McCain: Obama smartest man in the room

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Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said President Obama impressed Republican senators by being the smartest man in the room during a series of intimate dinners last year intended to repair relations with Capitol Hill.

But the Arizona lawmaker and Obama’s opponent for the White House in 2008 said the president’s outreach efforts are now flagging.

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“There are some things that he could find that we could do on a bipartisan basis, and that may not be his top agenda items, but he’s got to do more outreach,” McCain said in an interview published this weekend with Time magazine.

“I thought when he had a couple of dinners with Republican senators, we really had a good environment there. Because he is a very very articulate and attractive guy in a setting with eight or nine senators and him. Because he was smarter than the rest of us,” he continued. “But I don’t see that now. I don’t see any of that.”

When the meals occurred last spring, press secretary Jay Carney said the White House was encouraged by the discussion and what “seemed to be sincere interest in avoiding constant crisis, sincere interest expressed by the participants in the dinner.”

He said Obama described a meal with a dozen Republican senators as “very constructive and very pleasant.”

But following a meeting last week with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Carney said it was “a press misconception that the success or failure of legislation in Congress depends on the relationship between a president and a Speaker or a president and a leader in Congress.”

Obama has made a point of highlighting his use of executive actions in recent months to differentiate himself from Congress.

“I’ve said I want to work with Congress wherever I can, and there are places where the parties can work together to get things done. But I’ve also said and shown that in this year of action, wherever I can act on my own to expand opportunity for more Americans, I will,” Obama said Friday at the Democratic National Committee winter meeting.

“Now, me saying that, that I'm going to go ahead and do things to help middle-class families, has gotten Republicans in Congress all stirred up -- as if they’d prefer to do nothing,” he continued. “But we’re going to keep moving forward on the agenda the American people elected us to move forward on.”

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