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A history of John McCain saying ‘nice’ things about Ted Cruz

(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)

John McCain and Ted Cruz haven't had the smoothest of relationships. The Arizona senator famously called Cruz and a handful of other Republicans "wacko birds," and he's walked it back ever since.

Today, McCain's comments on Cruz are much more nuanced, but if you read between the lines (and notice the frequency with which he calls Cruz a "valued member of the Senate Armed Services Committee") you'll notice McCain's just being polite.

Here's a timeline of some of McCain's comments on Cruz, along with helpful translations:

March 7, 2013

What he said: "It's always the wacko birds on the right and left that get the media megaphone," he told the Huffington Post. He clarified that he was specifically referencing Cruz, along with Republican Sen. Rand Paul and libertarian-leaning GOP Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan.

What he meant: Please stop giving Ted Cruz attention. He's not serious.

March 15, 2013

What he said: "[In] an interview I said that Sen. Cruz and Sen. Paul were 'wacko birds.' That was inappropriate and I apologize to them for saying that, and I respect them both," he said on Fox News.

What he meant: Wow, calm down. I'm sorry I said what I was actually thinking.

November 11, 2014

What he said: When asked by Salon whether if agreed "with the 'Ted Cruz's Senate' narrative," McCain said the class of 2014 Senate wanted to "go to Washington and get things done." "I think that you just saw a McCain-Graham injection into the United States Senate -- Joni Ernst, comes from the military; Tom Cotton, comes from the military; Dan Sullivan, comes from the military," he said. "I've campaigned for literally every one of them and I have not seen any indication that they are of that desire for confrontation."

What he meant: "Getting things done" is the opposite of leading a government shutdown and filibustering for hours. And fewer senators agree with Cruz than you think.

March 22, 2015

What he said: When asked on CNN's "State of the Union" whether Cruz could lead Republicans to victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016, McCain said, "If the Republican Party nominates him, I do. He is a valued member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, he and I are friendly, and I think he is a very viable candidate."

What he meant: I don't think he's a good candidate, so I'll just call him "viable." He could certainly win. Hell, even Warren G . Harding won!

March 30, 2015

What he said: McCain told the Arizona Republic that he didn't think Cruz was the new Barry Goldwater. "They don't know Barry Goldwater, the people who make that comparison," he said. But he also said their contentious relationship has improved. "Cruz, by the way, has been a valued member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and I've traveled with him," he added. "Personally, he and I get along fine."

What he meant: If I say Cruz is a "valued member of the Senate Armed Services Committee" again, will you stop asking me about our relationship and the "wacko bird" thing?

April 21, 2015

What he said: There was a minor kurfuffle over Cruz saying in New Hampshire that he is "pressing" McCain for hearings on allowing personal firearms on military bases. McCain told The Hill he and his staff had no idea what Cruz was talking about, saying neither he or his staff had pressed them on the topic. And then McCain diffused the situation with a tweet using his go-to line on Cruz:

What he meant: