By Becky Hogan
Senator John McCain was caught by a Washington Post reporter playing internet poker on his smartphone during a three-hour Senate hearing on Syria yesterday.
Today the Twitterverse is reacting to the story with the trending hashtag, #JohnMcCainIsMoreUselessThan.
McCain soon after brushed the incident off as a case of boredom and even tweeted about it, but Twitter isn’t letting the Senator off so easily.
As of the writing of this post, the hashtag has been used 22,414 times in the past 15 hours, and seems to be uniting conservatives and liberals alike.
Some examples: “#JohnMcCainIsMoreUselessThan @BarackOabama’s Red Line.” or “#JohnMcCainIsMoreUselessThan Ted Cruz’s Canadian birth certificate.”
(For more of the fun, you can check it out for yourself!)
But the hashtag shows that the public isn’t playing when games when it comes to Syria. A Pew Research poll shows that more Americans oppose than support conducting airstrikes in Syria by a 48% to 29% margin.
Many have claimed that this is Rand Paul’s shining moment on foreign policy because he’s the most high-profile voice opposing the idea of using American military action to punish Syria, setting him against President Obama and with the majority on public opinion.
Social media reflects that the public stands with Rand Paul as well, as he’s gained far more Facebook Likes and event Twitter Followers than McCain over the past month. McCain has lost over 6,100 Facebook Likes in the past week.
The problem is McCain is a key player on the debate over Syria–and that’s why Twitter is reacting with its angry hashtag.
McCain was one of the first lawmakers to advocate for military intervention in Syria, and hasn’t wavered on his stance since—meanwhile President Obama and other lawmakers have been more reluctant on the issue. His prominence in the media has risen as the issue in Syria has come front in center in recent weeks.
The simple truth: if McCain wasn’t a key player in US policy on Syria, he wouldn’t be trending.
While public sentiment on the issue might be with Paul, McCain’s involvement in foreign policy issues and his growing reputation as a deal-maker in Congress has put him in meetings with the President.
In stark contrast to social media, news coverage over the past two weeks shows that McCain is a key influencer on the debate over Paul.
And thus the Twitterverse is staging a protest. What #JohnMcCainIsMoreUselessThan really shows is that public opinion is playing second fiddle to political interests in Syria and the public isn’t pleased about it.