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Scott Shrake

Scott Shrake

Posted: September 24, 2008 07:56 PM

McCain's Sandbag: Revenge on Obama, Served Cold?


John McCain's actions today — [CORRECTED: Barack Obama placed a call to McCain at 8:30 a.m. in which his campaign says he floated the idea of a joint statement on the Wall Street situation, which the McCain campaign disputes, saying he left a message but they didn't know why he called; the two eventually talked in the afternoon, and then minutes later McCain announced he was suspending his campaign and invited Obama -- who he had just been on the phone with -- to join him in this] — call to mind the altercation between the two in February 2006, immortalized in their public correspondence (ellipses and emphasis added).

Dear John:

Thank you for inviting me to participate in the meeting yesterday to discuss lobbying and ethics reform proposals currently before the Senate. I appreciate your willingness to reach out to me and several other Senate Democrats to discuss what should be done to restore public confidence in the way that Congress conducts its business. The discussion clearly underscored the difficult challenge facing Congress.
....

I know you have expressed an interest in creating a task force to further study and discuss these matters, but I and others in the Democratic Caucus believe the more effective and timely course is to allow the committees of jurisdiction to roll up their sleeves and get to work on writing ethics and lobbying reform legislation that a majority of the Senate can support. Committee consideration of these matters through the normal course will ensure that these issues are discussed in a public forum and that those within Congress, as well as those on the outside, can express their views, ensuring a thorough review of this matter.
....

Sincerely,
Barack Obama
United States Senator

Obama had made a handshake deal to work with McCain, but then backed out and left McCain standing there "with his d*ck in his hand" as they say on The Sopranos.

McCain took this reversal rather badly.

Dear Senator Obama:

I would like to apologize to you for assuming that your private assurances to me regarding your desire to cooperate in our efforts to negotiate bipartisan lobbying reform legislation were sincere. When you approached me and insisted that despite your leadership's preference to use the issue to gain a political advantage in the 2006 elections, you were personally committed to achieving a result that would reflect credit on the entire Senate and offer the country a better example of political leadership, I concluded your professed concern for the institution and the public interest was genuine and admirable. Thank you for disabusing me of such notions with your letter to me dated February 2, 2006, which explained your decision to withdraw from our bipartisan discussions. I'm embarrassed to admit that after all these years in politics I failed to interpret your previous assurances as typical rhetorical gloss routinely used in politics to make self-interested partisan posturing appear more noble. Again, sorry for the confusion, but please be assured I won't make the same mistake again.
...
As I noted, I initially believed you shared that goal. But I understand how important the opportunity to lead your party's effort to exploit this issue must seem to a freshman Senator, and I hold no hard feelings over your earlier disingenuousness. Again, I have been around long enough to appreciate that in politics the public interest isn't always a priority for every one of us. Good luck to you, Senator.

Sincerely,
John McCain
United States Senate

Obama then expressed befuddlement and struck an apologetic and conciliatory note.

Dear John:

....
During my short time in the U.S. Senate, one of the aspects about this institution that I have come to value most is the collegiality and the willingness to put aside partisan differences to work on issues that help the American people. It was in this spirit that I approached you to work on ethics reform, and it was in this spirit that I agreed to attend your bipartisan meeting last week. I appreciated then - and still do appreciate - your willingness to reach out to me and several other Democrats.
....
I confess that I have no idea what has prompted your response. But let me assure you that I am not interested in typical partisan rhetoric or posturing. The fact that you have now questioned my sincerity and my desire to put aside politics for the public interest is regrettable but does not in any way diminish my deep respect for you nor my willingness to find a bipartisan solution to this problem.

Sincerely,
Barack Obama
United States Senator


McCain soon publicly said his temper had cooled, he claimed the two had "moved on."

Ah, but we've all heard McCain can be a little vindictive. And revenge is a dish best served cold.

As the race between Obama and McCain officially began this summer, I thought back more than once on this one big public kerfuffle involving the two senators as a hint at how they'd get along. (Get the popcorn! I thought.)

Will McCain's sandbagging of his opponent end up as a footnote to the topline story of McCain as economic hero (cough, cough), or will Obama's people spin it successfully as the underpinning of a colossally sleazy stunt that reflects negatively on McCain's character?