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McCain calls hypothetical '16 Clinton-vs.-Paul race 'a tough choice'

In an interview with the New Republic, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., talks about his evolving relationship with President Obama, the increasing prominence of the GOP's isolationist wing, and his choice of Sarah Palin as his VP pick in 2008.

But the headline might be this: Asked whom he would support in a potential Hillary Clinton-vs.-Rand Paul presidential election in 2016, McCain responds, "It’s gonna be a tough choice."

But he adds, "Let me just clarify that. I think that Rand Paul represents a segment of the GOP, just like his father. And I think he is trying to expand that, intelligently, to make it larger."

Also in the interview, McCain talks about Paul, Ted Cruz, and their views on national security:

[C]ertainly there is an element in the party that has been there prior to [World War II], the isolationist, America-Firsters. Prior to World War I, it was Western senators, and then Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh, and then Taft versus Eisenhower. Even Reagan—Reagan’s presidency was perfect without ever a problem [said sarcastically]—there was an isolationist wing that fought against Reagan. And now the bad economy has exacerbated what has always been out there.

On Obama:

I think the big mistake was doing Obamacare when he should have addressed the debt. He had the votes to do it then. That is for historians to decide. He was confident and had reason to be. Here is a young man who, six or seven years before, was a state legislator and had lost a primary for a House seat. I think he has grown to appreciate bipartisanship. He is looking at his legacy. I know that for a fact and it is entirely appropriate. One is, close Guantánamo. It is an unfulfilled commitment. Outreach to me and Lindsey. So yeah, I think he has learned a lot.

On whether he's frustrated that Marco Rubio isn't doing more to sell immigration to House Republicans:

I expressed a little frustration. But Marco Rubio has played a tremendously important role, he is very articulate, and he has been going out there on the talk shows. He has a bright future in the party. He is a valuable candidate for president. Some people say this will set him back, but remember, I got the nomination of the party after failing on immigration in 2007.

On the performance of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (whose confirmation he voted against) and Secretary of State John Kerry (whom he voted for):

I hear good reports from friends in the military that Hagel is respectful. I think he is doing OK. And John Kerry I think is working extremely hard, frenetic. I met with him yesterday morning. But I am a little worried about whether John is trying to take on too many issues at once, and I think that is a shared concern amongst many of his friends.

On the administration's handling of Syria:

But I don’t think there is any doubt that, if you look at the world five years ago and today, we live in a far, far more dangerous world. There is a lack of American leadership. I hear that every place I go in the Middle East. This massacre in Syria is one of the most shameful chapters in American history.

On picking Sarah Palin:

I think historians will decide that facts are stubborn things. We were four points down when I chose her and three points up afterwards. She held her own and, some people said, won a debate with the vice president. She did everything I ever wanted. She excited our base in a way I was unable to achieve. And then I watched the shredding and destruction to destroy a good and decent person by the liberal media, beginning with Katie Couric. Not only do I not regret it, but I have probably not seen anyone in American life savaged like she was, particularly by the liberal left.

And on whether he's happy:

Am I happy? I’d like to be president of the United States.