In choosing a candidate to support this election season, it is important to examine not just what candidates promise to do in the future but what they have already done in the past. The presidency is not a dictatorship, and a sucessful candidate must be able to cooperate with influential groups if that person is not to become a lame duck President. If actions speak lounder than words, John McCain's history in Washington should tell us all we need to know about his future Presidency. John McCain's relationship with other presidential candidates, financing agents, the President, other government officials, and his own political party point to a cooperative yet tense White House atmosphere if he is elected.

John McCain and Hillary Clinton

It may surprise many that John McCain and Hillary Clinton have a closer relationship than would be expected with much of the political rhetoric. This may be very superficial, but it is something that is not lost on die-hard conservatives of John McCain. In a 2006 New York Times piece, Anne Kornblut describes John McCain’s friendly relationship with Hillary Clinton  (Kornblut). Using a vodka-drinking contest between the two in Estonia for the backdrop, the author points to a friendly relationship fostered during their work on the Senate Armed Services Committee and on the issue of global warming (Kornblut).  When both were asked on “Meet the Press” whether the other would make a good President, they both responded in a yes fashion. Despite their civility, they disagree on important issues like the level of United States scrutiny of foreign government ownership of United States ports  (Kornblut). James Barnes reports that in October when McCain, irked by Democratic criticism of President Bush's policy toward North Korea, fired away while campaigning for GOP candidates in Michigan (Barnes).  "I would remind Senator Clinton and other Democrats critical of the Bush administration's policies that the framework agreement her husband's administration negotiated [to curb North Korea's nuclear weapons program] was a failure." (Barnes). Clinton shot back the next day at an editorial board meeting with the New York Daily News by suggesting that McCain was trying to tie himself with George Bush to get the GOP nomination (Barnes).  Clinton dismissed it by saying, "It's political calculation...His embrace of President Bush's policies in Iraq, secret prisons, North Korea, is political. And he's giving up his political independence." (Barnes)

Here is a video mocking John McCain's relationship to Hillary Clinton:

John McCain demonstrates a  mixed relationship with Clinton but that relationship is more skewed in the case of Barack Obama.

Barack Obama and John McCain

John McCain has more of a tense relationship with Barack Obama than with Hillary Clinton (Crowley). Michael Crowley writes for the New Republic that both Barack Obama and John McCain share the image of Washington reformers, but each feels the other is a “posturing phony”   (Crowley). Crowley goes on to describe how these feeling can be traced to ethics reform in Washington (Crowley). Obama had led in efforts of reforming politics, even while a senator in Illinois, to which he was mocked  (Crowley). Naturally, in the wake of political scandals when he arrived in Washington, he ended up as a Democratic point man for reform co-sponsoring a Russ Feingold ethics reform measure early on. In the broader ethics reform movement, the Republicans were reluctant to accept a Democratic sponsored bill (Crowley). The Republicans instead decided to send John McCain with Rick Santorum’s alternative bill to the bill championed by Democrat Harry Reid  (Crowley). Due to John McCain’s past battles with political corruption, credibility was lent to the Republican bill  (Crowley). The two got in a fight over Obama’s claims he would act in a bipartisan manner, when, a day after a meeting to discuss the issue, Obama sent a letter to McCain stating his preference for the Democratic bill  (Crowley). Even while rejecting the weak bill that was overwhelmingly passed in the Senate, Obama indicated that the bill needed to “restrict the use of corporate jets and also transfer ethics enforcement out of Congress and into a new separate commission” while McCain indicated the bill needed earmark reform (Crowley). Obama and McCain thus have a strained relationship despite their similar desire to fix Washington (Crowley).

The two videos below show John McCain's mixed relationship with Obama

Despite John McCain's tough stances on ethics and campaign finance reform, he has a more favorable relationship with lobbyists than would be expected by this.  

