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Obama White House Meeting with McCain Signals Thaw in Frosty Relations

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WASHINGTON -- John McCain may not have emerged from a private meeting in the Oval Office today as Barack Obama's BFF but the two former presidential rivals appear on friendlier terms than they have been for awhile.

Amid chaos in Egypt and a monster blizzard in the Midwest, the president took time out of his packed schedule to meet for 30 minutes behind closed doors at the White House with the Arizona Republican.

"Senator McCain and the President had a productive meeting on a range of issues, including the situation in the Middle East, immigration reform and border security, trade, and budgetary matters," McCain spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan said. "Senator McCain looks forward to working with the President to address issues of mutual concern for the welfare of our country in these challenging times."

A White House official said the discussion touched on "our desire to work with Republicans and Democrats to grow our economy, create jobs and win the future" and that Obama talked about "our shared responsibility for our deficit, and his focus on working together in a bipartisan way to make tough choices necessary to ensure that our future isn't built on a mountain of debt."

The meeting may have already reaped results.

Soon after McCain left the White House, he tweeted a message that may have telegraphed the growing impatience with events unfolding on the streets of Cairo: "Regrettably the time has come 4 Pres. Mubarak 2 step down & relinquish power. It's in the best interest of Egypt, its people & its military."

The two men also discussed a more prosaic matter, banning earmarks, an issue Obama included in his State of the Union address but which has won him few fans within his own party.

"I remember two people standing up and clapping, Sen. McCain and Sen. (Claire) McCaskill," Gibbs said. "It was a little bit of a lonely group in that part of the speech."

The meeting was the first face-to-face between the men since December and one of a mere handful of encounters since the 2008 election. In their talk during the last lame-duck Congress, Obama tried -- and failed -- to win McCain's vote to repeal the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy and pass the DREAM Act immigration bill.

Whether today's huddle will result in greater cooperation remains to be seen. But as Obama has moved toward the center after the shellacking his party took in November, it is clear McCain is more willing to work with him.

The senator broke the ice after the Tucson shooting when he wrote a glowing review of the president's speech at a memorial service and endorsed his call for more civil political debate.

"I disagree with many of the president's policies," McCain wrote in The Washington Post, "but I believe he is a patriot sincerely intent on using his time in office to advance our country's cause."

The president took notice and called McCain to thank him. And, oh by the way, why don't you come by to the White House for a meeting?

"Any historical strains in the relationship should just be chalked up to inevitable scabs and scars from running against each other for the presidency" Mark McKinnon, a close friend and adviser to McCain told Politics Daily. Despite "a rocky history," he predicts, they "could end allies in some important and historic political chapters ahead for the country."

McKinnon, who left McCain's 2008 presidential campaign to avoid attacking Obama once he became the Democratic nominee, said the senator is a "natural bridge for Obama on foreign policy, military and environmental issues."

McCain, who recently returned from a trip to South America, is already working with White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley on free trade deals with Colombia and Panama.

Until recently, though, Obama and McCain barely spoke.

And for a window into their feelings for one another, the anonymously penned "O: A Presidential Novel" that most now agree was written by McCain confidante Mark Salter may say it all. As one reviewer noted, the thinly veiled Obama character is "a conceited narcissist whose inner life consists of gripes about his opponents" while the McCain stand-in is the second coming of Ronald Reagan.

Friends of McCain say he has been disappointed that Obama hasn't reached out to him as his party's standard bearer or consulted him on Iraq and other issues as befits a senior statesman.

Not that their dealings were ever warm.

As a wet-behind-the-ears freshman senator, Obama sought out the more seasoned McCain to work on the Republican's signature issue, campaign finance reform. The partnership proved short-lived and McCain later lit into Obama for opting out of the federal public financing system.

During his unexpectedly uphill battle to get noticed by the media during the presidential campaign, McCain took to calling his Democratic opponent "The One."

Although McCain would be booed by his own supporters for coming to Obama's defense against personal attacks, and the pair would meet soon after the election to speak, their few interactions since have been less than warm and fuzzy.

One of their sharpest exchanges came nearly a year ago during the president's health care summit when McCain accused the administration of backroom dealing.

"Let me just make this point, John, because we are not campaigning anymore," Obama scolded.

"I'm reminded of that every day," McCain quickly remarked.

The Tucson column, coming amid a new call for civility after the assassination attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, marked "a clear signal of a different approach" by McCain, said Norman Ornstein, a long-time congressional watcher at the American Enterprise Institute.

"He still can't stand Obama in a lot of ways going back to when they were in the Senate together," he said, adding that "Obama didn't do a lot in his first two years to ameliorate that."

Still, Ornstein said, today's meeting may mean both men are ready to tone down the rhetoric and seek common ground.

"It's a different relationship," he said, "one in which they are not best buddies but one in which they can work together."

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25 Comments

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tistolaugh

Does the left-media really believe this is a thaw in frosty relations, really? Because everyone else understands it is just politics.

February 03 2011 at 7:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
howwil

John McCain is the most consistent patriot I see in the entire Republican Party. Think how different things might have been if Lee Atwater snd Karl Rove's propaganda machine had not been there to wreck his chances at the presidency to get Dubya elected.

February 03 2011 at 7:07 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
ettu

Did anyone ever believe it was McCain who wouldn't work with Obama. Who is the leader here? Who is supposed to bring people together to move this country forward? Time the Libs/Progs/Dems stop pointing fingers and actually do something for the benefit of the people.

February 03 2011 at 7:07 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
KEN

What BS the whole meeting had to have been. Story says their discussion included six (very complex) topics---all in 30 minutes? Gimme a break.

It was a courtesy call intended to bridge a gap and difficult partisanship--and for that, it may have been helpful.

February 03 2011 at 5:51 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
marquisdemorte

Why shouldnt they be friends, neither of them has done anything good for america since they have been involved in politics, Both, through different circumstances, have made it on someone else's money! they are both totally out of touch with the idea that is america, as well as the desires of the american people, both voted against making english our national language!Both heve been bought out by special interest, and they are both A##holes! SO what's the big deal?

February 03 2011 at 1:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jandtstarr

McCain has a good knowledge of foreign policy and it doesn't hurt to get his advice on Egypt or other foreign matters. I'm sure McCain appreciated that Obama wanted to discuss this with him. Doen't make McCain a traitor for talking to Obama, it makes him a good Senator for trying to help our President and our country. It also makes Obama a good President for listening to both parties when they have something positive to contribute. Let's all look at the good side of this.

February 03 2011 at 1:12 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
joper201

Mccain is the old guard Republican tha lost us many elections. He need to be a Tea Party target.

February 03 2011 at 12:22 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
psignspdq

To heck with McCain. He is a great argument for term limits. He will say and do anything just to get re-elected. I don't know what he stands for anymore, except wanting to send every military person we have off to war and keep them there for years. I had some respect for him during the campaign, but I have none now.

February 03 2011 at 12:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
u5046

I have lost faith in McCain.He is a big disapointment.

February 02 2011 at 11:55 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
Clue

Two liberals (McCain and Obama) gets together and they havehalf a brain between them. Obama need to have a meeting with John Roberts about the Constitutionality of the Health Insurance debacle and suggest to Harry Reid to pass the House bill so he can sign it. :o)

February 02 2011 at 10:56 PM Report abuse -5 rate up rate down Reply

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