Skip to comments.President Obama’s newest ally: John McCain
Posted on 05/20/2013 8:43:15 AM PDT by Responsibility2nd
President Barack Obama has an important new ally as emboldened Republicans work to derail his agenda: John McCain.
The shift is striking: The 2008 rivals never got along throughout Obamas first term in office. McCain has been Obamas chief tormentor on issues ranging from the budget to Benghazi, tartly saying in late 2010 that the two men had no relationship.
Yet during one of Obamas toughest times as president, there was McCain, sitting down last week with him in the Oval Office for a private strategy session. At the urging of new White House chief of staff Denis McDonough, who has sought better ties with Republicans, Obama has had more substantive discussions with McCain in the past five months than he did in his first four years in office, according to associates of both men. Suddenly, the two are working together on issues ranging from immigration to the deficit.
Im getting nervous, said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), McCains closest friend in the Senate. I told Denis McDonough, I dont know what youve done: Youve hijacked him.
There are many reasons for the sudden détente, including the fact that both men share common ground on several big issues that could wind up defining their legacies. But its unclear whether the Obama-McCain alliance can disrupt the gridlock in Washington given both men are viewed skeptically by many conservatives.
Still, the Arizona Republican can fill a leadership vacuum left by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), whose relationship has soured with the president, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who is preparing for a potential primary challenge next year.
Ever since the election, weve had conversations and phone calls, McCain told POLITICO in an interview. And I think we share many agenda items that we can work on together, ranging from immigration reform, the prison in Guantánamo, to working perhaps on a grand bargain, security of our embassies and consulates. There are a bunch of issues that we share.
Asked when he was next expected to meet with the president, McCain said: Id like to be over there every day to give him guidance.
Last month, McCain was one of just four Republicans to vote for the failed bill to expand gun background checks, a centerpiece of Obamas agenda. McCain is a chief architect of the Senate immigration bill supported strongly by the White House. Hes expressed deep reservations about GOP threats to filibuster Obamas Cabinet-level nominees. Hes slammed his fellow Republican senators for blocking Senate Democratic efforts to begin bicameral budget negotiations with the House. And hes even suggested new tax revenues could be part of a grand bargain.
Behind the scenes, McCain now is leading an effort with about a dozen GOP senators to explore any way forward on a grand bargain deficit deal as they try to assemble an outline to trade with the White House, though chances of a deal still remain slim.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Americans in both parties expect the kind of bipartisan cooperation shown by the two men.
The president and Sen. McCain dont agree on everything, but they have been working hard to find common ground and build bipartisan support for progress on immigration reform and further reducing the deficit, Earnest said.
The emerging relationship between 51-year-old Obama and 76-year-old McCain is one that has certainly changed since the bitterly fought 2008 campaign and the presidents first term when both men distrusted the others political motivations.
The combustible McCain, who has a reputation of seeking political revenge against his enemies, was viewed by Obama allies as still embittered by the 2008 loss and not serious about working with the White House. McCain viewed the president as aloof and mainly concerned about one thing: getting reelected.
Whether the McCain-Obama détente proves short-lived or long-lasting enough to help advance the presidents agenda remains to be seen. And McCain has certainly not dropped all his criticism of the president.
McCain has been a chief prosecutor in the quest to uncover more details about the Benghazi attacks, and he was a ferocious critic of Susan Rice as a potential head of the State Department. He has criticized Obamas stances on the war in Syria and played a major role mounting the opposition to Chuck Hagels nomination to run the Pentagon.
Moreover, McCains endorsement of an issue is hardly a guarantee that other Republicans will follow the senator is still viewed skeptically by many conservatives, particularly in the House.
We have a major amnesty bill thats come before us, and it must be killed if we want to have an America that weve long dreamed of, Iowa Rep. Steve King said when asked about McCains support of the immigration measure.
There are a host of reasons for budding the McCain-Obama détente.
After weathering his own reelection campaign in 2010, where he shifted rightward against a primary foe, McCain doesnt have to worry about running again until 2016, the presidents final year in office. McCain is always eager to be at the center of legislative deal making, and some believe that McCain, who can be described as spiteful, is no longer angry about his 2008 loss, particularly after witnessing Mitt Romneys failed bid to defeat Obama.
Others think that McCain is driven by his latest grudge: a desire to beat his new Senate adversaries, the conservative firebrands Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky, all of whom are determined to thwart the Obama agenda and share views particularly on war policy that run counter to McCains.
Fine, was Lees response when asked about his relationship with McCain these days. We dont agree on everything.
Or McCain may finally see a landscape ripe to push through major issues like immigration that he has long clamored for, helping to cement his legacy as one of the most important senators of his time.
I think John would probably tell you, its our opinion, and I think the president shares it if you miss the opportunity this year, there wont be another one, said Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who has been meeting with McCain as part of the GOP budget group.
