POLITICS: PennAve

John McCain regrets 'wacko birds' comment, worries about GOP infighting

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Senate,Republican Party,Tea Party,PennAve,John McCain,Tim Mak,Sequester

Sen. John McCain said Thursday that he's worried about the Republican Party's future and the infighting that is dividing it, calling efforts by conservatives to unseat incumbent Republican lawmakers "wrong."

The famously wry McCain, R-Ariz., said he regretted calling the Tea Party wing of the Republican Senate conference "wacko birds" during budget negotiations, saying he's learned to "never get personal" in political disputes.

But McCain remains worried about the growing number of Republicans attacking members of their own party.

"I do worry about the Republican Party," he said at the Hero Summit hosted by The Daily Beast. "It's the first time I have ever seen Republican senators running ads, raising money that is being used to attack incumbent Republican senators."

Noting that Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas recently drew a challenger from the Right, McCain asked, "Where has Pat Roberts offended anybody?"

Meanwhile, McCain bemoaned the ongoing influence of defense cuts on the military's ability to perform its duties, calling his vote for the Budget Control Act — which imposed steep indiscriminate cuts in spending, including at the Pentagon — the "worst vote I ever made, and I've made some pretty bad ones."

The uncertainty created by the cuts — part of a deficit reduction package known as sequestration — could cause an "exodus" from the armed forces, he said.

"Training suffers, readiness suffers," he said. "You can replace the equipment ... but you can't replace the quality of the military that we are starting to lose right now."

Though he was speaking at a summit to address heroes in the armed forces, McCain, a former Navy pilot who served more than five years in a Vietnamese prison camp, denied that he was one.

"It doesn't take a lot of talent to get shot down," he said, joking that he "intercepted a surface-to-air missile with [his] own plane."

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