Sen. John McCain, the Republican from Arizona, was caught red-handed Tuesday by a Washington Post photographer, who snapped a picture of McCain playing a poker game on his iPhone during the lengthy Senate hearings over Syria.
The photograph, as they say about the Internet, went viral. Pundits with too much time on their hands had fun criticizing the senator for breaking one of the protocols of office-style decorum: Checking email during meetings is sometimes OK, but playing poker?
At least Sen. John McCain has a sense of humor about it.
Late Tuesday night, the senator took to Twitter.
“Scandal! Caught playing iPhone game at 3+ hour Senate hearing — worst of all I lost!” he tweeted.
The Post, milking this for all its worth, published a photo gallery Wednesday showing politicians in all sorts of boredom during meetings, rallies, speeches and public appearances. McCain, we note, was the only one shown playing a video game.
There was a photo of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asleep during the 2010 State of the Union address. And the photo of George H.W. Bush infamously peeking at his watch during a 1992 presidential debate. And a photo of Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid sleeping during a rally held for him in Jakarta in 2000. And a photo of former Soviet Union president Mikhail Gorbachev snoring during a panel discussion at a 2012 summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in Chicago.
Boredom escapes no one, apparently.
In London, The Guardian newspaper opined that “perhaps the Republican pro-interventionist, who was critical of the president for asking Congress for approval to strike Syria, was trying to make some clumsy metaphor about Obama’s political gamble or the high stakes involved. Or maybe not.”
The Atlantic mused that McCain’s game might have been a stunt. “Whether what we saw on McCain’s screen represents true boredom or a more strategic protest, it’s a reminder nonetheless of how public, via our smartphones and other computers, our attention has become. Whether you’re a U.S. senator or a plain old citizen, your attention is, in a way it never has been before, out on display. Your screen is a window to your soul — which is fine, until your soul gets bored and decides to play some poker.”
To quote Alabama football coach Nick Saban, it is what it is.
McCain’s white-collar faux pas is a minor indiscretion that’s worthy of less than 15 minutes of fame. Should he have sought his next royal flush during a Senate hearing? No. But it wasn’t, to steal the senator’s words, a scandal.