“If I Only Had McCain”

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The Washington Post fronts this morning with the tale of Barack Obama and John McCain’s 2006 spat over ethics reform legislation. Long story short, Obama and McCain once tried to work together to impose tougher congressional ethics rules. But then Obama released a letter criticizing McCain’s approach, McCain took offense, and some nasty correspondence between the two was leaked to the press. The two men, who both pride themselves on working across party lines, failed miserably to work together, though in the end most of the ethics restrictions they favored passed into law.

The Post story gives an excellent blow-by-blow of the whole ordeal. But it leaves out the music. What music?, you ask. The song that Barack Obama sang at the 2006 Gridiron Dinner, a white-tie celebrations of self-importance that a select group of press and official Washington hold every year. Lucky for us, the Chicago Sun-Times’ Lynn Sweet blogged the song lyrics at the time.

So take a moment and imagine Barack Obama, in white tie, singing the following lyrics to the tune of “If I Only Had a Brain,” from the Wizard of Oz, just weeks after his highly public blowup with McCain, before a crowd of mostly-drunk big shots.

I’m aspiring to greatness, but somehow I feel weightless

A freshman’s sad refrain
I could be a great uniter, making ethics rules much tighter
If I only had McCain

I could bring us all together, no storm we couldn’t weather,
We’d feel each other’s pain
Red and blue wouldn’t matter, party differences would shatter
If I only had McCain

Oh why is it so hard, for honest men of good will to agree,
If we ever found a way to strike a deal, would we survive… politically?

When a wide-eyed young idealist, confronts a seasoned realist
There’s bound to be some strain
With the game barely started, I’d be feeling less downhearted
If I only had McCain

Still I hope for the better, though I may rewrite my letter
Cause I gotta have McCain

After singing the song, Obama told the gathered press, according to his prepared remarks, “I should say that I really do get along well with Senator McCain. But as you know, not everyone in politics does. Because of his superstar status, his virtuous image, the kind of hero worship treatment he gets from all of you [the press], some of my colleagues call John a prima donna. Me? I call him a role model. Think of it as affirmative action. Why should the white guys be the only ones who are overhyped?”

Funny? At least for Washington standards, which maybe isn’t saying all that much.