CHICAGO (AP) - The bitter general election campaign behind them, President-elect Barack Obama and Republican Sen. John McCain met Monday to discuss ways to reduce government waste, promote bipartisanship and find other ways to improve government.
The two former rivals met in Obama's transition headquarters in Chicago. Obama said before the meeting that he and McCain planned "a good conversation about how we can do some work together to fix up the country, and also to offer thanks to Sen. McCain for the outstanding service he's already rendered."
Obama and McCain sat together for a brief picture-taking moment with reporters, along with Rahm Emanuel, Obama's incoming White House chief of staff, and South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, McCain's close friend. Obama and McCain were heard briefly discussing football, and Obama cracked that "the national press is tame compared to the Chicago press."
When asked if he planned to help the Obama administration, McCain replied, "Obviously."
After the meeting, Obama and McCain issued a joint statement saying: "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."
"It is in this spirit that we had a productive conversation today about the need to launch a new era of reform where we take on government waste and bitter partisanship in Washington in order to restore trust in government, and bring back prosperity and opportunity for every hardworking American family," it said. "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."
Obama and McCain clashed bitterly during the fall campaign over taxes, the Iraq War, and ways to fix the ailing economy. Things got ugly at times, with McCain running ads comparing Obama to celebrities Britney Spears and Paris Hilton and raising questions about his rival's distant relationship with a 1960s-era radical, William Ayers.
Obama's campaign, meanwhile, labeled the 72-year old McCain "erratic" and ran a campaign ad falsely suggesting that McCain and Rush Limbaugh shared similar anti-immigration views.
McCain delivered a gracious concession speech on Election Night, paying tribute to Obama's historic ascendancy as the nation's first black president. The two agreed that night to meet after the election when McCain called Obama to concede defeat.