John McCain basket case

Jul 24, 2013 by

Barack Obama, to hear his advisers tell it, has finally found The One he has been looking for: John McCain.

“We have been looking literally for years for someone we can cut deals with, and finally someone has stepped up,” a White House official said. West Wing aides say they now talk with McCain roughly every other day.

McCain, to hear fellow Republicans tell it, has finally found The Two he has needed to make such conversations worth the bother: Sen. Chuck Schumer, a Democrat who can actually get things done in the Senate, and Denis McDonough, a White House chief of staff who actually cares what senators say and think and do.


While Obama and party leaders clash endlessly and hopelessly, these three men are showing it is possible to put aside political and personal grievances to get consequential stuff done, even in Washington’s currently twisted state.

They would never say it this way, but more often than not, they do it by going around those party leaders — their bosses — who seem stuck in fights they will never be able to end.


This new alliance has resulted in an immigration bill and a deal to avoid the nuclear option for confirming nominees, and is in preliminary conversations to avert a government shutdown over the budget. It has created trust — tenuous but real — among these three officials (and others) who can deliver results.


(Also on POLITICO: Immigration could hinge on August recess)


The House no doubt will kill most or all of their compromises. But three men from the three power centers talking, much less agreeing, is something this city hasn’t seen in the Obama years.


The return of McCain the Maverick rankles many Republicans, but he can reliably count on seven to 10 GOP senators to back him, including Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee.


Schumer, while watched with suspicion by some Democrats and leadership staff, can deliver the vast majority of his party — and he isn’t afraid of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), as others are. “Harry, to his credit, gives people some space to do this stuff,” Schumer said.

(POLITICO reports: Senate averts ‘nuclear option’)


And McDonough, who came into the job after the Inauguration, has more credibility with many senators than Obama himself, largely because he calls constantly and seems to genuinely care. He was a foreign policy adviser to former Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle, so he gets the rhythms, neediness and vocabulary of the Hill. Plus colleagues and senators say McDonough is more willing to take advice on strategy than some other top Obama aides over the years.


Each of the three has huge personal incentives to make this work. For McCain, it’s redemption in his twilight, a chance to end his career as a deal-making senator. For Schumer, it’s validation in his prime, a chance to show his colleagues he’s more than a showboat — he’s someone who can get things done and should be the party’s next Senate leader. And for McDonough, it’s relevancy in the moment, a chance to show he can do what Obama’s prior chiefs of staff have had such difficulty doing — navigating Congress.


During a joint interview with McCain at the Capitol, Schumer said that while White House officials have always had to return Democrats’ calls, “sometimes you got the feeling … they didn’t really want to. With Denis McDonough, you get the feeling he wants to.”

via Behind the Curtain: The new power triangle –

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