CHICAGO - President-elect Barack Obama and former Republican rival John McCain pledged Monday to work together on ways to change Washington's "bad habits," though aides to both men said it was unlikely McCain would serve in an Obama Cabinet.
The two men met in Obama's transition headquarters in Chicago for the first time since the Illinois senator vanquished McCain in the presidential election Nov. 4. Obama said they wanted to talk about "how we can do some work together to fix up the country," and he added that he would offer his own thanks to McCain "for the outstanding service he's already rendered."
Obama has said he is likely to invite at least one Republican to join his Cabinet, but McCain was not expected to be a candidate. The Arizonan is serving his fourth term in the Senate.
Obama and McCain sat together for a brief picture-taking session 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, the two 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 relationship with a 1960s-era radical, William Ayers.
Obama's campaign, meanwhile, labeled the 72-year-old McCain "erratic" and ran campaign ads deriding his economic views.
On Election Night, McCain paid 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.