- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 18, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama on Monday sat down with the Republican rival he defeated less than two weeks ago, possibly eyeing Sen. John McCain as a future ally for breaking through partisan divides in Washington.

It was the first moments Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain spent together since the Democrat won decisively Nov. 4, and the first face-to-face meeting since an Oct. 16 charity dinner after their final debate.

At the start of the roughly 40-minute private meeting in his Chicago transition office, Mr. Obama told reporters his intentions for the sit-down with the Arizona Republican, saying he wanted to discuss how they could “work together to fix up the country.”

A reporter asked Mr. McCain whether he would help Mr. Obama with his administration, prompting him to respond: “Obviously.”

Sources said later the men discussed closing the Guantanamo Bay prison and added that it was unlikely Mr. McCain would serve in Mr. Obama’s Cabinet .

The Obama transition team offered few details about the gathering, releasing only a joint statement from the two men stressing it was a “productive” conversation and they would work together on “critical challenges” such as the financial crisis, security and energy.

“At this defining moment in history, we believe 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 former opponents said in the statement, also noting a need for “a new era of reform” and taking on government waste and partisanship in Washington.

Photographers and reporters were allowed to spend about three minutes in the room at the Obama transition office in the Kluczynski Federal Building.

Also in the room were Mr. Obama chief of staff, Rep. Rahm Emanuel, and Mr. McCain’s close friend, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who have a history of legislative cooperation.

In his concession speech on election night , Mr. McCain, long known for his willingness to work with Democrats to enact major legislation, struck a conciliatory tone: “I pledge to him tonight to do all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face.”

There are several policy areas where Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain agree. Though they sometimes sparred over drilling and coal, the men have similar philosophies about the need to take action on climate change.

They also see eye to eye on the need for immigration reform, having similar voting records on the issue. Both supported a pathway to citizenship that earned Mr. McCain some ire from conservative Republicans who believe that is amnesty and rewarding illegal behavior.

Mr. Graham also was a key member of the team working on immigration matters.

Mr. McCain briefly mentioned immigration in his concession speech.

During a service forum at Columbia University in New York on Sept. 11, both men addressed the issue of embracing one another postelection.

Mr. McCain quickly answered a question that “yes,” he would ask Mr. Obama to be a secretary of a new Cabinet post of national service were he to win.

Mr. Obama hedged on the same question, joking that he would be willing to make a deal to give Mr. McCain the post if it meant he had won the presidency.

But he lauded his opponent that evening as well, honoring his military and legislative record as “legendary,” as he did many times on the campaign trail.

“And so I think that one of the primary objectives of my presidency would be to lift up the opportunities for service in a bipartisan fashion so that we take it out of politics,” Mr. Obama said.

Mr. Obama often talks about his appreciation for historian Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book “Team of Rivals,” about President Lincoln’s strategy of bringing his political enemies into his Cabinet

In an interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” which aired Sunday, Mr. Obama reiterated that he will appoint at least one Republican to his Cabinet.

The Obama-McCain meeting came earlier in the cycle than past foes, though President George H.W. Bush met with his one-time rival Bill Clinton 15 days after the Democrat defeated him in 1992.

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