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 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, who resigned his Senate seat on Sunday, has been interviewing some of his one-time political opponents to help him run the country, but advisers to the former candidate have said they don't expect Obama to consider McCain for an administration job when the new president takes office on Jan. 20.
Emanuel and Graham have worked together before on issues in Congress, and Graham jumped to Emanuel's defense when Republicans criticized his appointment as Obama's chief of staff.
In announcing the meeting on Friday, Obama's transition office said the president-elect and McCain "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."
Following his meeting with Obama, McCain traveled to Washington and returned to his Senate office for the first time since Election Day.
Meanwhile, Obama told CBS' "60 Minutes" in an interview broadcast Sunday that Americans shouldn't worry about the growing federal deficit for the next couple of years and also urged help for the auto industry. It was Obama's first television interview since his historic election.
While investors are still riding a rollercoaster on Wall Street, Obama also said that the economy would have deteriorated even more without the $700 billion bank bailout. Re-regulation is a legislative priority, he said, not to crush "the entrepreneurial spirit and risk-taking of American capitalism" but to "restore a sense of balance." He also said, "We shouldn't worry about the deficit next year or even the year after. ... The most important thing is that we avoid a deepening recession."
Obama said he has spent the days since the election planning to stabilize the economy, restore consumer confidence, create jobs and get sound health care and energy policies through Congress.
"There's no doubt that we have not been able yet to reset the confidence in the financial markets and in the consumer markets and among businesses that allow the economy to move forward in a strong way," Obama said. "And my job as president is going to be to make sure that we restore that confidence."
While he said "we have the tools," the president-elect said not enough has been done to address bank foreclosures and distressed homeowners.
"We've gotta set up a negotiation between banks and borrowers so that people can stay in their homes," Obama said. "That is going to have an impact on the economy as a whole. And, you know, one thing I'm determined is that if we don't have a clear, focused program for homeowners by the time I take office, we will after I take office."
Obama credited Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson for trying to remedy "an unprecedented crisis" the country hasn't seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
A member of the transition team works with Paulson daily, Obama said, getting the needed background and sometimes offering approaches to address the economic meltdown.
Obama also acknowledged meeting with former Democratic primary rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton last week, but refused to say whether she was being considered for secretary of state, as has been widely reported. He also said the Republican party will be represented in his Cabinet.
War on terror
In the CBS interview, Obama also said that as soon as he takes office he will work with his security team and the military to draw down U.S. troops in Iraq, shore up Afghanistan and "stamp out al-Qaida once and for all."
Obama confirmed reports that he intends to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, and "make sure we don't torture" as "part and parcel of an effort to regain America's moral stature in the world."
Obama also said he plans to put al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in the crosshairs.
"I think capturing or killing bin Laden is a critical aspect of stamping out al-Qaida," Obama said. "He is not just a symbol, he's also the operational leader of an organization that is planning attacks against U.S. targets."
Throughout the interview, the Obamas engaged in amiable banter, often finishing each other's sentences. For example, when Barack Obama said he found it soothing to wash dishes, Michelle Obama interrupted, "Since when was it ever soothing for you to wash the dishes?"
"You know, when I had to do it," the president-elect said. "I'd make it into a soothing thing."
The Obamas promised their two daughters a new puppy would make the trip to Washington with them, but they said the pup won't become part of the first family until after they move into the White House. "I don't think it would be good to get a dog in the midst of transition," Michelle Obama said.