QUOTE OF THE DAY…. On Fox News this morning, Bill Hemmer, after some gratuitous shots at President Obama, asked Sen. John McCain about U.S. policy in Libya, most notably who would replace Gadhafi if McCain gets his wish about regime change.

HEMMER: I know you want Gadhafi out; the whole world knows he’s a bad man. But what takes his place? You were just in Afghanistan, I believe, right? And you know, some of the al Qaeda fighters — they’re hiding out in Pakistan or crossing the border into Afghanistan — come from Libya. Now, how concerned are you that if you kick Gadhafi out, that you allow Islamists then, as bad as he might be, to take control in Tripoli?

MCCAIN: Well, I don’t think we worried too much when we wanted to get rid of Hitler as to who would take his place.

McCain then changed the subject, letting viewers know that the rebels have a website. (Seriously, that’s what he said. He even encouraged viewers to visit it, saying, “Go on it. They are people from all over Libya.”)

By any reasonable standard, this isn’t a real answer to a legitimate question. It’s the guy-at-the-end-of-the-bar kind of response, not the kind of thing one would hope to hear from the ranking U.S. senator on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

But putting aside McCain’s intellectual laziness, I’m curious about the follow up Bill Hemmer didn’t think to ask: if Gadhafi is Hitler, and the Libyan dictator has American blood on his hands, why did McCain personally visit with Gadhafi in August 2009 to discuss delivery of American military equipment to the Libyan regime?

Why, after his face-to-face chat, did the senator offer praise for Gadhafi, instead of condemning him?

Indeed, if McCain was having a friendly chat at the ranch of a tyrant he considers a modern-day Hitler, shouldn’t the senator have tried to strangle the monster right there on the spot, instead of talking about U.S. aid to the guy?

Update: Here’s the clip of this morning’s Fox News interview:

YouTube video

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.