Sparks Fly at Black Caucus Meeting

A Thursday afternoon meeting between Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus grew tense and emotional for a moment -- perhaps illustrating that weeks after Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., suspended her presidential campaign, some nerves remain frayed.

Most of the meeting was cordial, and after a presentation by Obama's pollster, many members of the CBC had nothing but pleasant exchanges with the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

But not everyone.

Sources at the meeting said that Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, a Clinton supporter, expressed the desire that Obama and his campaign would reach out the millions of women still aggrieved about what happened in the campaign and still disappointed that Clinton lost.

Obama agreed that a lot of work needs to be done to heal the Democratic Party, and that he hoped the Clinton supporters in the room would help as much as possible.

According to Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y., Obama then said, "However, I need to make a decision in the next few months as to how I manage that since I'm running against John McCain, which takes a lot of time. If women take a moment to realize that on every issue important to women, John McCain is not in their corner, that would help them get over it."

Rep. Diane Watson, D-Calif., a longtime Clinton supporter, did not like those last three words -- "Get over it." She found them dismissive, off-putting.

"Don't use that terminology," Watson told Obama.

Clarke did not react the same way.

"I, personally, as a Hillary supporter, did not take that as something distasteful," Clarke said. "Nothing like that."

But, Clarke said, Watson "latched on to those three words."

In Clarke's view, Watson thought Obama had just told her to "get over it." She didn't appreciate that, and she told him so and emphasized that it was a heated campaign and lot of healing remains to be done.

"I agree," Obama said. "There's healing on both sides."

Obama then said two sources at the meeting said that he'd held his tongue many times during the campaign against Clinton in the interest of party unity and sensitivity. Clinton and her allies had suggested he was a Muslim, had said he wasn't qualified to be president.

According to the sources, Obama suggested he bit his tongue every time. He could be asking for an apology, he could be asking for the Clintons to reconcile with him, but he chose to rise above it.

Everyone involved agreed that most of the meeting was cordial, and that there is unanimity on the need to work hard to elect Obama.

But clearly tensions remain.

Clinton and Obama are scheduled to put on a good public show for the cameras next week, regardless of any beneath-the-surface Sturm and Drang. The former competitors will campaign together and appear at a fundraiser in Washington at the end of next week.

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