McCain cozies up to Gramm in Aspen

A campaign trail dispatch from our Washington Independent colleague Sridhar Pappu.

It is true that in the rare instances when I actually look up from my laptop, where I spend most of time doing political research or working hard to meet the standards set by you, my loyal readers, I sometimes actually see something.

Such was the case at Logan Airport last week, when carrying my computer into a room where other reporters were gathering to board Sen. Barack Obama’s plane, I looked up to see a gawking Jerry Seinfeld with his wife and Gwyneth Paltrow and her mother Blythe Danner. The sight of 20-some people — all trying to type while walking and carrying backpacks stuffed beyond capacity — had left the four speechless and scared.

Today, while sitting beneath a tent at the non-partisan Aspen Institute, waiting to hear a conversation between the Institute’s head, Walter Isaacson, and the presumed Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain, I popped my head up and saw a bald, familiar dome. It belonged to former Texas Senator and McCain co-chairman Phil Gramm, who stepped down in July as co-chairman of McCain’s campaign after he called the American public "whiners" and the recession as something not real but merely "mental."

It might as well have been Bigfoot. Since Gramm — whom Obama still brings up in stump speeches — disappeared from the campaign, McCain has done as much as possible to distance himself from his longtime friend. The reason is simple: You can’t attack your opponent for being an elitist when you’re getting advice from a guy about as far removed from the economic hardship in the country as humanly possible. But in this sense truth to tell here in Aspen, surrounded by mountains and affluent intellectuals, Gramm blends in well. This is his territory, his country.