'Productive conversation' between Obama, McCain

First face-to-face meeting since election
November 17, 2008 4:35:45 PM PST
President-elect Barack Obama and his former campaign rival, Senator John McCain, met Monday to talk about the nation's most pressing problems.The two discussed how to reduce government waste, promote bipartisanship and improve government during the meeting at President-elect Obama's transition headquarters in Chicago.

Obama and McCain were also heard talking about football during a brief press appearance where Obama said "the national press is tame compared to the Chicago press."

Obama briefly commented on the tone of the meeting.

"We will have a good conversation about how we can do some work together to fix up the country. Also offer thanks to Senator McCain for the outstanding service he has already rendered," said Obama during a brief appearance before the meeting began around 11 a.m.

Afterward, Obama and McCain issued a joint statement. It noted that Americans "need their leaders to come together and change the bad habits of Washington."

The statement also called the meeting "a productive conversation" and said Obama and McCain would work together to deal with the financial crisis, energy issues and national security.

It is the first time the two have met face-to-face since their last debate before the election.

"I wish God speed to the man who was my former opponent and will be my president," said Senator McCain during his concession speech on November 4.

Gracious in defeat, Senator McCain asked his supporters to stand behind President-elect Obama.

"I expect them to talk about issues that are more likely to be common on the agenda than controversial. In other words, issues the public told both candidates that they should take care of," said Professor Clarke Caywood Northwestern University.

McCain and Obama were joined by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a McCain confidant, and Rep. Rahm Emanuel, an Illinois Democrat Obama has chosen as his White House chief of staff.

Even though the Democrats have firm control of both the House and Senate, Obama has said throughout the campaign that he will lead with the help of both parties. In his first TV interview since winning the election, the president-elect said on 60 Minutes that there will be Republicans in his cabinet - though he didn't give details as to who or how many.

"You're not getting any more out of me," said Obama.

He also said he's committed to changing some of President Bush's international policies.

"I intend to close Guantanamo and I will follow through on that. I have said repeatedly that America doesn't torture," said Obama.

Former presidential opponents often meet after an election but usually not this soon. However, given the tough state of America's economy, analysts say it makes sense Obama and McCain were coming together less than two weeks after the country voted Obama into office.

"I think the circumstances are so unique here with such a tough economy and issues that people realize how complex they are, that they are hoping these two individuals will put their heads together," said Caywood.

On Friday, Obama's transition office said the president-elect and the Arizona senator "share an important belief that Americans want and deserve a more effective and efficient government, and will discuss ways to work together to make that a reality."

Some of the attacks and the exchanges during the presidential debates and out on the campaign trail were nasty.

But these rivals have a lot of areas of agreement, including the need for more ethics measures in Washington, fewer congressional earmarks, less pollution-driven climate change, long-term immigration reform and a national service program. They're also discussing plans to assist the failing U.S. auto industry, stimulate the sluggish economy and prevent Osama bin Laden and al Qaida from launching new terrorist attacks.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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