Obama and McCain: The meeting
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by Ron Cruger
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The presidential campaign was wearing on the American people. There had been millions of words spoken and printed. Both candidates had drifted away from and then returned to their original positions. In some cases original beliefs were changed to better suit voter preferences as found in the ever-conducted voter surveys.
After month after month of endless barnstorming both candidates were tired and weary of the never- ending interviews, the speeches, endless hand shaking and constant criticism. Both Barack Obama and John McCain dreamed of being alone with their family, sitting on a couch sipping a beer, watching a good movie or a ball game. Both would enjoy being mindless for a day or two. They would both like to utter a sentence that wasn’t micro-analyzed and dissected.
As the campaign chugged into its final half year the press that followed both of them could see the weariness set in both men.
On this particular day both John McCain and Barack Obama were scheduled to appear at a benefit luncheon for a children’s hospital in Seattle, Washington. Each was to speak for twenty minutes to the crowd of eight hundred people at the five hundred dollar a plate affair, with all proceeds going to the children’s hospital. This was a rare occasion where the price of admission did not go to the candidates’ coffers, but to a worthy charity.
Both men and their entourages arrived in Seattle the previous night. The early evening hours were spent doing interviews on the local television stations with national and international feeds. The candidates and their people straggled to their hotel rooms by eleven o’clock, some grabbing a bite to eat, others heading straight to bed.
The day of the event went smoothly. Each candidate made his speech and was roundly and enthusiastically applauded. Both Obama and McCain stayed at the site of the luncheon for thirty minutes after it ended, shaking hands, being personable, then each was driven to their hotel. By a rare lack of organizational communication both candidates found themselves staying at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel on University Street in Seattle. Both had rooms on the seventh floor of the hotel.
Both presidential candidates had one last obligation for the evening. They were to appear in the hotel lobby presenting a check to the president of the children’s hospital. Television cameras recorded the event. Obama and McCain each held a corner of the ever present enlarged cardboard check as it was presented to the president of the hospital.
Staff members gently touched each candidate’s elbow and guided them to the waiting elevator. Another rare occurrence found both of the men entering the same elevator at the same time.
Obama extended his hand to McCain and said, “It’s been a long day, John.” McCain, looked up at the taller man and said, “Sure has. It’s been a long year!”
Both stared at the lights indicating the passage of the elevator past the floors of the hotel.
Both were surprised when the elevator doors opened at the seventh floor and first Obama and then McCain exited. Neither knew that the other’s room was on the same floor.
Secret Service men as well as the normal retinue of each man walked in front of and behind each candidate. Both groups walked in the same direction down the hall.
Walking ahead, McCain slowed his walk and then turned back towards Obama and his group. He walked through the company of men, strode up to Obama and said, “Barack, what say you and I sit down and have a beer together, without all these guys?”
Obama, slightly startled, replied, “John, let’s do it. I’d like that.”
The pair walked together down the hallway to McCain’s room, where he unlocked the door, motioned to the younger man to enter ahead of him and then held up his hand towards the Secret Service men and aides. “Men, if you’ll excuse us, Mr. Obama and I would like to spend some time with each other in private. I’ll let you know when we’re done.”
Offering no resistance, the Secret Service men and the handfuls of aides slowly retreated from the unique sight they had just encountered.
Inside the room, McCain walked to the mini-bar and removed two Heinekens and offered one to Obama, asking, “This okay for you?” Obama replied, “Perfect, thanks, John.”
The two sat down on the cushioned couch, each on one end. Each stretched out, each taking a sip of their cold brew.
Barack Obama, sipped, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and said, “John, I’ve been wanting to tell you that I admire you and the way you’re conducting the campaign.”
McCain reached down and removed one shoe, the other, then said, “Barack, how are your two children and your wife?” “Great, just great, John, and yours? You have seven kids, right?”
“Yes, and they’re all doing fine, thanks for asking.”
“John, while it’s just you and me, I have to ask you something. Do you believe that we’re winning the war in Iraq and do you think that Al-Qaeda and all the other Islamic militants will permit Iraq to form a government that will thrive in Democracy?”
“Barack, we’ve got a real ‘pickle” on our hands in Iraq. Between you and me, I think we could kick Al-Qaeda ass and those fundamentalists will keep causing trouble in Iraq. I don’t agree with what you say about pulling all our troops out. The minute we leave, those fundamentalists will attack with thousands of foot soldiers and Iraq will turn into a killing field.”
“But, John, if you’re right, whenever we leave Iraq, today, next week, next year, whenever - Al-Qaeda and dozens of other Islamic fundamentalist groups will move in and take over Iraq. Is that what you see happening?”
“Unfortunately, yes. I know of no way for our troops to leave without Iraq turning into a mess, just like it was last year. I wish I had an answer, but I don’t.”
“I don’t either, John. I just think that the situation is so volatile that it could go on as you stated, for another hundred years and all the time Americans are paying for it in lives and dollars.”
“Barack, I hate to see one American youngster die over there. I hate to see the billions of dollars being spent in a land far away from ours. Here’s the problem. We’re there and we have to show the world that we can finish a fight. I don’t like it, because I’m not sure we can win it, but we have to do it.”
“I hate it too, John, and here’s where we differ. We got into a fight we can’t win. We’ve won our part of the war. Let’s leave it to the Iraqis to win the second part of it. They’re going to have to win it sometime, aren’t they? Let’s intelligently withdraw as the Iraqis get stronger. We’ve shown the world that we are willing to spill our blood and willing to spend the money to foster democracy. The Iraqis have to show the world they are willing to do the same as us – their blood, their money.”
“Maybe you’re right, Barack. I wish there was a simple answer.”
Both men emptied their beers. Loosened their ties.
“John, whichever one of us becomes president we’re going to be faced with problems more than just Iraq. We’ve got a hellish situation in Afghanistan, we’ve got a budding recession on our hands in our homeland, we have terrorists nipping at our heels all around the world’ We have a countries around the world fighting Islamic fundamentalists who want to take over their lands. We have millions of Americans living and dying without health care.”
John McCain looked straight into Barack Obama’s eyes and said, “Barack, whoever wins this thing I hope the other will help the winner make the changes necessary to keep America free and growing.”
Barack Obama reached out for McCain’s hand and shook it.
“John, there’s too much at stake here for us to continue dividing our country – Democrat and Republican, blue states, red states, conservative, liberal. Maybe the time has come for a new attitude in America. Maybe it’s time we started working together to get things done.”
John McCain placed his right hand on Obama’s shoulder and said, “I think it is.”
Both men slept well that evening.
The next day the intense political campaign for the presidency resumed.