Ann McFeatters - Washington politics spawns odd alliances


Love and loathing in Washington have become the norm. The strange combinations that are forming to try to forge policy defy conventional wisdom.

The most noticeable duo is Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and sidekick Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. The 76-year-old Vietnam War POW, 76, and the 57-year-old reservist in the South Carolina Air National Guard have joined forces time and again to voice their distrust of President Barack Obama, buck his nominees and attack his policies.

The two former mavericks, once known for working with Democrats, have formed a "bromance" to further their agenda to try to convince Americans that Obama is at sea on foreign policy. Graham most recently said that former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, currently the most popular politician in America, "got away with murder" when Americans were killed by terrorists in Benghazi, Libya.

But both McCain and Graham are transparent in their desperate efforts to try to convince conservative Tea Party-movement proponents that they should be re-elected. McCain is getting increasingly conservative challenges in his primary races; Graham faces a near-certain Tea Party challenge next year.

But then, McCain and Graham turned around and attacked big Tea Party honcho Sen. Rand Paul, the Kentucky libertarian, for suggesting that America kills Americans on American soil with drones. The White House strongly denied that.

Paul, who probably is running for president in 2016, won the "straw poll" at the Conservative Political Action Committee's recent get-together. Does that mean Paul has a chance to be president?

No. He might get the nomination, but he could not win a general election.

CPAC wants to reward those it likes, who prattle the conservative line no matter what else is happening. CPAC did not even invite two of the most popular conservative Republican governors -- New Jersey's Chris Christie, who committed the cardinal sin of praising Obama for helping his state deal with Hurricane Sandy; and Virginia's Bob McDonnell, who backed a tax-raising transportation bill the Tea Party loathed.

The GOP's internecine warfare is raging out in the open. McCain's 2008 running mate, Sarah Palin, who quit her job as governor of Alaska, and political strategist Karl Rove, the architect of George W. Bush's two White House takeovers, can't stand each other. They regularly trade barbs on whether goofy candidates should be the party's standard-bearers.

Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden has a new best friend, Michael Bloomberg, the maverick mayor of New York. Both are trying to get a sensible gun-control policy past Congress, which keeps refusing because Congress is in thrall to the National Rifle Association.

The NRA continues to want more people to buy guns and notes that if you're not with the NRA in arguing against more controls on gun and ammunition sales, then you're against the NRA. Bloomberg and Biden are nothing if not totally passionate about their zeal in reducing gun violence, no matter how maddening the opposition.

Now Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Obama, two men who reportedly can't stand each other (Netanyahu openly rooted for Mitt Romney to beat Obama last year), are walking arm in arm, literally and figuratively, because of their common enemies in Iran and Syria. Yet peace seems as elusive as ever.

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, who was considered by Romney as a running mate in 2012 to help uphold his conservative social agenda, stunned fellow Republicans by saying that knowing his son is gay has convinced him that same-sex marriage should be a civil right. Fifty-eight percent of Americans agree with him. Nonetheless, Portman is under pressure from conservatives who don't want him to spearhead a campaign for civil marriage.

We're not even going to mention U.S. athlete Dennis Rodman's surrealistic pilgrimage to North Korea to embrace its murdering dictator.

Politics has always produced strange bedfellows. The system just seems a little more bizarre these days. Perhaps actress Ashley Judd will run in Kentucky against Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, making it even more entertaining and confusing.

(Scripps Howard columnist Ann McFeatters has covered the White House and national politics since 1986.)

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