Tuesday, February 05, 2008


In a chamber once known for cordiality if not outright gentility, McCain has battled his fellow senators for more than two decades in a fashion that has been forceful and sometimes personal. Now, with the conservative maverick on the brink of securing his party's presidential nomination, McCain's Republican colleagues are grappling with the idea of him at the top of their ticket.

"There would be a lot of people who would have to recalibrate their attitudes toward John," said Sen. Robert F. Bennett (R-Utah), a supporter of Mitt Romney's who has clashed with McCain.

Many Senate Republicans, even those who have jousted with McCain in the past, say their reassessment is underway. Sensing the increasing likelihood that he will be the nominee, GOP senators who have publicly fought with him are emphasizing his war-hero background and playing down past confrontations.

"I forgive him for whatever disagreements he has had with me. We can disagree on things, but I have great admiration for him," said Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), a senior member of the Appropriations Committee who has often argued with McCain over government spending.

As president, one of McCain's most critical relationships would be with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), a necessary ally in the conflict with a Democratic-led Congress. But their relationship has been gravely tested... But McConnell said last week that he would have no trouble with McCain as the nominee or as president.

"We've had a great relationship since," McConnell said. "All of them [McCain's fights] have been respectable and entirely within the traditions of the Senate."

...Despite the senator's heresies on taxes, immigration and campaign finance, Rep. Tom Cole (Okla.), chairman of the Republican campaign committee, said McCain could appeal to independent voters.

"You'll have more Democrats running away from
Hillary Clinton than you'll have Republicans running away from our nominee," he said.

...After spending six weeks away from the Senate, he showed up for final negotiations on a fragile immigration bill, leading Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) to question where he had been. McCain responded by swearing at Cornyn loudly and repeatedly, according to witnesses.

Cornyn, who has not endorsed a presidential candidate, doesn't expect to befriend McCain anytime soon but said he will happily stump for him as the nominee.

"We've had our moments, but we've gotten over that and moved on down the road," Cornyn said. "You're talking about people who are professionals. You don't have to link arms and sing 'Kumbaya' to get things done."

I'm not about to give total trust to the Washington Post, even on direct quotes, but I don't hear of a flock of angry denials of misquotes here.

Such melting doesn't come from strength and confidence. It comes from desperation.

"You'll have more Democrats running away from Hillary Clinton than you'll have Republicans running away from our nominee," he said.

That's the Republican game plan? The other guys are more demoralized than we are?

There's a gangrene odor coming off the Grand Old Pachyderm. McCain will take well-deserved blame as the chief architect of the failure. But he's got willing accomplices who won't be remembered. You see some of them named here.

No comments: