CNN reports that former President Bill Clinton said today that his wife and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., are BFF.*
"She and John McCain are very close," Clinton said in Spartanburg, SC. "They always laugh that if they wound up being the nominees of their party, it would be the most civilized election in American history, and they’re afraid they’d put the voters to sleep because they like and respect each other."
The remarks were the second unwelcome endorsement for the senator in the last day, coming as they did a day after an endorsement from the liberal editorial board of the New York Times.
A skeptic might note that the Clintons have everything to gain in embracing McCain. She can try to come across as moderate while McCain gets tarred as liberal – and since polls currently indicate he would beat her in a hypothetical match-up, that wouldn’t be such a bad thing for her.
Campaigning in New Hampshire, a McCain stronghold, Clinton made sure to mention McCain frequently.
“He and I have done some traveling together,” she joked. “What happens on the road stays on the road.”
But despite this obvious dynamic, there seems to be truth in the story of their friendship. And McCain is well aware of the potential liability of being friends with Clinton, and his distancing from her has on occasion reached comic levels.
In 2004, McCain returned from a congressional delegation trip to Estonia raving about how nice he found Clinton.
“One of the guys," he said, regaling friends with tales about a vodka drinking contest they and their companions — including Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and John Sununu, Jr., R-NH — engaged in.
The story ended up on the front page of the New York Times.
McCain denied the story to Jay Leno.
"Didn’t happen," he said.
"Not true," he told Fox News, in what might be described as not quite straight talk.
"I did not have drinks with that woman!" mocked Maureen Dowd.
Joshua Green of the Atlantic found the Senator more fond in his recollections.
"It’s been 50 years since I’d been in a drinking game," he told Green, adding "admiringly, ‘She can really hold her liquor.’ ”
* Best Friends Forever