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The Ballad Of George & John

Jay Carney has a good piece in Time that tells the story of the troubled relationship--and eventual rapprochement--between George W. Bush and John McCain. There's a lot of familiar stuff--South Carolina, the dalliance with Kerry, etc.--but this seems new:

In March 2002, [McCain] and two other Senators were at the White House, briefing Condoleezza Rice, the National Security Adviser, about their recent meetings with European allies when Bush unexpectedly stuck his head in the door. "Are you all talking about Iraq?" the President asked, his voice tinged with schoolyard bravado. Before McCain and the others in the room could do more than nod, Bush waved his hand dismissively. "F___ Saddam," he said. "We're taking him out." And then he left.

McCain was appalled. He was a Republican, and a hawk, and exactly one year later he would enthusiastically support the decision to topple the Iraqi regime by force. But to McCain, his encounter with Bush that day was more evidence of the shallow intellect and dangerous self-regard possessed by the man to whom he had lost an acrimonious contest two years earlier. Later, McCain would retell the story and shake his head incredulously. "Can you believe this guy?" he asked. "He's the President!" He didn't say it, but the continuation of the thought hung in the air: Can you believe this guy is President — instead of me?"

Actually, this story isn't entirely new: Time reported it back in 2002, although then it didn't identify any of the Senators who were present for Bush's little performance; outing McCain as one of them advances the story a bit, and maybe even in McCain's direction, since it seems to put some mroe distance between himself and Bush on Iraq (although not quite as much distance as the McCain campaign hilariously tried to do yesterday).

Still, it does make you wonder why that encounter didn't shake McCain's faith in Bush as the guy who'd be leading us into Iraq--or, at the very least, prompt him to question Bush's management of the war sooner than he did.  

--Jason Zengerle