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Obama and McCain: Washington’s newest odd couple

The Arizona senator is a regular visitor to the West Wing and in near-daily contact with senior White House officials

In this Oct. 15, 2008 file photo, then-Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., greets then-Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., at the start of the presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.

 

WASHINGTON (AP): There was no conciliatory phone call, no heart-to-heart talk to soothe the tensions. No one knows exactly when President Barack Obama and Republican Sen. John McCain went from bitter rivals in the 2008 presidential campaign and foes over health care and national security to bipartisan partners.

Yet in recent months, an alignment on high-profile domestic issues — not to mention an eye on their respective legacies — has transformed Obama and McCain into Washington’s most unexpected odd couple. The Arizona senator is a regular visitor to the West Wing and in near-daily contact with senior White House officials.

It’s unlikely that Obama and McCain’s partnership will lead to a larger detente between the White House and congressional Republicans. While McCain may have sway over some like-minded members of the Senate Republican caucus, he has considerably less influence with his party’s more conservative wing, particularly in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

Still, the White House is hopeful that forging policy breakthroughs with McCain and other Senate Republicans will isolate recalcitrant House Republicans and perhaps persuade them to act.

The first test of that strategy probably will be the White House-backed immigration overhaul. McCain helped write and shepherd the bill through the Senate last month. Its future in the House is deeply uncertain.

McCain, in an Associated Press interview, said that he and Obama “trust each other.” White House chief of staff Denis McDonough, among the Obama advisers who speak regularly with McCain, praised the lawmaker as a “refreshing” partner who “welcomes a debate and welcomes action.”

Like any good business arrangement in the US capital, the secret to the new Obama-McCain alliance ultimately comes down to this: Both sides believe that working together is mutually beneficial and carries little political risk.

For Obama, the senator has become a rare Republican backer of important elements on the president’s second term agenda, including immigration overhaul, stricter background checks for gun buyers, and perhaps even an elusive budget deal.

In return, McCain has secured increased access to the White House and an opportunity to redeem his reputation as a “maverick.” That image was tainted when McCain tacked to the right during his failed 2008 presidential run against Obama.

“I’ve told the people of Arizona, I will work with any president if there are ways I can better serve Arizona and the country,” McCain said. “That seems to be an old-fashioned notion but it’s the case.”

Indeed, the level of attention lavished on a functional working relationship between the Democratic president and the Republican senator underscores how rare such partnerships have been during Obama’s tenure.

Lawmakers, including some Democrats, long have chafed at Obama’s distant dealings with Congress and his supposed lack of understanding about how Congress operates.

The administration also will try to work with McCain ahead of impending budget battles, McDonough said, given that the senator and the White House agree there is a negative impact from across-the-board federal budget cuts, particularly on the military and defence industry.

McDonough said it’s not just a shared view on policy that has made McCain an attractive partner to Obama on these and other issues. It’s their mutual disdain for Washington meetings that never move beyond the standard talking points.

Obama and McCain were never close during the president’s brief tenure in the Senate. While McCain is a creature of Congress, Obama largely saw it as a stepping stone to bigger things. The relationship deteriorated during frequent clashes in the 2008 presidential campaign, and it often appeared during Obama’s first term like it would never recover.

In 2010, the two sparred during a televised negotiating session on health care. McCain chastised Obama for brokering deals behind closed doors, to which the president snapped, “We’re not campaigning anymore. The election is over.”

McCain replied: “I’m reminded of that every day.”

White House advisers still bristle over McCain’s accusations that the administration covered up details of last year’s deadly attacks on Americans in Benghazi, Libya, as well as his relentless criticism of former UN Ambassador Susan Rice’s role in that alleged effort.

McCain’s criticism contributed to Rice’s decision to withdraw from consideration as Obama’s secretary of state. She now serves as White House national security adviser, a post that does not require Senate confirmation.

McDonough acknowledged that McCain’s role in keeping the Benghazi controversy alive has been a source of frustration. But he credited the senator with largely shelving his criticism of Rice once she joined the White House staff.

McCain said his stronger ties with the president on domestic issues won’t keep him from challenging the president on national security issues, including Syria, where McCain backs a more aggressive US response than does the administration. But he said there’s a way to strike an appropriate balance.

“He is the president of the United States,” McCain said. “You can strongly disagree and still be respectful.”

See  related Video here.

Also see: 

Analysis: McCain’s deals and ‘wacko-bird’ barbs are priceless for Obama

 

 

 

 

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Posted by on Aug 2 2013, With 0 Reads, Filed under AfPak, Africa, Americas, Asia, China, Editors' Picks, Egypt, Europe, Expert Opinions ME, Global, Iran, Iraq War, Libya, Middle East, Middle East Conflicts, News From the Region, Syria, United Kingdom, War. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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2 Comments for “Obama and McCain: Washington’s newest odd couple”

  1. Remember a couple months ago when we were wondering why on earth Obama didn’t rake Cain over the coals when he went over to Syria unasked, on his own foreign policy mission to rub elbows with Syria’s invaders? NOW we know- these two were just beginning their bromance!

    How about that? Lefty folks who helped Bama get elected and have been having regrets must really be beating themselves up now! The question is- which one of them is giving cooties to the other?

  2. One shouldn’t be surprised at anything that happens in the White House, the government of the USA or the mindset of the country itself.

    We have all seen the White House version of the “Killing of Bin Ladan”, a piece of theatre if ever there was one, the switching of support for the “freedom fighters” in Syria to support for the same people, this time under the al Qaeda banner and the obviously White House endorsed visit by the terrorists friend, the very same John McCain now so friendly with the empty-suited and feeble Obama ; the handing over of Afghanistan to the Taliban, whenever they are ready; the expansion of the great religious divides as a result of the war on the people of Iraq, a disgrace in anyone’s language with car bombings weekly in the streets of that country, a great US victory; the ownership of the USA by the Zionists and perhaps the most grotesque images of the 29 standing ovations in the joint houses for the evil Netanyahu and for those with a strong stomach, the Congressional jubilation at the announcement of the Neocon war, the ‘shock and awe’ exercise in cruelty and mass murder.

    Of course, to add some up-to-date currency, six months ago Egypt had a “democratically elected government”. Now the US supports a military coup with its Nemesis, Israel, all for increased Israeli land expansion and a water supply and the ability to generate yet another Mubarak military controlled country to do their bidding.

    No country has more skill in conveniently dismissing these actions under the well-worn phrases such as ‘freedom, ‘democracy’ and the like, seen as something of a hypocritical joke, justifiably dismissed by the world. We haven’t even mentioned the USS Liberty, 9/11 Untruths, the support for Sharon after Shatila and Sabra massacres, Laos, Cambodia, Operation ‘Cast Lead’, sanctions for decades against Cuba, then Iraq, then Korea, then Iran. Who needs enemies when the US is your friend. Did one mention the 300 nuclear warheads in Israel while pursuing Iran, WITH NONE?

    Now we see serious widespread antagonism to the US in Africa. Why do you ask?

    Why has it taken this long, one is forced to reply.

    Too late for the US to engage in any soul searching. One has to doubt that the US could see itself as anything but a wonderful example to the rest of the world, even with all the above staring them straight in the face.

    The picture of Obama and McCain sums it up beautifully.

    Empire sliding away? When a Democratic President can be seen looking lovingly into the eyes of someone like McCain, more right wing than Genghis Khan, you know that they are really all tarred with the same brush.

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