Bush to Democrats: I'm your man, not McCain

| February 26, 2001

Bush to Democrats: I'm your man, not McCain

Forget Bush versus the Democrats. If you want real political drama, think Bush versus McCain. It's been exactly one year since President George W. Bush faced off against Arizona Senator John McCain in the South Carolina primaries. Bush defeated McCain and eventually made it to the Oval Office, but apparently the rivalry isn't over.

Recently, Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee--Bush's liaison to the Senate--tried to start negotiations with Senate Democrats on the patient bill of rights. Talks fell through, however, because Frist 'refused to let McCain, the Republican cosponsor of the bill, in on the negotiations,' writes Jake Tapper in Salon.

Publicly, Bush waxes happy about his former campaign rival's involvement. 'I'm very hopeful that we can get a patients bill of rights on my desk, pretty soon,' Bush said on Feb. 6, the day a bipartisan patients bill of rights was announced. 'And the fact that John McCain and Senator Kennedy and others have come together is a good sign.'

In private, however, he and chief political advisor Karl Rove bear a bit of a grudge--or as Tapper puts it, 'a bilious vendetta'--against the man who almost thwarted Bush's presidential bid. In a word, John McCain is a threat.  Although a Republican, he is not a member of the Bush camp. Worse yet, he is popular among Democrats, independents and moderate Republicans alike. He is so well regarded, Tapper writes, that he, potentially, has the 'ability to build a majority impervious to a filibuster, and perhaps even to a presidential veto.'  

President Bush has made it clear to Senate Democrats that he is willing to work on the patient bill of rights only if McCain is not involved. 'Bush's reaction,' Tapper concludes, 'is instructive. He is willing to be bipartisan, willing to work with Democrats. Perhaps it's because they are not the real threat.'
--Anjula Razdan
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