Obama, Hillary Clinton hold “unity talks” amid VP push (lead)

June 6th, 2008 - 8:41 pm ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, June 6 (IANS) Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama and his vanquished rival Hillary Clinton held “unity talks” hours after she disavowed a campaign by supporters to make her his vice presidential running mate. “Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama met tonight and had a productive discussion about the important work that needs to be done to succeed in November,” a joint statement from the two sides said after their first meeting since he clinched the nomination.

The meeting originally was believed to be at Clinton’s D.C. home, but sources cited by CNN later said the two met elsewhere in Washington. The two met to discuss plans for “bringing the campaigns together in unity for the party,” CNN said.

Reporters on Obama’s press plane came to know of the surprise meeting when they learned that the presumed Democratic nominee for president was not aboard when it departed Virginia, where he had been campaigning. Aides said staff members “scheduled him some meetings” in Washington.

A group that is urging Obama to select Clinton as his running mate praised the meeting. “We are thrilled to hear that Senators Obama and Clinton are meeting already,” said a statement from VoteBoth. “We hope that Thursday night’s conversation is a step toward an Obama-Clinton ticket that will unify the party.”

Clinton, who has still not conceded the race, plans to announce her “strong support” to Obama at a Washington event Saturday, but may still stop short of endorsing his candidature.

The former first lady plans to suspend her campaign within days, her campaign said. By suspending instead of dropping out altogether, Clinton would technically remain a candidate, entitled to keep state wide pledged delegates and district-level delegates.

Earlier, in a statement issued by Clinton’s campaign, she said the supporters were acting on their own, and that the choice of a running mate was “Senator Obama’s, and his alone.”

The statement came after two days in which a number of her key supporters had pushed the idea of an Obama-Clinton ticket, saying it would salve wounds in the Democratic Party and assure a Democratic victory in the November presidential election.

Clinton had made no obvious effort to discourage the effort, telling New York lawmakers in a private conference call earlier this week that she was open to serving as Obama’s running-mate.

Obama, formally opening his general election campaign in Bristol, Virginia Thursday, complimented Clinton as he began to exert control over the Democratic Party and to focus its efforts on the race against the presumptive Republican nominee Senator John McCain.

“I know I’m a better candidate because I ran against her,” Obama said, speaking over the applause of several hundred supporters. “She’s tough. She is just an outstanding candidate, and a great public servant.”

Clinton did not rule out accepting the position if it is offered, even as she said she had not authorised the campaign on her behalf.

“While Senator Clinton has made clear throughout this process that she will do whatever she can to elect a Democrat to the White House, she is not seeking the vice presidency, and no one speaks for her but her,” Howard Wolfson, one of the Clinton campaign’s chief strategists, said in a statement provided to the New York Times.

“The choice here is Senator Obama’s, and his alone.”

Obama said Thursday he’s in no rush to pick a vice presidential candidate, telling CNN “everybody needs to settle down” and let the vetting process run its course.

It’s not in his best interest, or in the interest of his former rival Hillary Clinton, to make a hasty decision about who will serve as his running mate, he said.

“Everybody needs to settle down, we just completed this arduous process,” Obama told CNN’s Candy Crowley. “It’s only been two days, and I think its not just in my interest and Senator Clinton’s interest, but in the Democratic Party’s interest and the country’s interest, to make sure I make this decision well.”

Calling his choice of running mate “the most important decision that I will make before I am president,” the senator from Illinois said he would “be deliberate and systematic about it because this will be my final counsellor when I am making decisions in the White House, and I want to make sure I get it right.”

Many of Clinton’s supporters have publicly called on Obama to put Clinton on the ticket to help unify the party since he captured the nomination Tuesday night, but Obama said he would not respond to pressure from others on who he should choose.

“We have a committee that’s made up of wonderful people. They are going to go through the procedure, and vet, and get recommendations. I will meet with a range of a people, and I will ultimately make a decision.

“I am a big believer in making decision well, not making them fast and not responding to pressure,” he also said.

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