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The secret friendship of Hillary Clinton and John McCain

It's one of those things that sneaks up on you in politics, a sense of things happening not quite as you expected. It started in April when our Times colleague Louise Roug called with a quote from Sen. Hillary Clinton.

She'd shaken hands at a factory gate in Toledo, Ohio, then before flying to Texas held a mediaSenators John McCain and Hillary Clinton who've quietly become good friends availability where she said: "Sen. McCain brings a lifetime of experience to the campaign. I bring a lifetime of experience. And Sen. Obama brings a speech he gave in 2002."

A pretty good zinger that got Clinton into the day's news flow while her plane was heading to an Austin, Texas, rally.

But why would the Democratic candidate mention the Republican at all? Let alone in a positive way as qualified to be president in comparison to a fellow Democrat?

That thought quickly passed in the flood of primaries and news.

But then in the final weeks of the primary season, as the inevitable delegate math closed in on Clinton, she attacked Barack Obama, of course. He was ahead. And she clearly didn't want four more years of President Bush. John McCain, already running for the general election, attacked Obama. And Obama fired back at the Republican.

But neither Clinton nor McCain fired at each other.

Then after the last night of primary ballot-counting, Clinton and Obama spoke briefly about each other. McCain uttered one sentence ...

... about Obama.

And then the Arizona Republican said this about the wife of the only Democrat to be elected twice since FDR: "Sen. Clinton has earned great respect for her tenacity and courage. The media often overlooked how compassionately she spoke to the concerns and dreams of millions of Americans, and she deserves a lot more appreciation than she sometimes received.

"As the father of three daughters, I owe her a debt for inspiring millions of women to believe there is no opportunity in this great country beyond their reach. I am proud to call her my friend."

And then a week ago this morning it became clear that the Democratic Party was forcing Clinton to end her bid. On Saturday, Obama went golfing. Clinton and her family dressed as if for a funeral and went to thank their supporters with a grateful speech and, on paper, a hearty, full endorsement of Obama.

But something was missing. Not one word in the speech about the Republican nominee that Obama must now confront for the White House.

As she was speaking, the McCain campaign's new website blog, The McCain Report, posted a special tribute to the losing Democratic candidate, familiarly headlined "Hillary Out," something the Obama campaign didn't fully match for two days.

"Sen. Clinton has really grown on us," McCain blogger Michael Goldfarb wrote. "She ran an impressive campaign ... an impressive candidate ... inspired a generation of women. ... Sen. Clinton also didn't mention John McCain once during her speech. This came as something of a surprise over here, and a pleasant one at that. But it's clear that John McCain and Hillary Clinton respect each other -- and there is a genuine affection for her here at McCain HQ."

The blog post included a photo of McCain and Clinton together on a ship in the Arctic during one of their several journeys as members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. These things do not happen on official campaign websites spontaneously or by accident. Nor does the enemy get accidentally omitted from a major speech.

So The Ticket called a bunch of people who know both McCain and Clinton. It's true, they confirmed, there is a special friendship between them. And it apparently started in January of 2001, when Clinton became the first former first lady elected to public office and walked into the U.S. Senate.

It has always been a gentlemen's club, if not always populated by gentlemen. And the warmth toward Clinton was missing. Until McCain walked up and heartily welcomed the newcomer and showed her around. "They really hit it off," said one friend.

Senators John McCain and Hillary Clinton both members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on an Arctic trip

They shared many things, including a candid tongue. Both also have at times been at odds with their own parties. They found they could work together across the aisle as committee members and enjoyed each other's company on fact-finding trips around the world. In Estonia, according to one famous tale, Clinton challenged McCain to a vodka shot-drinking contest, which he readily accepted.

Later, McCain remarked to friends "she was one of the guys," a high compliment among guys.

Learning about their unexpected friendship got us to thinking about a few things. What if McCain and Clinton, both their party's front-runners a year ago today, ended up confronting each other in the general election? Would we have seen a more civil campaign for a change?

According to several sources, including the Atlantic's respected Marc Ambinder, McCain came within a breath of publicly promising last year that his would be a one-term presidency. Aides convinced him it was an unnecessary chip to discard then.

Meanwhile, Clinton appears to be delivering early on her commitment to help Obama, steering her financial supporters to assist him in recent days, though some demur.

