Not long after Senator John McCain returned last month from an official trip to Iraq and Pakistan, he received a phone call from President-elect Barack Obama.
As contenders for the presidency, the two had hammered each other for much of 2008 over their conflicting approaches to foreign policy, especially in Iraq. (He’d lose a war! He’d stay a hundred years!) Now, however, Mr. Obama said he wanted Mr. McCain’s advice, people in each camp briefed on the conversation said. What did he see on the trip? What did he learn?
It was just one step in a post-election courtship that historians say has few modern parallels, beginning with a private meeting in Mr. Obama’s transition office in Chicago just two weeks after the vote. On Monday night, Mr. McCain will be the guest of honor at a black-tie dinner celebrating Mr. Obama’s inauguration. […]
Fred I. Greenstein, emeritus professor of politics at Princeton, said: “I don’t think there is a precedent for this. Sometimes there is bad blood, sometimes there is so-so blood, but rarely is there good blood.”
There may be some strategy behind this. Obama will likely want to forge working relationships with at least some Senate Republicans to help move his agenda. McCain, if one of his previous personas reemerges, may be one of the “swing” votes in the GOP caucus, and Obama’s outreach may want to take advantage of McCain’s “independent” streak.
Specifically, Obama has apparently approached McCain on collaborating on issues where they share common ground, “including a commission to cut ‘corporate welfare,’ curbing waste in military procurement and an overhaul of immigration rules.”
That middle one is of particular interest, since McCain talked quite a bit during the campaign about wanting to cut defense spending. If McCain works with the Obama White House, it will offer the soon-to-be president some serious partisan cover on the issue.
There’s no modern precedent for this kind of connection between a president and the candidate he defeated, but I guess it’s all part of Obama’s pledge to change the way business is done in Washington.