Obama Not Always Such a Believer in McCain's Bipartisan Ways

It's without a doubt one of the more surprising moves of President-elect Barack Obama in recent days. It may even be unprecedented, certainly in the modern era: On the eve of Inauguration day, President-elect Obama will pay tribute in a special dinner to the bipartisan achievements of his former GOP rival, Arizona Sen. John McCain , a man who just a few weeks ago headed up a campaign that accused the president-elect of "palling around with terrorists." The dinner –- in addition to separate ones for Vice President-elect Joe Biden and retired Army General Colin Powell will honor Americans "whose lifetime of public service has been enhanced by a dedication to bipartisan achievement," according to the Presidential Inaugural Committee. Inaugural aides say that the dinners were an idea of the president-elect. This will not be the first time the president-elect has flattered his former Republican rival for reaching across the aisle. But examples are also plentiful of Obama being critical of the scope of McCain’s bipartisan efforts, painting McCain as one who mirrored President Bush’s policies under the guise of bipartisanship. Last May, in Cape Girardeau, Mo., then-Sen. Obama spoke about how McCain does not practice bipartisanship in foreign policy. "There's a bipartisan tradition in foreign policy that we should try to recapture," Obama said. "Unfortunately John McCain is not going to provide that. Because John McCain, he is so dug in when it comes to Iraq." At a speech in South Dakota Obama said that in foreign policy bipartisanship was a cause "not served with dishonest divisive attacks of the sort that we’ve seen from George Bush and John McCain." The president-elect also once hailed his former rival as someone who said one thing on bipartisanship and civility and then executed the exact opposite. McCain "gave a speech in the morning where he talked about the need for civility in our politics. He talked about elevating the tone of the debate in out country. He talked about reaching out in a bipartisan fashion to the other side. And then not one hour later, he turned around and embraced George Bush’s attacks on Democrats," Obama said in Watertown, South Dakota in May. On off-shore drilling he painted McCain’s stance as working against the bipartisan efforts that had been already in place. "Senator McCain’s decision to team up with George Bush on offshore drilling violates the bipartisan consensus that we’ve had in place for decades that has protected Florida's pristine coastline from drilling," Obama said. On the night that he formally won the Democratic nomination Obama even suggested that McCain was attempting to "pass off" his policies as bipartisan while actually plotting to continue the Bush era. "There are many words to describe John McCain’s attempt to pass off his embrace of George Bush’s policies as bipartisan and new," Obama said in St. Paul in June, "But change is not one of them." Presidential Inaugural Committee aides would not address how Mr. Obama’s campaign rhetoric contradicts his Inaugural eve dinner plans. "The president-elect has been very clear in what he’s said that he’s committed to breaking the paralysis of partisan gridlock," Linda Douglass, Chief Spokesman for the Presidential Inaugural Committee said. "These dinners are designed to honor people who are devote to public service for much of their life with the approach frequently being bipartisanship... and that is absolutely true for John McCain." -- Sunlen Miller and Jake Tapper

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