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?
By David D. Kirkpatrick
The New York Times
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.
Over the last three months, Mr. Obama has quietly consulted Mr. McCain about many of the new administration’s potential nominees to top national security jobs and about other issues — in one case relaying back a contender’s answers to questions Mr. McCain had suggested.
Mr. McCain, meanwhile, has told colleagues “that many of these appointments he would have made himself,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and a close McCain friend.
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.”
It is “trademark Obama,” Professor Greenstein said, noting that Mr. Obama’s impulse to win over even ideological opposites appeared to date at least to his friendships with conservatives on The Harvard Law Review when he was president.
For Mr. Obama, cooperation with his defeated opponent could also provide a useful ally in the Senate, where Mr. McCain has parlayed his national popularity and go-his-own-way reputation into a role as a pivotal dealmaker over the last eight years. But on the subject of Iraq, in particular, their collaboration could also raise questions among Mr. Obama’s liberal supporters, many of whom demonized Mr. McCain as a dangerous warmonger because of his staunch opposition to a pullout.
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