John McCain and Lobbyists

In 2008, Thomas Evan wrote an in-depth story for Newsweek that does not just cover the McCain-lobbyist scandal in great depth, but goes behind the scenes to cover the journalism behind it (Thomas). Evan details the scandal that involved John McCain’s preparation in 1999 to run for Presidency in 2000 (Thomas). Evan writes that John McCain at first claimed that he was not warned about his relationship with the lobbyist in question, Vicki Iseman, and that he had not been contacted by the group in question in relation to a letter he wrote to the FCC to influence the bureaucracy to hurry up on a matter Iseman was pressing for (Thomas). However, Evan reports that two close associates told Newsweek that McCain had been warned about the relationship and that a 2002 legal deposition had him testifying that McCain had been contacted by Vicki's group (Thomas). This FCC matter was not new. In January 2000, the Boston Globe quoted the chairman of the FCC as stating that the letter was "highly unusual." (Thomas). The actual news that broke was Iseman’s involvement in the matter (Thomas). Sometime during fall of 2007, The New York Times picked up the Iseman part of the story (Thomas). In December, the New York Times Reporter found out from fired McCain aide John Weaver about a cease and desist meeting McCain had with Iseman (Thomas). On December 20, the Drudge Report posted a story saying that John McCain had a hired “superlawyer” Robert Bennett to defend him against a vaguely described woman (Thomas).  The Iseman story that would follow almost came out early enough to affect the Mitt Romney campaign. It was not until a New Republic reporter was assigned to find out why the Times was holding back, however, that the story was sent to print (Thomas). Despite the information this reporter gathered, Evan states that the New Republic would likely not have gone forward with the story because of the lack of confirmation of the sex allegations and points to The New Republic article criticizing The New York Times for “printing a salacious story thinly and anonymously sourced” after they published the story (Thomas).  David Jackson in a USA Today piece adds several things about the lobbying scandal that the “With Friends Like These...” story does not mention (Jackson). First, Jackson desribes McCain's "superlawyer", Robert Bennett, as stating there are a dozen instances in which McCain took the opposite position from clients of Iseman's firm (Jackson). The McCain campaign provided a list of 13 bills dealing with such matters as broadcast licenses, low power radio and direct broadcast satellite providers (Jackson). However, neither Bennett nor the campaign listed the instances McCain backed positions of clients of Iseman's firm.” (Jackson). Second, Jackson states that the commission had taken 800 days deciding the matter he wrote the letter on. Finally, Jackson mentions Mike Huckabee’s comments on the matter (Jackson). In an ironic note, McCain chose to use a lobbyist, Charlie Black, to talk on Meet the Press the week that the New York Times article came out alleging inappropriate ties to lobbyist Vicki Iseman (Fineman).

Here is a piece discussing the problem that being associated with a lobbyist has on the McCain campaign:

While John McCain's relationship with lobbyists may be complex, his relationship with George Bush is dynamic.

John McCain and George W. Bush

John Gizzi writing for Human Events detailed the bitter relationship John McCain had with George W. Bush and the Republican Party at-large right after the 2000 election when he was pressing for the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform act (Gizzi). Gizzi even states that there was speculation John McCain would mount an independent run in 2004 (Gizzi).  This relationship has since warmed. Tod Perdum writing for the New York Times detailed the warming of the John McCain-George Bush relationship during the 2004 election (Purdum). Perdum stated that the 2004 election is the origin of the John McCain-George Bush hugging and whispering photo that has been used often by opponent of George Bush to criticize John McCain  (Purdum). Perdum describes John McCain as a critical supporter of the President (Purdum). While supporting George Bush on the war on terrorism, he has criticized how the administration has gone about it  (Purdum). While they share common ground on abortion, John McCain has criticized the administration’s domestic policies like taxes and stem-cell funding  (Purdum). John McCain has urged the President to condemn the shift boat ads against John Kerry and criticized a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Despite this, Perdum describes George Bush as embracing this independent attitude, because it captures a larger audience that of George Bush, and because McCain's approval rating is extremely high unlike George Bush’s approval rating  (Purdum). More recently, Jim and Adam Nagourney in a New York Times article describe the partnership between John McCain and George Bush on the War in Iraq and immigration (Nagourney). They describe this relationship as mostly politically calculation on both politicians’ parts (Nagourney). It describes how John McCain tried to get a ban on torture over the threat of Bush’s veto, but also how McCain supported Bush in letting the government of Dubai buy several American ports (Nagourney). They detail that John McCain is fonder of the elder George Bush and give Jeb Bush as a likely McCain running mate (Nagourney).

