WASHINGTON – The encounter was as awkward as it appears in the photograph.
Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) shared a Senate elevator just minutes after the veteran defense hawk assailed the tea party libertarian on the chamber floor for his “ridiculous” filibuster of the CIA director confirmation over the nation’s drone policy.
No pleasantries exchanged. None of the breezy banter that sometimes makes the Senate still seem the famously chummy club of 100.
“Hi, Rand,” McCain said, interrupting his own conversation with a reporter.
Just a hint of a provocation could be heard in his greeting.
“Hello,” said Paul, sounding exhausted, as he stepped inside, talking on the phone at his ear.
One way to show power in Washington is to appear extremely busy.
Too busy, in fact, to give someone the time of day.
The senators quickly relied on this time-tested skill as the elevator doors in the Senate Russell Office Building closed.
The Kentuckian conferred quietly with his aide. His was a jam-packed schedule Thursday of floor action and media appearances after his epic filibuster shut down the Senate for nearly 13 hours.
The Arizonan resumed talking to the reporter in a hushed voice.
Like boxers between rounds, the men stood in opposite corners, as far apart as possible in the small lift.
Sometimes awkward moments feel as if they stretch into eternity.
This one passed in a 25-second flash.
The doors opened on the second floor, where the two men have their offices – one of those quirks of Congress that situates odd fellows in the same neighborhoods.
Paul bolted down one hall.
McCain took a more leisurely saunter down the other.
Two directions; one party.