She's promised "to do all that I can" to help ensure his election, which sounds good but is practically hard to define. There will be some grand unity event soon. And at the Denver convention. But we'll see about the fall come fall.

The fact is, many of her 18 million supporters may not go for Obama. Wouldn't it be an amazing end scenario to an amazing political season if the working-class supporters, especially women, of the Clinton who so many Republicans love to hate helped elect the GOP senator from Arizona that so many Republicans have their own doubts about?

Such a Republican win, even a narrow one, as unlikely as it seems right now, would erase the present presidential hopes of the usurper Obama and could clear the way in 2012 for another try by that same Clinton, who'll only be 64 then.

-- Andrew Malcolm

Photo credits: Associated Press; The McCain Report.

Comments () | Archives (128)

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Is it so secret? Hillary said on several talk shows and news shows that McCain is one of her good friends. She gets along very well with Republicans. She would have been the obvious choice for Bipartisanship and has shown it in the senate on a consistent basis. Making friends of your enemies is actually a quality Clinton has shown repeatedly. You'd never know it by the way the media and Democratic party treated her. It seemed to be demonize Hillary and worship Obama no mater what he intentions are and who he hangs out with. The Los Angel es Times is a big critic of Hillary and their headlines often have a slant against her.

The Obama Campaign site and web team thank her during her speech and contacted people throughout their network with praise for Mrs.Clinton -- so why are you trying to suggest otherwise, saying they didn't "didn't fully match for two days." That's a lie you obviously devised to make them look like they moved slower than the other campaign -- and that's totally false. As Hill might say? Shame on you Andrew Malcom, shame on you.

Her husband and Newt Gingrich are personally friendly.

Why should this surprise anyone? These folks are politicians: their job is to make people like them. They are all likeable people. Should it surprise anyone if sometimes they like each other?


this is what?? people are friends. a competition is a competition...get over it

Clinton won't win in 2012. Regardless of a McCain victory, come 2012, she won't start with the huge advantage she had this time around. There will not be an inevitability before the primary even starts. People don't like Clinton. If McCain wins, I would strongly recommend to anyone who is voting based on Gender, to start campaigning for Kathleen Sebelius (Kansas Governor) right now! Today!

Sadly, I do think the author is right, that the current setup is a hopeful 2012 Clinton administration. I think that is Clinton's goal. It will not happen.

I've never trusted Hillary Clinton and this just proves, to me, that she's not worthy of trust. To abandon what principles she has and cozy up to someone who is (or at least would have been, had she gotten the nomination)her avowed enemy, is the true mark of treason.

Not surprising at all, to see a major political figure in bed with the opposition - or maybe that's what American party politics is all about. If so, then Obama has a lesson to learn, and we're all in more trouble than we think.

Right.. shes friends with the guy who made jokes about how ugly her daughter is? That's a bit of a stretch I think.

McCain is just sucking up so he can try and grab some of Clinton's supporters.

I am starting to hate the Los Angeles Times.
Whats wrong with you?
Either you guys are seriously sexists or Obama's worshipers.

Stop this stupidity . Leave Hillary alone.

She would have been the best president ever.

get off of it.Yes she is friends with the man, If he took the time to get to know her then thats great. It didnt change her voting with dems at all. Why should she rip apart a friend just because the dems want her to. You are trying to imply something sinster. Clinton has done and will continue to do what is right. She has her people helping Obama, she's endorsed him, and if she fails to appear at any events with him or campaign for him its because Obama has told her to go away and he doesnt need her.

She really hates black people.

I hate to ruin the era of good feelings here, but I recall back in the early days of the primaries when one of John McCain's older and female supporters asked him--on camera--"how do we beat the b*tch?". McCain didn't speak so eloquently about Hillary's experience or inspiration to women that day. As I recall, he chuckled as though it were acceptable or even funny to deningrate Hillary that way. Perhaps his respect and admiration increased for her as it became increasingly obvious he would not have to defeat her to win the Presidency. He is above all else a Politician.

This is a petty article. It is good that the Senators can get along from both parties. It allows them to get things done.

This was not a secret because Hillary has mentioned it before.

If they are such good friends, maybe he will choose her as his Vice President. I canceled my subscription to the Los Angeles Times when the Monica Lewinski story broke on Page 20.

