When George W. Bush needed a little help recently, he didn't hesitate to prevail upon a friend who used to be an enemy. Trying to persuade competing television networks to carry the presidential debates Bush had proposed on NBC and CNN, W.'s aides turned to John McCain, chairman of the powerful Senate Commerce Committee, for help. Bush wanted McCain and his House counterpart, Tom Bliley, to use their influence with the networks their committees oversee to coax them into broadcasting their rivals' programming. McCain declined. After all, it was only seven months ago that Bush, in a desperate battle to win the Republican nomination, vilified "Chairman McCain" for allegedly misusing his position to do favors for friends and contributors. McCain and Bush have since reconciled, and McCain has endorsed Bush and campaigned for him. But some favors are too much to ask. "We're not for sale," a source close to McCain told TIME. McCain never contacted the other networks, which refused to carry the NBC and CNN shows. After insisting for a week that he would participate only in the debates he had proposed, Bush backed down last Thursday. His campaign now says it will negotiate with Al Gore. And McCain's help will no longer be needed.
--By James Carney and John F. Dickerson/Washington