In unprecedented move, Obama plans meeting with McCain
Nick Juliano
Published: Friday November 14, 2008

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After a grueling campaign, former rivals Barack Obama and John McCain will sit down Monday to discuss how they can work together over the next four years in a meeting that virtually unprecedented.

"It's well known that they 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," Obama-Biden transition spokesperson Stephanie Cutter said in an e-mail.

The meeting will be the first time the president-elect and Arizona senator have spoken since Election Night, a transition aide tells RAW STORY.

The onetime rivals will be joined by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a close confidant of the former Republican presidential candidate, and Rahm Emanuel, Obama's new chief of staff. The two have a longstanding relationship and negotiated the terms of this year's presidential debates.

It's unclear precisely what the two will discuss, although the two share some priorities. The president-elect said during the campaign that he wanted to govern in a bipartisan fashion while McCain called for spending reform and an elimination of spending earmarks.

When Obama and McCain sit down together on Monday, it will mark a virtually unprecedented meeting of former presidential rivals.

"I think [the meeting] probably is .. a unity sort of move on Obama's part," says Frederick Shiels, a professor of political science and history at Mercy College. "He likes to do unprecedented things, and this is one of them."

Shiels, who has written several books on the presidency, could not recall any examples of presidential rivals meeting together so soon after an election, except when an incumbent president was defeated. For example, the first President Bush met with Bill Clinton soon after the 1992 election to facilitate a smooth transition.

President Bush did not sit down with opponents John Kerry or Al Gore after the 2004 and 2000 elections, each of which were fraught with their own complications. In 2000, a weeks-long recount and court battle that ended with the Supreme Court cementing Bush's razor-thin margin in Florida left little room for reconciliation in its wake.

After another close result in 2004, neither party seemed too interested in bipartisanship. Bush made no overtures to Kerry following the election, and before the end of November the former Democratic candidate was urging his supporters to keep up the fight against Bush.

"Despite the words of cooperation and moderate-sounding promises, this administration is planning a right-wing assault on values and ideals we hold most deeply," Kerry wrote in an e-mail that was sent to supporters on Nov. 19, 2004. At the time, Kerry was considering another run for the White House in four years.

McCain, at 72, has no interest in mounting another run for the presidency. The Arizona senator has been relatively subdued since Election Day. His first post-election appearance came this week on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, where he called Obama "a good and decent person" and defended his vice presidential pick Sarah Palin from anonymous attacks lodged by former advisers.

Conversely, Palin seems to perhaps have not realized that the election is over. Her remarks to the Republican Governors Association this week mirrored the former VP-candidate's standard stump speech, and she has kept up the assault on Obama and his associates.

Palin has not been invited to Monday's sit down.

There are several possible motives behind the Obama-McCain meeting, Shiels said. It allows Obama to follow through on promises to seek bipartisanship and gives the president-elect a nice public relations boost. But the meeting also presents the opportunity for Obama to solicit support from someone who could become a key ally in the Senate. Keep in mind that prior to his run for the presidency this year, McCain proved willing to buck his party on issues like campaign finance reform. As McCain returns to that maverick role, his support could be key in forging a bipartisan consensus on areas where he and Obama see eye-to-eye.

"There's an element of razzle dazzle to this on Obama's part," Shiels told RAW STORY. "But I think there's some substance too."