Springfield State Journal-Register

November 19, 2004

Obama meets with Bush, Fitzgerald

BY Dori Meinert
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON  Winding up his orientation week in Washington, Illinois Sen.- elect Barack Obama on Thursday had breakfast with President Bush and lunch with the man he is replacing, Republican Sen. Peter Fitzgerald.

Obama sat next to the president at the White House breakfast, which included all nine of the newly elected senators, and reiterated his intent to work across party lines.

"I want to see the president succeed because that means that the country succeeds," Obama said he told Bush.

While they'll have some policy differences, Obama said: "I have no interest in spending a lot of time scoring political points or toeing party lines just for the sake of partisan politics. I think that's something that Sen. Fitzgerald deservedly got high marks for from the people of Illinois and I hope to be able to continue in that tradition."

Before going to lunch, Obama and Fitzgerald spoke to reporters in Fitzgerald's office.

Fitzgerald gave Obama a copy of the book, "An Uncertain Tradition: U.S. Senators from 1818-2003," by David Kenney and Robert E. Hartley.

"It says "an uncertain tradition" because some of the senators were better than others," Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald also expressed concern about Senate Republicans' vote to grant Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., more power to make appointments to the most influential committees.

"I would just caution my colleagues who remain in the Senate to be very careful to not transfer too much of their authority to their leader," Fitzgerald said. Recalling his time in the Illinois state legislature in Springfield, he said, "It was really just a four-man legislature by the time I left."

"I do understand the need for party discipline, but I would hope the party doesn't start purging people because they're standing up for what they believe in," Fitzgerald said. "I think that's problematic."