Obama And McCain: Once A Rivalry, Now A ‘Bromance’

President Obama (left) and Sen. John McCain, pictured during the 2008 presidential campaign, are becoming allies on a number of national security and domestic issues. Jay Leon on Monday dubbed the duo's relationship a "bromance." (EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

It has been a good year for three vocal Senate Armed Services Committee Republicans known as the upper chamber’s “Three Amigos.” But the faction’s leader, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., undoubtedly is having the trio’s best year.

McCain is perhaps as important as he’s ever been in a Senate that seems by the day increasingly divided along party — and ideological — lines. He’s been at the center of battles over immigration reform, gun control, a deal to allow votes on executive branch nominations, and is a key player in budget talks with the White House.

The GOP’s 2008 presidential nominee has been in recent months perhaps the chamber’s most frequent GOP visitor to the White House, where he has huddled for hours with his one-time campaign trail rival, President Obama, for hours about national security and domestic matters. Obama last week asked McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a fellow-GOP Amigo, to travel to Cairo to meet with key players in Egypt’s ongoing political kerfuffle.

The 2008 campaign saw McCain and Obama sparred vicisously at times. And McCain has been one of Obama’s fiercest critics since then, especially on many national security and foreign policy issues. So, given their sudden alliance, One couldn’t blame “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno for asking this of Obama on Monday night: “Is it me, or do I see kind of bromance with you and John McCain?”

After some hearty presidential and audience laughter, Obama replied:

“That’s how a classic romantic comedy goes, right? … Initially you’re not getting along, and then you keep on bumping into each other.”

Leno asked what happened to bring the onetime political foes closer together? Obama then gushed over the former SASC ranking member:

“John McCain and I have a number of philosophical differences, but he is a person of integrity. He is willing to say things regardless of the politics. The fact that he worked hard with a group of Democratic and Republican senators on immigration reform; they passed a bill in the Senate that will make sure that folks who are here illegally have to pay back-taxes and pay a penalty and get to the back of the line, but over time have a pathway to citizenship, and make sure that we’re strengthening our borders. He went ahead and passed that even though there are some questions in his own party. So I think that he deserves credit for being somebody who is willing to go against the grain of his own party sometimes. It’s probably not good for me to compliment him on television.”

All kidding aside, there’s no doubt Obama needs McCain right now on a list of issues — and that’s likely to last for much of his second term. And that includes national security issues that will affect the defense sector: Securing congressional support for military aid to Egypt and Pakistan; a border security compromise that might include new helicopters, vehicles and even drone aircraft; and, of course, canceling the defense sequester cuts.

Intercepts readers likely aren’t big romantic comedy fans. But this is one Washington bromance worth watching.

John T. Bennett

John T. Bennett

Bennett is the Editor of Defense News' CongressWatch channel. He has a Masters degree in Global Security Studies from Johns Hopkins University.
John T. Bennett