John McCaslin

Two months ago, Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain was mobbed by crowds everywhere he stepped.

Tuesday, following the swearing in of the 111th Congress, it was a rather melancholy Arizona Republican, now a full-time senator again, quickly traversing the basement tunnels of the U.S. Capitol en route to his office. A lone aide struggled to keep pace behind him.

The senator's thoughts on this historic day?

"I just spent some time with Howard Baker," replied Mr. McCain, speaking of the former Senate majority leader from Tennessee, now 83, who was on hand for the ceremony. "He was such a gentleman, so very courteous. He worked both sides of the aisle, trying to bring everybody together on whatever the issue was back then."

"And Mo Udall's family was here. He was such a classy guy," the senator continued, referring to the late Arizona congressman who ran for the Democratic nomination for president in 1976.

Finally, he made a point of saying: "I'm very sad to see John Warner leave." Speaking, of course, of the just-retired Republican senator from Virginia, who had sought bipartisan harmony with every measure introduced on Capitol Hill.

"It's a different class today," this columnist pointed out.

"Let's hope we get back to some of that," Mr. McCain answered.

WARNER TO WARNER

"It's kind of like the first day of school. I'm still getting used to it," an enthused Sen. Mark Warner, Virginia Democrat, told Inside the Beltway shortly after he was sworn into office Tuesday.

Mr. Warner in November won the seat of retiring Sen. John W. Warner, a Republican of no relation who served five terms in the Senate before deciding not to seek re-election.

"I am succeeding Senator John Warner, not replacing him," Mr. Warner made a point of stressing.

CHUCK AND THEM

So, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, who is your ideal choice to replace Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Senate?

"I'm keeping counsel strictly to the governor," Mr. Schumer told this column Tuesday. "As Governor David Paterson has said, nothing will be decided until Senator Clinton is approved as the next secretary of state."

Much has been written of late about how New York's senior senator had finally come to grips with the undying celebrity surrounding Mrs. Clinton and her junior New York Senate seat, only to yield now to so much speculation and hype that Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy, is waiting in the wings as the Senate's next attention-grabber.


John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on Townhall.com and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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