WASHINGTON – Who said the 2008 presidential campaign was over? President Barack Obama upbraided his former Republican rival, Sen. John McCain, on Thursday for resorting to political "talking points" at a health care summit Obama organized in hopes of bridging the divide between the two parties.
After McCain used his time to complain that Obama reneged on a campaign promise to bring "change in Washington," the president bluntly told the Arizona Republican that "we're not campaigning any more. The election is over."
McCain retorted that he's "reminded of that every day."
Nearly two years after his defeat, McCain is facing a primary challenge from the right in his bid for a fifth Senate term. Former Rep. J.D. Hayworth, a conservative who hosted a radio talk show, is challenging the 73-year-old incumbent, who has an uneasy relationship with his party's right.
McCain has been displaying his Republican credentials, railing against Democrats for finalizing health care legislation behind closed doors despite Obama's promise of transparency for health care negotiations.
He also derides special deals in the health care bill to benefit people, and the lawmakers who represent them, in Nebraska, Louisiana, Connecticut and Florida.
"I hope that that would be an argument for us to go through this 2,400-page document, remove all the special deals for the special interests and favored few, and treat all Americans the same under provisions of the law, so that they will know that geography does not dictate what kind of health care they would receive," McCain told Obama.
McCain said Obama promised better governance during the campaign "and what we got was a process you and I both said we would change in Washington."
During the summit's afternoon session, Obama and McCain had a more good-natured exchange.
McCain criticized a provision of the Senate bill that spared 800,000 seniors in Florida from benefit cuts in the Medicare Advantage program, the private insurance under the umbrella of the government program.
"Why should we carve out 800,000?" McCain asked.
"I think you make a legitimate point," Obama responded to a surprised McCain.
"Thank you very much," McCain said, amid smiles and laughter.