There has been a dramatic increase since last falls elections in outreach from the White House to McCain. Immediately after the 2008 election, there was some hope that McCain who touted his maverick ways in his presidential run would buck his party and be a key ally for Obama. The president-elect called his vanquished opponent to Chicago, where the two men had a collegial meeting. Days before his 2009 Inauguration, Obama hosted a black-tie dinner in honor of McCain, saying a new season of cooperation would be ushered into the Capitol.
That didnt last very long.
In a February 2010 health care summit hosted by Obama, McCain attacked the president for cutting an unsavory deal behind closed doors despite making eight campaign promises to open the talks to the public.
Were not campaigning anymore; the election is over, an annoyed Obama scolded McCain.
The two men barely spoke in the run-up to the 2012 elections, with one exception immediately after the January 2011 shootings in Tucson, Ariz., when McCain praised the presidents handling of the episode. Following that, Obama invited McCain for a face-to-face Oval Office meeting.
But that was about the sum of their interactions until last Novembers elections. Since then, Obama met privately for an hour in February with McCain, along with Graham and Vice President Joe Biden. In March, the president joined McCain and 11 other GOP senators at a private dinner with Obama at The Jefferson Hotel.
Obama has called up McCain, including in February to reassure the senator that he truly wanted an immigration deal after a leaked White House plan infuriated Senate Republicans. On top of that, McDonough who became Obamas chief of staff in January has placed a premium on outreach to certain Senate Republicans who could be key to deal making in the second term, and hes repeatedly spoken to the Arizona Republican.
Once the Senate finishes debate on immigration this summer, attention will turn to the budget and McCain could also play an important role there, especially given the hawkish Republicans outrage over the military cuts caused by sequestration.
An offshoot of the Senate group that dined with Obama in March has been meeting weekly to discuss budget issues in the hopes of broadly outlining the ideas that they agree should be part of a budget package.
But after meeting last week in a Senate hearing room, it was clear to participants that there was still ample work to do before even proposing a deal to Obama. They are still debating and defining what they believe the problem areas are in the federal budget, with one GOP senator calling it merely happy talk.
Oh yeah, sure, McCain said when asked if higher revenues would need to be part of a grand bargain. But were not at that stage.
Indeed, one of the GOP participants in the group, Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota, said: I believe that we have to have revenue from growth, not higher taxes.
But to get to a deal, it will require major involvement by Obama, a task made easier with better relations with Republicans, like McCain.
When asked if McCain who was held captive during the Vietnam War was still mad at Obama over the 2008 campaign, Graham said: He forgave the Vietnamese; Im sure that wasnt an easy thing to do.
Hardly. These two have had the same agenda for years.
LOL ... saw where mclame is selling one of his homes. Must need cash to run away for the family. Trains coming.
And to think I once drove over 60 miles, one way, to vote for this SOB.
McCain helped suppress the Tea Party.
McCain’s 2008 “campaign” was largely spent reassuring us how we really could vote for his opponent and how that his opponent was really very nice and even able to do the job. And McCain never challenged any of O’s policies, O’s lack of experience, O’s communist and islamic associates, or even O’s citizenship or immigration status.
McCain helped elect O in 2008.
He may be a political ally of O, but he is definitely not a “new” political ally of O.
McCain has always been a useful idiot to the Democrats. This just cements it.
I hated voting for McCain in 2008.
I remember thinking how much better the ticket would have been with Sarah and no McCain.
Hopefully, enough people have had their eyes opened to the Marxist, and
hopefully, we have enough honest men left in government to form an opposition, and
hopefully, enough of ‘We the people’ will start voting conscience over self interest.
Return to Christ, America! It is time!
McCain is so senile he craves any attention can get from Obama insults included.
Odd. I must have missed that 'bitterly fought' campaign. All I saw was Juan folding like a house of cards.
McCain is here in Massachusetts today trying to get another minion elected. If the conservative had won, McCain wouldn’t be here.
Just off by a couple of letters.
Response: Nonsense! McCain shilled for "The Divine One" in 2008.
McCain needs to go soak his head.
I refused to cast a vote for him.
If he’s this bad as a Senator...
I mean seriously, he backs most of what Obama puts forth.
Nine times out of ten, he short-circuits our efforts to stand up to Obama.
McCain went to Viet Nam as a patriot (or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof) and came back as a communist. Between his work on the R side of the aisle and Kerry’s work on the D side, the two “sides” are just the two faces of the same coin. One is a little more radical than the other, but the goals are the same.
McCain is like the Steve Martin version of the Pink Panther’s good-cop-bad-cop routine. McCain should be honored as a war veteran and deserves thanks for elevating Palin’s influence by picking her for his VP, but beyond that he rarely is much help to conservatism.
I’ve said since ‘08 that McLame was pimping for him.
Once a traitor always a traitor and mccain is a traitor and was NEVER a war hero... the Swifties outed that bastid long ago.