McCain Graciously Tells Off Obama:--

The Weekly Standard reprints excerpts from an amazing letter that John McCain sent to Barack Obama. Here is the Scrapbook note and the McCain letter (subscription required):

Democratic senators Harry Reid and Barack Obama tried to pull a fast one on John McCain and got hit with the literary equivalent of a B-52 strike. McCain's been working on a bipartisan lobbying reform bill. Obama, Reid's designee on reform, told McCain he wasn't a partisan hit man and wanted to help out. So, at McCain's invitation, Obama attended a meeting on the bill and let McCain know the next day that he appreciated working together. But that night Obama's office, evidently at Reid's request, emailed, and released to the press, a letter to McCain, then en route to Germany, mourning Wash-ington's "culture of corruption," and lamenting that a bipartisan reform wouldn't be "effective"; only the Democratic leadership's bill, which has no Republican cosponsors, "represents a significant step in addressing many of the worst aspects of corruption."

McCain arrived back in his office on February 6 and responded with his own letter, also released to the press:

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 legislation were sincere. . . . Thank you for disabusing me of such notions with your letter. . . . I'm embarrassed to admit that after all these years in politics I failed to interpret your previous assurances as typical rhetorical gloss routinely used in politics to make self-interested partisan posturing appear more noble. . . . But 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.

I tend to like Barack Obama (whom I voted for) better than I like John McCain (with the huge exception of the Iraq War), but my impression of McCain just rose a few notches. Assuming that the background story is accurate [and it might not be, see update below], I really like the tone of McCain's response, essentially apologizing for thinking that Obama was a sincere, decent man, rather than a typical politician. Perhaps Obama, the junior senator from Illinois, has been hanging around the senior senator from Illinois too much.

UPDATE: As a commenter points out below, Senator Obama's website posted the entire exchange of letters. Obama in essence argues that he didn't change his position, so he doesn't know what McCain is talking about. Accordingly, whether McCain's arch, mock gracious tone is justified turns on whether McCain's account of their cooperation--or Obama's--is the correct one.

2D UPDATE: Among the more interesting comments are two that point in opposite directions. One comment points to an interesting analysis by Mark Schmitt and Bob Bauer of one reason for McCain's pique--that McCain effectively "owns bipartisanship" and treats any attempt to work around him (even by going through the normal committee process) as a personal affront.

Another comment claims: "There was a third party in the room to confirm whose version of events was correct — Sen Joe Lieberman was on the Don Imus program the next day. [Senator Susan Collins was also present.--JL] Imus pressed him to clear up the diverging accounts and his response was Obama could have been more clear in his intitial discussions with McCain." Unfortunately, I was unable to confirm this acoount because the Imus transcript appears not to be online; nor does it appear to be on Lexis or Westlaw. I did find this quote from Senator Lieberman's appearance that shows him also tweaking McCain a bit: "I've been working with John to make him more assertive and plainspoken and I think it worked."