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As Mitt Romney said last week when he endorsed John McCain, the campaign might have been rough but "we always had good laughs together." As examples of this hitherto-unnoticed good fellowship, Mitt pointed cheerily to the fact that he and McCain had shaken hands before the debates and "said hi to each others' wives."

Getting along with people you loathe is part of the business of politics, and nobody is blaming McCain for buddying up to the man he virtually accused in the Florida primary of aiding and abetting al-Qaida. Although when you've said that somebody's campaign was "based on a wholesale deception of voters," calling it a "hard, intensive, fine, honorable" effort is perhaps one adjective too many.

It's not as if McCain has been caving in on anything important, like economic recovery ...

(Feb. 6: The Senate votes on a Democratic economic stimulus plan, which would give more help to the unemployed, veterans and senior citizens than the version President Bush wants. Forced to choose between Bush and the unemployed-veterans-elderly, McCain flew back to Washington and - skipped the vote.)

Or torture ...

(Feb. 13: The Senate considers a bill, vehemently opposed by the White House, that would prohibit CIA interrogators from using tactics like waterboarding on detainees. McCain, whose ringing denunciation of waterboarding was the highlight of the Republican debates, votes - no. He says his own Detainee Treatment Act already bans use of physical force during interrogations. This would be the law that Bush, in one of his famous signing statements, said the president did not have to follow.)

Perhaps all this is just a momentary lapse, caused by McCain's need to keep a lid on the Republican right while Mike Huckabee is still in the race. True, Huckabee appears to be hopelessly, impossibly, behind. His consultants, however, are said to be working on a new and promising strategy that involves triggering an earthquake along the San Andreas fault, causing the West Coast to sink into the sea, dramatically reducing McCain's current delegate count.

McCain's inconsistency is actually nothing new. We saw a lot of it during the Bush tax debates. McCain opposed the tax cuts as unwise and unfair, and then opposed getting rid of them under the theory that it would be a shock to the upper-income people who benefited from them and never noticed they were scheduled to expire. McCain seems to have developed a kind of right-to-life theory of economics under which any tax cut that comes into being has to remain on the books for all eternity.

The senator from Arizona is clearly unhappy about the possibility of having to run against Barack Obama, whom he has disliked ever since Obama had the temerity to present himself as a campaign finance reformer without McCain's permission. And the fact that the 46-year-old Obama keeps referring to the 71-year-old McCain as a military hero, in tones that suggest the conflict in question was the Spanish Civil War, doesn't help.

If McCain wanted to retaliate, he might have considered last week's hearings of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which called into question the entire basis of Obama's candidacy.

You may remember that the committee, in its unrelenting pursuit of government reform, has been devoting its time to the critical issue of whether or not Roger Clemens took steroids. After all the questioning was over, the Democrats felt Clemens was a liar and the committee chairman called Brian McNamee, his weaselly ex-trainer, "very credible." The Republicans on the committee, meanwhile, said McNamee was an unreliable drug dealer and their leader suggested Clemens was the victim of a "lynching."

Now Obama's big selling point is his promise to get rid of mindless partisanship on heavy issues like health care. His signature pledge is putting the health care negotiations on C-Span so the lawmakers would feel that they're under public scrutiny and thus be compelled to work together for the common good.

Do you wonder if this is really going to work when the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform was posturing for network news and still couldn't even agree on whether Roger Clemens is a jerk?

I'm just asking.

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