I would have liked to see Hillary in the White House, but given that she does not have the nomination, it is easy to see why John McCain would be a good alternative. I disagree with McCain on Iraq, but it is true that he brings a lifetime of experience that Obama simply does not have. If anybody would care to look at Obama's positions, one would see inconsistentcies. To top it all, Obama is of a doubtful character. I hope that even the most die-hard Democrats that Obama is not good for the US nor the party (think of GW Bush). At any rate, I expect the Democrats to widen its majorities in Congress.

Hilary supporters will come round to Obama when they realize the full impact of supporting Senator Mc War. Sons and daughters heading to Iraq forever? Roe vs Wade being overturned? No support for honoring our veterans nor Jim Webbs GI Bill from the former POW, need for anger management classes? A shot of vodka no matter how strong it was with John Mc Cain does not dull the mind enough to pick him to run our country.

Barack and Roll ladies and gentlemen Clinton supporters Barack and Roll. YES WE CAN!

How about a bipartisant ticket?
McCain President and Hillary VP.

Hillary Who?

WOW! So, two people who work together are friends? People were writing about this 15 months ago. Who cares. This is some of the worst political writing I've ever read. This is the kind of writing that makes me want to support Obama.

I am, and always will be a clinton supporter. I will not vote for obama. He scares me. I don't trust him. I will be voting for McCain. i am a white female, 57 yrs of age. I feel McCains wife brings a lot to the table. Obama wants to hide his wife.

The Republican party wanted Hillary as the Democratic candidate in the general election because they know she will not win. Hillary comes with baggage, Bill Clinton. As much as everyone liked the man he stone faced lied to every American citizen when he said "I did not have sexual relations with that woman". Nobody likes to be lied to or made to feel naive or stupid. Hillary is a great woman, politician, American and probably a great leader but unfortunately now is not her time. Time will tell if she is the right choice for V.P. it may make or break the election.
thank you

Andrew Malcom is just another bored media sensationalist trying to stir up some stuff. Politicians should be respectful and show some dignity. The media elected NObama and the insecure male population still can't believe that a woman did so well in the primaries.
Big deal, get over it!

Well, I have always felt that Clinton was more Republican than Democrat. I noticed the unusual campaigning of the Clinton camp... attack your fellpw Democrat and leave the republican alone, because you need him?????..... I wonder why her supporters are so blind????

i have not seen clinton helping obama yet..if she does not and he loses..i will not vote for her in was said she was trying to destroy he would lose and she can run in 2012..its looking like it was true..a vote for mccain is a vote for war with iran..enough of these wars..time to put the money into our own country..let israel fight their own battles.

"The fact is, many of her 18 million supporters may not go for Obama. Wouldn't it be an amazing end scenario to an amazing political season if the working class supporters, especially women, of the Clinton so many Republicans love to hate help elect the GOP senator from Arizona that so many Republicans have their own doubts about?"

Yes, it would be an amazing end to this political season...and a truly magnificent renewal for this country!

McCain '08
Hillary 2012!

I think the idea that their relationship is so secret is a bit of a stretch. I think that these two, with their lifetime of political experience, feel less of a need to demonize each other as Democrats and Republicans often do. But I don't see any reason to suggest that anything more than a shared respect for each other exists between the two senators, and one night of vodka shots doesn't prove a coalition against Obama.

Waht if Hillary should cross parties and be McCain's VP? More realistic is, McCain should ask Condolezza Rice to be VP. Imagine, we could still have a woman in the White House and Condolezza is brilliant.

It's hardly a secret ... and no real surprise, since many conservatives feel that McCain is closer to Hillary on many issues than he is to them.
-Wm Tate,

Good for McCain! I am an HRC supporter who will NEVER vote for Obama, EVER. I will cast my vote HAPPILY for McCain if HRC is not the nominee come November.

Some three or so years ago, these two were running around together not-too-cleverly positioning themselves as presidential candidates frontrunners for their respective parties. Then along comes Barack Obama! with his smarter campaign and better message to turn the Washington Parliament (sic) of Whores upside down.

Too bad for Hillary!!! (Father Fleger got it right: She's NOT ENTITLED to own the presidency!). And McCain is TOO OLD!