A video designed to criticize John McCain for being too close to George Bush:

John McCain seems to have better relationships with foreign officials than the President.

John McCain and Foreign Officials

While John McCain has indicated that he maintains good relationships with foreign officials, I had trouble finding evidence for this. I guess I just have to take him at his work when he says, "I know the players, I know the individuals and I know the best way to address this situation." (Memmott).

In the case of state and local officials, John McCain has evidence for having strong relationships on that level.

John McCain and State and Local Officials

The only thing I could find indicative of John McCain's relationship with state and local officals is endorsements. John McCain was endorsed by the current governors of 3 of the 4 most populous states. The Governor of Florida surprisingly endorsed McCain (Broder). Here it is:

Arnold Schwarzenegger's endorsed him as well ("McCain Wins Schwarzenegger"). Here it is:

Rick Perry of Texas also endorsed him ("Reasons Vary"). This makes the governor of New York until March 12, 2008, Elliot Spitzer, the only governor of the four most populous states not to do so, and he has since resigned after admitting to being a part of an illegal prostitution ring.
While John McCain's relationship with local and state officials is upbeat, his relationships with his political party is more like the majority of his relationships: mixed

John McCain and Republicans

Even with all his endorsements, John McCain has had trouble winning over the base. Daniel Gilgoff writes that despite support from Christian conservatives such as Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas and onetime presidential candidate Gary Bauer, much of the Christian right dislikes McCain including the influential Focus on the Family founder, James Dobson (Gilgoff). A Christian Century article describes the relationship between John McCain and Republicans as getting better but as a work in progress ("McCain Seeks Support").  It gives as reasons John McCain’s support for embryonic stem-cell research, opposition to a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, support of effort to fight global warming, and push to outlaw torture and shut down Guantanamo ("McCain Seeks Support"). The article also gives as reasons his limited discussion of core values and his mixed choice in advisors ("McCain Seeks Support"). Below you will find Rush Limbaugh, one of John McCain's most outspoken critics, discussing McCain's chance at the presidency:


John McCain has made friends and produced enemies during his long history in Washington. He has built mixed relationships with other presidential candidates, financing agents, the President, other government officials, and his own political party. These relationships cumulatively point to a cooperative but tense Presidency under John McCain. 


^ Barnes, James A., and Kirk Victor. "Titans of Ambition." National journal 38.46 (2006): 36-7.

^ Broder, John M. "McCain, Long a G.O.P. Maverick, is Gaining Mainstream Support." New York Times Jan 28 2008: A.16.

^ Crowley, Michael. "Mutual Contempt." New Republic 238.5 (2008): 26-7.

^ Fineman, Howard. "Hand-Tied by the Times." Newsweek 151.9 (2008): 24-.

^ Gilgoff, Daniel. "Why the Religious Right is Stuck with McCain." USA Today Feb 18 2008.

^ Gizzi, John. "What's Wrong with McCain?" Human Events 57.12 (2001): 1.

^ Jackson, David . "McCain: There was no Improper Conduct." USA Today Feb 20 2008.

^ Kornblut, Anne e. "2008 may Test Clinton's Bond with McCain." New York Times Jul 29 2006: A.1.

^ Luo,Elisabeth Bumiller and Michael. "McCain Wins Schwarzenegger Endorsement, and Romney Delivers Barb." New York Times Feb 1 2008: A.20.

^ Luo,Elisabeth Bumiller and Michael. "Reasons Vary, but McCain and Romney Compete for the Same Prize." New York Times Feb 2 2008: A.13.

^ "McCain Seeks Support of GOP Conservatives." Christian Century 125.7 (2008): 16-7.

^ Memmott, Mark, and Jill Lawrence. "Bhutto's Death: Candidates React." USA Today 27 Dec 2007 21 Apr 2008.

^ Nagourney,Jim Rutenberg and Adam. "A New Partnership Binds Old Republican Rivals." New York Times Jul 3 2006: A.1.

^ Purdum, Todd S. "Bearhug Politics: Careful Steps to a New Bush-McCain Alliance." New York Times Aug 21 2004: A.1.

^ Thomas, Evan, et al. "With Friends Like these.." Newsweek 151.9 (2008): 20-4.

Make your own free website on