Obama Meets With McCain in Chicago
Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times
President-elect Barack Obama met with Senator John McCain on Monday at Mr. Obama's transition office in Chicago. At right is Rahm Emanuel, who is to serve as Mr. Obama's chief of staff.
By BRIAN KNOWLTON
Published: November 17, 2008
WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama and Senator John McCain agreed on Monday, in their first meeting since the election, to work together on some of the nation’s most pressing challenges, from the financial crisis to national security problems.
After a private meeting in the Obama transition offices on the 38th floor of the Kluczynski Federal Building in downtown Chicago, the two men issued a joint statement saying that they agreed “that Americans of all parties want and need their leaders to come together and change the bad habits of Washington so that we can solve the common and urgent challenges of our time.”
The statement continued: “We hope to work together in the days and months ahead on critical challenges like solving our financial crisis, creating a new energy economy, and protecting our nation’s security.”
There were few other clues to the dynamics between the two men, who until two weeks ago were vying for the presidency, and whose relations during the campaign were at times a bit frosty. When a reporter asked Senator McCain at the outset of the meeting on Monday whether he would help Mr. Obama with his administration, he replied, “Obviously.”
The meeting came four days after Mr. Obama met with his main rival for the Democratic nomination, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, sparking widespread speculation that he would nominate her to be secretary of state.
And it came three days after Mr. Obama met with another former rival, Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico, a former ambassador to the United Nations who might now be in competition with Mrs. Clinton for the State Department post.The Obama-McCain meeting in Chicago, an effort at reconciliation after a sometimes bitterly fought campaign, came unusually soon after Election Day.
The president-elect and the Arizona senator hold relatively similar views on issues like climate change and ethics reform, where cooperation might be fruitful. More urgently, Mr. Obama may be hoping for help in pushing for a new economic stimulus package that faces stiff Republican resistance.
Also taking part in the meeting were Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and a trusted McCain ally, and Representative Rahm Emanuel, Democrat of Illinois, who is to be Mr. Obama’s White House chief of staff.
Advisers to both Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama said that they did not expect Mr. McCain to be offered a job in the new administration.
Mr. Obama said in an interview broadcast Sunday on the CBS program “60 Minutes” that there would be at least one Republican in his cabinet. He would not say when he might announce his first cabinet nominations, except to say “soon.”
While the Obama-McCain meeting came earlier than some past efforts at reconciliation between newly elected presidents and their vanquished foes, the president’s father, George H.W. Bush, met on almost exactly the same date — Nov. 18 — with Bill Clinton after losing to him in the 1992 election.
Mr. Clinton later called the meeting “very helpful,” though he found that his host wanted to talk almost exclusively about foreign affairs while he had hoped to pick the outgoing president’s brain on domestic affairs.
In 2000, it was not until Dec. 19 that President-elect George W. Bush called on Vice President Al Gore, though that was just a week after the Supreme Court resolved the Florida recount debacle; the two spent less than 20 minutes together at the Naval Observatory, the official vice-presidential residence, where the elder Bushes themselves had once lived.
(President-elect Bush also called that day on Mr. Clinton at the White House. This time it was Mr. Clinton who guided the conversation to foreign affairs for most of a two-hour talk. It was unclear whether anyone brought up Mr. Bush’s vow, during the campaign, to “restore honor and dignity to the White House.”)
In Chicago, Mr. Obama might be mindful of the fact that former rivals can also be future foes. In 2005, Senator John Kerry did not wait even a week after the inauguration of President Bush before launching into barbed attacks on his health care plan, calling it “window dressing.”