In an interesting coda to the 2008 election, John McCain may now be President Obama’s closest Republican ally. McCain has been softening toward Obama recently, and on Tuesday night he made it official, highlighting his bromance with Democratic colleague Chuck Schumer and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough. In an interview with Politico’s Mike Allen, the two senators praise McDonough’s incredible talent for returning phone calls (not that other chiefs of staff ignored them, but “sometimes you got the feeling … they didn’t really want to [return our calls],” says McCain. “With Denis McDonough, you get the feeling he wants to.”) McDonough isn’t quoted in the article, but some anonymous West Wing aide returned the love, saying the White House talks with McCain about every other day. “We have been looking literally for years for someone we can cut deals with, and finally someone has stepped up,” said the official.
McDonough’s ease with members of Congress is attributed to his previous position as a foreign policy adviser to former Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle. McCain and Schumer’s journey from sniping over whether Long Island’s existence is “regrettable” in 2011 to chatting on the phone five or six times a day is less clear. When Lindsey Graham suggested that McCain join the Gang of Eight to work on immigration reform, Schumer noted “He and I don’t like each other.” Graham said he’d “work on it,” and Schumer says that eventually, “McCain and I sort of bonded over stale Danish,” which kept reappearing in Sen. Carl Levin’s office. Schumer explains, “One time we decided we should eat it so we could get fresh Danish, but we didn’t.” Apparently nothing unites Congressional foes like enduring a lack of adequate pastries.
The power trio already made headway on immigration and a deal to avoid the nuclear option, and they’re hoping to reach a deal to avert another budget showdown this fall. While the folks at Politico are clearly delighted by the novelty of cooperation between a Republican, a Democrat, and the White House, they note, “The House no doubt will kill most or all of their compromises.” On the bright side, McCain seems to be outgrowing his crotchety phase and entering into a mavericky renaissance. “He has been a little bit grumpy — that’s gone,” reports the White House official.