George Will said it right in his recent column: Hillary Clinton is no more than an entity REFLECTING the former light of her impeached husband. Plus if she couldn't manage her own campaign budget, how does the think she can direct the debt-ridden national economy?

McCain and H Clinton are both typical loser politicians that are the scourage of our governmental representations. They vote one way on bills and then try to eny or weasle word their votes when challenged. At least McCain stood by his Iraq vote; Hillary tried to lie her way out just as she bald-faced lied about the sniper fire landing in Bosnia.

Good riddance! Hope she (and Lil Abner) go back to the Ozarks never to be heard from again!!

Andrew.. Nice to be able to write and article of whatever you think and feel about....
Secret?..As Lynn mentioned.. not big secret.
Response to McCain campaign? As Julie mentioned..they did. It don't have to be tit for tat. Doh!

Friend (of enemy or not) in politics hurt general public. They will not take steps to hurt each others feeling. But wouldnt care of its impact to Americans. Oh.. compromise. the other half still hurts the general public. The obligations that comes from each side would still skew their promises and deliveries.
Yes, Obama maybe inexperienced... but do/did we have a choice other than McCain and Clinton. After being Bushes 'regime', I am ready to vote if a high school kid ran for it.

John Kerry and John McCain were good friends too, supposedly. Even so much that McCain was rumored to be a running mate.
You don't hear much about the McCain-Kerry friendship anymore.

Sen Obama did everything short of kiss her butt even when she insulted him and propped up McCain. She brought up Farrakhan repeatedly and tried to link him to Sen. Obama even though she knew there was no link. He never once mentioned Monica or any of the scandals, deaths, lies, etc. associated with her time in the White house. That is because unlike Sen. Clinton, Sen. Obama wants to be president, but not at the expense of class, dignity and shame.

why was the article written? What message was the writer trying to convey to his readers? Are there enough concrete facts to support his argument?
The writer appear to be calling on the insecurities of senator Clinton's supporters to vote for Senator MCCain during the general election with manufactured "facts".

Hillary and McCain a number?

That is SO natural after all Hillary Rodman was a "Berry Goldwater" Republican that became a Demcrat only by marriage.

Perhaps they are friends, and maybe good ones. I doubt that given time, Hillary supporters will vote for McCain in mass. Perhaps some, but I would guess they would be the ones that would not have voted for Obama anyway anyhow. If Hillary's supporters vote for McCain it would be against their own interests. While some people often do that, I don't think Hillary supporters are that stupid. As one example, McCain will stack the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. Hillary and Barack differed in a few ways, Hillary and McCain differ in many ways.

Myra Wood, you are delusional. Cindy McCain brings a lot to the table? A lot of what, money? She is a Stepford Wife, if there ever was one. Look at her, she is in her 50's and dresses and wears her hair like someone in her 30's. Like most all Republicans, she is way out of touch and delusional. Wake up before this country is lost forever. Just because we have always existed, what makes you think this grand republic can survive forever? Did you pay attention in history class? Remember the Greek, Roman, and British empires? What brought them down? Overextending in foreign policy and war. Now McSame will stay in Iraq forever, and go on to Iran. And Barack is hiding Michelle? Do you live under a rock?

VERY liberal Democrat here...First of all....RIGHT NOW the Supreme Court has enough to overturn Roe v Wade, so that argument doesn't really float. THIS uber liberal Dem is NOT voting for Mr. EGO Obama who took what started as a no brainer win for the Dems and decided with all of his lack of experience that he needed to gamble away my kids future by walking in, pissing everyone off, and handing the GOP a probable win. For that, I loathe him and this Democrat will NEVER vote for him. Let the Democrats learn from another 4-8 years of Republicans - you don't walk in and steal defeat from the jaws of victory. Thanks Obama supporters. If we end up with another GOP Pres. - it was YOUR doing. YOU gave them the opening they needed! Take responsibility for the consequences of YOUR actions.

