President-elect Barack Obama and the man he defeated in the race for the White House, Sen. John McCain, have been meeting frequently during the past three months, as Obama has tapped McCain for advice, sources close to both camps say.
Obama has been seeking McCain’s feedback on everything from what the Arizona Republican learned during his official trip to Iraq and Pakistan in December to what he thinks of Obama’s Cabinet nominees, the New York Times reports.
The meetings, which began with a private session shortly after the election in November, have included McCain’s visit to Obama’s transition office in Chicago two weeks later. McCain has been in frequent contact with the president-elect since, providing Obama advice on both foreign and domestic policy matters.
McCain reportedly told several Senate colleagues “that many of these appointments he would have made himself,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
“I don’t think there is a precedent for this,” Princeton politics professor Fred Greenstein told The Times. “Sometimes there is bad blood, sometimes there is so-so blood, but rarely is there good blood.”
Obama is counting on McCain to be a powerful ally in the Senate, where his cooperation will be pivotal on issues such as the war in Iraq, corporate welfare, military procurement, and immigration.
“The corporate welfare commission and military acquisition reform are two things the president-elect wants to do very soon,” Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s chief of staff, told The Times. “We have been very respectful and solicitous of [McCain’s] ideas.”
Graham and Emanuel said Obama is seeking McCain’s advice on national security appointments and foreign policy issues because he is, after all, the ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee.
McCain “enthusiastically supported” the appointments of Gen. James L. Jones as national security adviser, Gen. Eric K. Shinseki as secretary of Veterans Affairs, Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of State, and Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Graham told The Times.
“Picking Gates is a good statement that they are not going to pull out of Iraq in a way that undercuts the gains achieved,” Graham said.
As another sign of friendship and cooperation between the two former rivals for the presidency, McCain will be the guest of honor in Washington tonight at a black-tie dinner celebrating Obama’s inauguration.
“Not only is it good politics,” Graham said of Obama’s interest in working together, “it gives you an insight into who we are dealing with.”
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