From the Wayback Machine

Mustang Bobby's earlier post about Obama, McCain, and the dichotomy of their individual willingness to engage in bipartisanship, put me in mind of an incident from February of 2006, before the Democrats regained control of Congress, that I'm surprised hasn't received more play during this campaign:

Obama asked McCain if he would consider co-sponsoring a Democratic proposal on ethics reform, instead of appointing a separate task force on the issue, as McCain wanted to do. The Dems, you see, had already introduced legislation, the Honest Leadership Act, which addressed many of the things McCain was saying he wanted to appoint a task force to explore; ergo, Obama was hoping that McCain would instead just sign on with the Dems' instead of wasting time with a task force.

Obama's letter (pdf) was extremely polite and professional—but, reading between the lines, one can see Obama was also essentially calling McCain's bluff and testing his claims of being a wild and crazy maverick who knows how to reach across the aisle and shit, as calling for a task force is often a strategy employed by a senator who only wants to appear to care about an issue without actually having to take a stand, as the task force "investigation" indefinitely delays establishing a firm position. Here was an ethics reform package ready to rock and roll—so Obama asked (again, politely and professionally) for McCain to sign on.

McCain's response (pdf), which Matt Stoller called "the single most bitter, nasty letters I have ever seen from any Senator," was not only shocking in its tenor, but put paid the lie that McCain cares about reform and bipartisanship.
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. ... 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 political 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…

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.
McCain having directed this level of rancor at Obama two and a half years ago further contextualizes his refusal to even look at Obama during the debate (which I've no doubt is attributable to a number of other things, too). McCain basically told Obama in official correspondence he's got no respect for him—and now he finds himself two years later going toe-to-toe in a campaign for the presidency with the freshman senator he deemed disingenuous and un-admirable—and he's losing to him.

It's no wonder he can't look him in the eye.

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