Here’s tomorrow’s news today

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By now you know that Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Az.) have tangled big time. McCain accused Obama of “self-interested partsian posturing“, questioning in a Monday letter if Obama was sincerely seeking bipartisan dtente on a lobbying and ethics reform bill. McCain raised the matter after receiving a letter from Obama last Thursday that he regarded as a slap in the face because (and this is from the McCain perspective) it suggested that McCain was a slacker on the ethics front. Why did McCain think this? Because Obama’s missive to McCain included the line about how McCain should be working to let the Senate committees “roll up their sleeves and get to work.” On Wednesday, Obama and McCain are both scheduled to testify at the same Senate hearing. At 2 p.m., in the Russell Senate Office Building, they are to appear before the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration in a hearing titled, “to examine procedures to make the legislative process more transparent.” Translated, that means it’s a hearing about the Congressional practice of inserting something called “earmarks” in bills. An earmark is a specific project written into a bill. Earmarks are a subject of examination in the context of discussing ethics and lobbying reform because lawmakers often just sneak these earmarks into bills without going through the usual process. Getting rid of earmarks is a McCain crusade. Prediction on what will happen when Obama and McCain meet on Wednesday: they will shake hands and laugh the whole thing off. Phone tag update. Obama phone McCain last night. As of 1:35 p.m. Obama and McCain have exchanged calls but not connected. Obama is at Coretta Scott King’s funeral in Georgia. UPDATED: 11:22 P.M. Obama and McCain talked after King’s funeral. Both men agreed to “move forward.” McCain was the lead-off interview on MSNBC’s “`Hardball” hosted by Chris Matthews, booked specifically because of his Obama broadside. McCain to Matthews: ” I`m saying that I believe that his efforts were sincere at the time. The letter that I received contradicted that, at least my reading of it, and I don`t know how you read it any other way, and so therefore I — that`s exactly what I said. It was a little straight talk, Chris. ” I talked with Obama later in the afternoon. You’ll find my related column on page 3 of Wednesday’s Sun-Times. Potentially at the heart of the flap — which I cover in the column — Obama said McCain misunderstood a crucial part of his letter. Some outtakes from my Obama interview: Obama never intended to quit a bipartisan “working group,” contrary to what McCain asserted in his code red letter. Obama said that his history as a state senator working on ethics legislation in Springfield shows that he is sincere in wanting to come up with a bipartisan solution. “It’s not like I don’t have a track record on this,” he told me. Barely minutes after I hung up the phone with Obama, I received an e-mail from deputy press secretary, Tommy Vietor, citing editorial praise Obama received on May 15, 1998 (incidently, my birthday and the birthday of the late Mayor Richard J. Daley) for his campaign finance reform legislation. I also talked Tuesday with Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs and Obama’s media consultant David Axelrod. Gibbs told me the large Sun-Times headline “McCain Mocks Obama” was, well, too big given the story and the other events of the day. Axelrod predicted the flap will produce no lasting political impact. “I think this thing is going to come and go” and “everyone ends up working together.”

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