Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Bob Cusack: John McCain Considered Switching Parties in 2001

Although Senator John McCain is a man of Republican military tradition going back two generations, we always were bewildered about what on earth made Senator John Kerry so sure that he had a shot in hell at bringing the diehard Arizonan onto his ticket? Was Kerry privy to esoteric secrets from within the Senate well?

Now, from TheHill, a remarkable piece by reporter Bob Cusack stating that McCain actually considered switching to a Democrat after his tussel with the Rove machine and -- more astonishing -- John Edwards was to be that agent of change. From TheHill:

"Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was close to leaving the Republican Party in 2001, weeks before then-Sen. Jim Jeffords (Vt.) famously announced his decision to become an Independent, according to former Democratic lawmakers who say they were involved in the discussions.

"In interviews with The Hill this month, former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and ex-Rep. Tom Downey (D-N.Y.) said there were nearly two months of talks with the maverick lawmaker following an approach by John Weaver, McCain’s chief political strategist.

"Democrats had contacted Jeffords and then-Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.) in the early months of 2001 about switching parties, but in McCain’s case, they said, it was McCain’s top strategist who came to them.

"At the end of their March 31, 2001 lunch at a Chinese restaurant in Bethesda, Md., Downey said Weaver asked why Democrats hadn’t asked McCain to switch parties.

"Downey, a well-connected lobbyist, said he was stunned.

“'You’re really wondering?' Downey said he told Weaver. 'What do you mean you’re wondering?'

“'Well, if the right people asked him,' Weaver said, according to Downey, adding that he responded, 'The calls will be made. Who do you want?' Weaver this week said he did have lunch with Downey that spring, pointing out that he and Downey 'are very good friends.'

"He claims, however, that Downey is grossly mischaracterizing their exchange: 'We certainly didn’t discuss in any detail about the senator’s political plans and any discussion about party-switchers, generically, would have been limited to the idle gossip which was all around the city about the [Democrats’] aggressive approach about getting any GOP senator to switch in order to gain the majority. Nothing more or less than that.'

"Downey said Weaver is well aware that their discussion was much more than typical Washington chit-chat.

"'Within seconds' of arriving home from his lunch with Weaver, Downey said he was on the phone to the most powerful Democrats in town. One of the first calls he made was to then-Senate Minority Leader Daschle.

"'I did take the call from Tom [Downey],' Daschle said in an interview. 'It was Weaver’s comment' to Downey that started the McCain talks, he added.

"Daschle noted that McCain at that time was frustrated with the Bush administration as a result of his loss to George W. Bush in the 2000 Republican primary."

A-ha; residual damage. And how can there not be? How does one kiss and make up with someone who -- allegedly -- accuses you illigitimate children and slanders your wife's sanity, of all places, the thick of the South Carolina Republican Primary. More:

". .. Other senators who played major roles in the intense recruiting effort, according to Democrats, were then-Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) as well as Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

“'John [Edwards] at that time was working with McCain on a couple things and there was a sense that because of his relationship that he might be a good person to talk to him,” Daschle said. 'He was clearly one of those that we thought could be helpful.'

"A source close to Edwards said Daschle’s comments are accurate."

Hot damn this is The Juicy! And who said butter doesn't melt on John Edward's smooth, silver tongue. Less than a full-term in the Senate and he was on a deep cover double-secret mission to turn one of the most stalwart of Republicans. The full story here (TheHill)

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