- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 7, 2006

When Sen. John McCain is good, he is very good. When he caught Barack Obama, the Democrats’ golden-boy senator, behaving like just another politician on lobbying reform, he broke out his scorching pen.

Mr. Obama, the senator from Arizona said, had pledged privately to support the bipartisan reform plan that Mr. McCain and Sen. Joe Lieberman are trying to push through Congress. But on Thursday, Mr. Obama announced in a letter to Mr. McCain that he will support a Democrat-only lobbying-reform bill after all. In an uncommonly harsh response, Mr. McCain called out the junior senator from Illinois for playing politics (which is, of course, what Congress is all about). Welcome to Washington, Mr. Obama.

“I would like to apologize to you for assuming that your private assurances to me regarding your desire to cooperate in our efforts to negotiate bipartisan lobbying reform were sincere,” Mr. McCain wrote.

“When you approached me and insisted that despite your leadership’s preference to use the issue to gain a political advantage in the 2006 elections, you were personally committed to achieving a result that would reflect credit on the entire Senate and offer the country a better example of political leadership, I concluded your professed concern for the institution and the public interest was genuine and admirable.

“Thank you for disabusing me of such notions with your letter. I failed to interpret your previous assurances as typical rhetorical gloss routinely used in politics to make self-interested partisan posturing appear more noble. Again, sorry for the confusion, but please be assured, I won’t make that same mistake again.” Ouch.

In his letter, Mr. Obama had called the Democratic bill a “more timely” and “effective” means to lobbying reform. That’s impossible, of course: With Republicans controlling Congress and the White House, a Democrat-only bill is a dead letter. Mr. Obama had either caved to pressure from the party or had never really intended to go bipartisan in the first place.

“I understand how important the opportunity to lead your party’s effort to exploit this issue must seem to a freshman Senator, and I hold no hard feelings over your earlier disingenuousness,” Mr. McCain wrote. “Again, I have been around long enough to appreciate that in politics the public interest isn’t always a priority for every one of us. Good luck to you, Senator.”

Mr. Obama’s spokesman called the letter “confusing” and “headscratching.” But there’s nothing to confuse anyone. Mr. Obama, the rising freshman star, says noble things, enjoying the applause, but then obeys his party’s cynical leaders. Mr. McCain is calling him out on it.

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