Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, normally relatively press-shy and preferring to handle her own image-making (for better or much, much worse), has apparently decided she needs to bolster her reputation as a serious lawmaker. She also wants to make explicit the narrative she’s been anxious to set about herself as the inheritor of John McCain’s legacy. She, or her PR flack, got the Associated Press’ Lisa Mascaro and Nicholas Riccardi to bite.

She is modeling her approach on the renegade style of Arizona Sen. John McCain, who died in 2018 and was known for his willingness to reach across the aisle,” AP says, at least leaving out the word “maverick” in this one. That Sinema has been operating to seize that mantle isn‘t news. The extent to which she’s willing to going to cultivate that image remains to be seen. But it appears, there isn’t a bottom. 

“It’s the easiest thing in the world for politicians to declare bipartisanship dead and line up on respective sides of a partisan battle,” she said in a statement to AP. “What’s harder is getting out of our comfort zones, finding common ground with unlikely allies, and forming coalitions that can achieve durable, lasting results.” Yeah, sure. “Charming and funny in private conversations, Sinema prides herself on competing in marathons and triathlons, while maintaining a notoriously colorful wardrobe—even in her Green Party days, she referred to herself as a ‘Prada socialist,'” we learn.

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That and how many Republicans are willing to sing her praises to the AP. Just one Democrat is quoted in the story, a former colleague in the Arizona legislature. But plenty of Republicans who served with her in the Arizona state legislature a decade ago and the U.S. Congress are willing to weigh in on her swing to the right. “Ideologically, it does surprise me,” Steven Yarbrough, her former Republican legislative colleague, said of her transformation. “But given how smart and driven she is, well, that doesn’t surprise me at all.”

Another of her former Republican colleagues from the Arizona legislature, Steve May, praised her chameleon-like qualities. “She came from doing speeches and leading protests, and she learned she can actually win,” May said. Which makes her sound just a little bit opportunistic, if you squint at it right. Which apparently plenty of people do.

“People may debate her sincerity, but the truth is, she makes an active decision that she’s going to work well with other people—and I haven’t seen her slip up,” said another Republican colleague, Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, who served with her in the House. Not to be outdone, the Republican Whip in the Senate gets his bit in, too. “Kyrsten is always honest and straightforward, two often underrated qualities that are the mark of a successful legislator.” That’s Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, “who is among those Sinema often seeks out for conversation” the AP says. He told AP that he respects her “sincere pursuit of bipartisanship.”

All these Republicans sure want you to know she’s “sincere” in seeking their approval. We also learn this from AP: “Not only does she pass her days chatting up the Republican senators, she has been known to duck into their private GOP cloakroom—absolutely unheard of—and banter with the GOP leadership. She and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell talk often by phone.” All in the pursuit of bipartisanship, right? Because she’s so sincere in that. Well, her phone buddy has something to say to that.

Here’s McConnell telling Kentucky to enjoy the COVID-19 stimulus money they got because there won’t be any more of it. Because he’s not going to let any money to fix anything go out the door again. Not on his watch.

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He’s making it pretty damned clear that as far as he’s concerned “the era of bipartisanship on this stuff is over.” This stuff could include infrastructure spending to save the nation from crumbling apart and being slowly, painfully destroyed by global warming. (Back in Sinema’s home state, Phoenix is forecast to reach 111° on Tuesday.)

It would seem Sinema’s charm and smarts aren’t putting a dent in McConnell’s “100%” commitment to stopping President Biden’s agenda. In fact, it looks a little like Sinema is being played for a fool by McConnell. Something John McCain wouldn’t do.

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