McCain: I will help Obama fix America

President-elect Barack Obama and his former rival John McCain pledged yesterday to launch "a new era of reform" after a dramatic meeting in Chicago appeared to dispel much of the election campaign's bitterness.

There was a mood of conciliation as the rivals pledged to put aside differences in order to rid Washington of its "bad habits" and solve the "urgent challenges of our time".

The joint statement, unprecedented in recent White House history, saw both politicians undertake "to work together in the days and months ahead on challenges like solving our financial crisis, creating a new energy economy, and protecting our nation's security."

The aim, they said, was to "restore trust in government, and bring back prosperity and opportunity for every hardworking American family."

Senator McCain had already shown himself to be magnanimous in defeat. On the night he lost the election he declared: "I pledge to him tonight to do all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face."

Yesterday's statement reflected some of his pet themes, including taking on "government waste and bitter partisanship in Washington", and bringing back "prosperity and opportunity for every hard-working American family". Yesterday's meeting provided a first opportunity for the two politicians to map out their future co-operation. On the way in Mr Obama said they were "just going to have a good conversation about how we can do some work together to fix up the country. And also to offer thanks to Senator McCain for the outstanding service he's already rendered."

Asked whether he planned to help the Obama administration, McCain replied: "Obviously." Campaign claims that Mr Obama was a celebrity groupie and fellow-traveller with terrorists were forgotten, along with attacks on the "erratic" Mr McCain.

On the face of it the prospects for co-operation are good. Both men share a deep frustration at the partisan gridlock in Washington that has stalled reforms on major issues for decades. In addition, Mr Obama's reform agenda is so sweeping it will require Republican co-operation.

Mr McCain has never been at ease as a standard-bearer for conservative Republicans and he may prove a crucial ally of Mr Obama in the Senate. Mr Obama wants to hit the ground running in January. He has ambitious plans to reform the US energy economy, tackle climate change and extend health care insurance to tens of millions more Americans. He takes over in the midst of deepening economic woes and will need Republican help to pass financial-stimulus legislation.

Mr Obama has also said he intends to appoint Republican cabinet members, but aides discounted the possibility that he would either invite Mr McCain or that such an offer would be accepted. If there is a quid pro quo for co-operation, high on Mr McCain's list would be his hobby horses of immigration reform, which was blocked by his own party last year, and changing the social security system, which is heading for bankruptcy. In his concession speech Mr McCain briefly mentioned the hot-poker subject of immigration.

On the campaign trail Mr Obama and Mr McCain clashed over the Democrat's plans to stop the war in Iraq, as well as plans for higher taxes and spending. But they share common ground on a variety of issues, notably the need for urgent action on climate change. Both are committed to reversing US dependence on foreign oil.

Yesterday's was still a high stakes meeting, with plenty of potential for misunderstanding. The personal chemistry between the two has never been good. The one time they collaborated in the Senate over ethics reform, it ended bitterly. There are dangers from Mr McCain's party too and he is already being attacked as an apostate by the conservative base.

"There's a lot of blame to go around," said Jim DeMint, a Republican senator. "But I have to mention George Bush and Ted Stevens, and even John McCain," whose faults he listed as in the areas of election finance reform, immigration and combating global warming.

McCain and Obama A history of bad blood

The only time Barack Obama and John McCain tried to work together – on an ethics and lobbying bill – it all ended in tears. In a letter dripping with sarcasm, the Republican wrote to Mr Obama: "I would like to apologise to you for assuming your private assurances to me regarding your desire to co-operate in our efforts to negotiate bipartisan lobbying reform legislation were sincere."

After an initial pledge to work side-by- side, Mr Obama, then a freshman Senator, had written to let Mr McCain know that he and fellow Democrats felt it would be more effective to move the bill through Congress rather than set up the task force Mr McCain preferred. The Republican interpreted it as a sly bid for partisan advantage.

"I'm embarrassed to admit that, after all these years in politics, I failed to interpret your previous assurances as typical rhetorical gloss routinely used in politics to make self-interested partisan posturing appear more noble," Mr McCain wrote. "Sorry for the confusion, but please be assured I won't make the same mistake again."

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little