Obama and Clinton in Talks to Unify Party
With the help of one of Washington’s best-connected lawyers, Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton are negotiating a thicket of complicated issues, like how to repay Mrs. Clinton’s campaign debt and her role at the Democratic convention. The talks come as they try to leave behind their intense rivalry and work out a plan to cooperate this fall. At Mrs. Clinton’s request, the lawyer, Robert B. Barnett, who has brokered multimillion-dollar book deals for clients including Mr. Obama, Mrs. Clinton and Bill Clinton, is working to hash out questions large and small as the two camps work toward a political merger. Perhaps the thorniest question — what to do about Bill Clinton, who friends say continues to refight the bitter primary fight — has yet to be raised by either side, advisers said. On some levels, the melding of the two operations is moving ahead relatively smoothly. Mrs. Clinton will introduce some of her top donors to Mr. Obama on Thursday night in Washington, and on Friday the two of them will appear together at a rally in Unity, N.H. Mr. Obama is in talks to hire one of Mrs. Clinton’s most prominent advisers — Neera Tanden, her policy director — and has hired and dispatched a few of Mrs. Clinton’s field operatives to work in Missouri and Ohio. But nearly three weeks after Mrs. Clinton suspended her campaign and endorsed Mr. Obama, some loyalists, especially on the Clinton side, are having trouble moving on. Some Clinton supporters are grousing that Mr. Obama has yet to make the symbolic gesture of writing a check for $2,300, the maximum allowable campaign donation, to help retire her debt of over $12 million.