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Published: Wednesday, 6/18/2008

No secret meetings

WITH the Democratic nomination about in his hands, Sen. Barack Obama must remember this as he campaigns for president: No more secret meetings.

When the presumptive nominee and his former rival, Sen. Hillary Clinton, met when it was apparent that he had more delegates than she, the pair got by the watchful eye of the media for a private meeting at the Washington home of fellow Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California. Senator Clinton had called her earlier that day to ask to meet with Senator Obama at her home.

It was not a smart move for Mr. Obama, and honestly, Mrs. Clinton knows better too. For all his talk of change, this was not a good start. In an open society where free- press rights are guaranteed by the Constitution, it set a poor precedent.

Unfortunately, details of their hour-or-so long meeting remain scarce. Sure, they arrived at the Feinstein home about 9 in the evening and sat in comfortable chairs across from one another in the living room, sipping water in their first face-to-face meeting since the primaries. Of course we know now that Senator Clinton has endorsed Senator Obama's candidacy. But the details of their discussion still are private.

Afterward, Ms. Feinstein said they seemed quite chummy. They were both laughing as she bade them good night.

And that was it. That was it? It was. Senator Obama had graciously allowed Senator Clinton time to come to grips with the primary campaign results. He said he would happily meet her at any time and at any place. What was not clear, though, is that it would be a secret rendezvous. Their campaigns went to great lengths to ensure that the media wouldn't know in advance.

To be sure, this intensifies media scrutiny. Besides, such a meeting smacks of the secrecy that clouds the Bush Administration. If Senator Obama intends to remain true to his message of change, there won't be any more attempts to meet secretly with anyone again.

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