THE EARLY WORD: TALKING NATIONAL SECURITY

After a day when the McCain and Obama campaigns exchanged sharp barbs over the issues of terrorism, war and U.S. policy governing detainees at ...

After a day when the McCain and Obama campaigns exchanged sharp barbs over the issues of terrorism, war and U.S. policy governing detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Barack Obama plans to spend part of Wednesday discussing national security with a working group of former senior government officials.

The group includes two former secretaries of state (Madeline Albright and Warren Christopher), a former national security adviser (Tony Lake) and a former secretary of defense (William Perry), among others. Nedra Pickler of the Associated Press has more on the significance of the meeting:

``Obama plans to consult the working group members regularly between now and the Nov. 4 election, but those sitting with him in the two meetings would be likely picks to serve in high posts if he is elected. They could be secretaries of defense or state, national security advisers or maybe even a running mate.

“Former Pentagon leaders are among Obama’s possible vice presidential picks, those who have been consulted on the search have said. The first-term Illinois senator may look for a military or national security expert to help counter Republican candidate John McCain, a Vietnam War veteran and former prisoner of war.”

Obama will also meet in Washington today with a group of nearly 40 retired admirals and generals, and with the leadership of the AFL-CIO and other labor unions.

Jeff Zeleny of The New York Times reports that Obama and his former Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, will appear together at a fund-raiser in Washington later this month. It would be the first time the two have met publicly since the primaries ended:

“The event, scheduled for June 26 at the Mayflower Hotel, is intended to encourage Clinton’s contributors to become part of Obama’s financial team. An invitation was sent on Tuesday to some of her biggest donors, asking them to unify behind Obama, the party’s presumptive nominee.”

Obama and Clinton met privately in Washington on June 5, two days before Clinton suspended her campaign and endorsed Obama. Aides said the two had not spoken or met since, but their respective campaign strategists are sharing information and cooperating as Obama expands his organization for the general election.

The Hill newspaper cites Democratic sources who say that Clinton is taking the month off from Congress “to recuperate after her marathon run for the presidency,” and is not expected to return to the Senate until after the July 4 recess. John McCain spoke out on energy and environmental issues in Houston on Tuesday. Elisabeth Bumiller and Jeff Zeleny write in The New York Times that “McCain’s central message, derided by Barack Obama in a day of political attacks and counterattacks by the two campaigns, was that he was not President Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney, and that he would not pursue the environmental policies of his two fellow Republicans in the unpopular administration.”

Bush, though, plans to echo a call that McCain made in his speech yesterday, and ask Congress to end a federal moratorium on offshore oil exploration, Sheryl Gay Stolberg of The Times reports.

And Michael Powell and Jodi Kantor consider the role of Michelle Obama in her husband’s campaign in a profile in The Times today. After a rough start, which included several “rhetorical stumbles” and “caricatures of Obama as the Angry Black Woman,” she and the campaign are currently trying to recast her image as she stays in the spotlight, Powell and Kantor report:

‘`Rather than pulling Michelle Obama behind a curtain, her husband’s campaign is pushing her farther out on stage. She remains a charismatic presence, and when she gives her husband a fist dap or talks of him as a father, she is telling voters, this is a regular guy.

“This South Side woman anchors him in her reality.”

In coming weeks, Obama will visit the spouses of military personnel and talk of the patriotic duty to provide these families with care and services. And the campaign has hired Stephanie Cutter, a veteran strategist, as her chief of staff, who will seek to deflect attacks.

Campaign Trail Roundup:

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John McCain holds a briefing on energy and economic policy in Springfield, Mo., followed by a fund-raiser in Chicago.

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Barack Obama is in Washington for private meetings with national security

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June 18, 9:08 a.m. ET

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