maverick" missiles at fellow Republicans seeking clarification on the administration's drone policies, has upped the ante, deriding Tea Party-backed GOP lawmakers as "wacko birds."
McCain, who hit the Senate floor Thursday to belittle Sen. Rand Paul's filibuster, which succeeded in getting an answer from President Obama that drones won't be used to kill Americans on U.S. soil, even suggested that the Kentucky senator and his allies, like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, don't represent the GOP mainstream.
"It's always the wacko birds on right and left that get the media megaphone," McCain told Huffington Post's Jon Ward in a story titled "John McCain: Getting Back To Maverick, With An Eye On Retirement."
He added, "I think it can be harmful if there is a belief among the American people that those people are reflective of the views of the majority of Republicans. They're not."
Ward wrote: "I asked McCain to clarify who, specifically, he was talking about."
McCain said, "Rand Paul, Cruz, Amash, whoever."
Despite McCain's view, several GOP leaders, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, praised Paul's efforts. McConnell even said he was "proud" of Paul, further proof of a growing divide in the Senate Republican caucus.
Conservatives have expressed outrage at McCain's hit on Paul, raising anew the charges in the 2008 presidential campaign that he is too much of a maverick for the GOP.
"He showed his true colors. He has now attacked Senator Cruz and Senator Paul for basically leading and keeping promises they made to their constituents not too mention their oath to uphold the Constitution," said one activist.
But the clash also put on display the fight between the old bulls and the new turks for control of the party, other said.