THE SUPREME COURT IS ALREADY STACKED AGAINST ROE V. WADE!!!! Female Democrat laywer on NPR yesterday confirmed that if they want to over turn RvW right now - THEY CAN!!!! Stop perpetuating this as a reason to support someone completely unqualified and without any experience.

the most pertinent comment here is from david b who reminds us that McCain enjoyed the comment by the voter about Hillary being an b..... How can Hillary supporters vote for someone who could chuckle at someone calling Hillary that? It was horrible. McCain did it. But go ahead and forgive him and vote for this man who won't support women, or labor unions and wants to privatize social security, and won't reform health care in any way meaningful to the uninsured, and most importantly will declare victory and then keep soldiers in Iraq. And McCain voted against the new GI bill for veterans of the Iraq War.

I am a democrat, but I love to see McCain to win this November election. Obama is not absolutely qualified for this position.

To all people from all spectrum of political party. Obama is very willing to betray America. He has his own agenda. I am not happy with the Democrats to handle this primary election.

I am a Hillary supporter and it really matters to me that she has the respect of Senator McCain. He will receive my vote in the fall. Character matters, Hillary respects McCain and so do I. I would never vote for someone of such low character as BO.

News flash; McCain already HAS 95% of Hillary Clinton's supporters.

Mrs Clinton you need to come out in full and supports Obama to the White House and stop wishing him failure because it might turn on you in 2012, what goes around turn around

I am a supporter of Senator Clinton who will be voting for Senator McCain. He has said he has no interest in overturning RvW, Senator Obama is already backtracking on when we will get out of this war, and Senator McCain brings a life time of experience. I carefully watched all the debates and have read everything I can get my hands on. When Senator Biden says that Senator Obama is learning....I pause. The company he has kept is questionable at best. Look at the studies of the MSM's bias. I do not want them electing our next president.

Hillary is hanging on secretly in the background like a vulture, hoping to pounce on Obama if he shows any signs of weakness, or go away and wait until 2012.

McCain is now taking a play book from Rush Limbaugh's Operation Chaos, by telling the Dems that they got the wrong man, by stirring up the mix by saying Hillary was the better choice.

Anyone that falls for these ploys is a fool.

Hillary was once a Republican. I'm with the other poster I too would vote for a McCain/Clinton ticket. Two people willing to work across the aisle for the betterment of the American people. For "We the People", not "We the Government." The last thing we need is a further division which will come with Obama. The Republicans should not ignore the fact of her 18 million votes or the possibility of bringing a majority of them into the Republican party. A lot already complain they have to hold their noses and vote for McCain. Let them use a clothespin. I'll vote for McCain either way, unless Hillary runs on an Independent ticket. I would not vote for her as a VP for Obama. To me it would her accepting of all that has been said and done. Her so called rally behind Obama was not sincere. Obama supporters pulled out the race card against one of their own instead of saving it for the GE, it no longer carries any effect. It will not work in the GE. Now it's "just words." as Obama would say. His supporters are his own worse enemies. Poison to him and his campaign. This is just one reason in a long list of reasons I will not vote for Obama, none of which has anything to do with his race.

There is no doubt in my mind that if he could get away with it.....McCain would pick Hillary as his VP.

There's a friendship I can live with. I know that doesn't sound like much of a sentiment from a Democrat, but given the way things are going, I like knowing that my likely president can be moderated by a friendly hand fromt the other side.

McCain 2008 and Clinton 2012 is a reality I can live with. That's two politicians governing from the respective centres of their parties. I for one have always believed that the country thrives when governed by a centrist--that way all sides' needs are taken into account, not just any single radical edge.

I think Hillary would make the perfect running mate for John McCain.......the only real chance he has to win the election in November.

The FACT is that it was Hillary Clinton, NOT Obama, that worked across the party lines to help ALL Americans!
This BS that she was the "divider" was started by Obama and his campaign so they could "appear" that Obama was the "UNITER." and sell this to the Democrats. WHAT A JOKE!

The Democrat Party and the MEDIA did a BIG disservice to Hillary Clinton and all AMERICANS by letting Obama get away with this. He is VERY FAR LEFT and does NOT work across the aisle! And then we have WRight and the Anti-American and Racist viewpoints that Obama FOLLOWED for 20 YEARS. Again, NO unity here!

This Obama nomination is the biggest joke and sham pulled off on Democrats and Americans in memory! They FORCED him even when he was TRENDING DOWN!
I may NEVER vote Democrat again! But certainly NOT in this election! Obama is a DIVIDER of the worst kind! The VERY worst kind. He is NOT deserving of the "AMERICAN" President!

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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