WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama and Republican Senator John McCain, bitter rivals from the 2008 election campaign whose feud festered for two years, completed a thaw on Wednesday when they sat down for Oval Office talks.
Obama’s defeat of McCain in the 2008 presidential election left sour feelings on both sides that lingered through Obama’s first two years in office.
Events surrounding the shooting a month ago of Democratic lawmaker Gabrielle Giffords of McCain’s home state of Arizona helped improve ties between the two leaders.
Obama’s appeal at a memorial service in Tucson for a renewed era of civility between politicians in Washington drew praise from McCain in a Washington Post opinion article.
“I disagree with many of the president’s policies, but I believe he is a patriot sincerely intent on using his time in office to advance our country’s cause,” McCain wrote in the article.
Obama invited McCain to the Oval Office as part of an effort to engage Republicans after they routed Democrats in last November’s congressional elections.
A White House official said the half-hour meeting arose after they spoke by phone to discuss McCain’s Post article.
“Senator McCain had indicated that he wanted to discuss a number of important issues with the president, and the president was eager to see him,” the official said.
Having a better relationship with Obama allows McCain to have the president’s ear on his key priorities, while Obama can gain a clearer picture of what is happening on the Republican side by talking to McCain.
While there was no doubt they have differences on many policy issues, Obama and McCain discussed areas where common ground between Democrats and Republicans might be found.
McCain spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan said they discussed the situation in the Egypt and the Middle East, immigration reform and border security, free trade and ways to end pet spending projects called “earmarks” that are tucked into the U.S. budget by lawmakers.
“Senator McCain looks forward to working with the president to address issues of mutual concern for the welfare of our country in these challenging times,” she said.
Editing by Eric Beech