Cynics may see this as keeping the subject alive before media attention shifts to the House on the fiscal cliff, but a longer view suggests something much more than McCain’s last hurrah for attention.
Eight years ago, when Democrats (not including Barack Obama and Joe Biden who voted to confirm her) were harrumphing about Condoleeza Rice’s appointment to the job, McCain nailed them with an accusation:
"I wonder why we are starting this new Congress with a protracted debate about a foregone conclusion. I can only conclude that we are doing this for no other reason than because of lingering bitterness over the outcome of the election."
Since then, McCain has become a case study in lingering bitterness as he morphed from outspoken maverick to cranky old conservative with a hair-trigger temper.
His behavior now recalls the Karl Rove campaign in 2000 primaries against Bush to paint him as psychologically damaged by his years as a POW.
The long history of that subject embraces the Stockholm Syndrome of bonding with captors through the Manchurian Candidate right up to the current award-winning Showtime series “Homeland” in which a Marine held for years by Middle East terrorists is freed to become a covert agent for them as he rises up the political ladder.
Beyond such paranoid fantasies is the reality of John McCain, a carefree son of Navy privilege who came back from captivity to serve in the Senate and run for President with every expectation of ending in the White House until W and then Obama derailed him.
Sarah Palin aside, he must still be haunted by 2008 what-ifs, including the economic meltdown that helped defeat him. If he is still bitter, how much of it is displaced rage against the Bush machine that defeated him twice and set up his defeat by Obama?
In his final days on the public stage, John McCain is acting out his own lingering bitterness against the only target available to him, but in the depths of his own mind Obama is almost surely not the only object of his inner rage.