Updated: 11/3/10 10:19 p.m.
CHICAGO (WBBM/CBS) – It was just a beer among friends, if you can believe the spin.
Sen.-elect Mark Kirk and the Democrat he defeated, Alexi Giannoulias, sat down for 20 minutes of lively talk Wednesday at the original Billy Goat Tavern & Grille, on Lower Michigan Avenue.
The two were sharp in their criticisms during their battle for U.S. Senate. But to hear them say it, there was nothing that apparently couldn’t be forgiven. Billy Goat owner Sam Sianis provided each with a beer and a cheeseburger. Both stuck to the beers.
Sam was easily better dressed than either politician, in a dark suit and tie instead of his workaday white uniform. Kirk wore a sports jacket and khakis; Giannoulias showed up in a sweatshirt, jeans and a Chicago Blackhawks cap.
They appeared at ease. They exchanged e-mail addresses and cell phone numbers. When their meeting ended, Giannoulias stood and told the bar, “Let’s have a hand for Senator Kirk.”
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There was a brief round of applause in the bar, jammed with media, although the Billy Goat has a decades-old reputation as a newspaperman’s bar and not all may have been working.
Kirk said he has found Giannoulias “likable” ever since Giannoulias called him to express condolences during the campaign when Kirk’s stepfather died.
Giannoulias, for his part, said that Kirk had won “fair and square” Tuesday.
Giannoulias said he hoped to remind Kirk that times are tough for many Illinoisans.
“People are getting killed out there with this recession,” Giannoulias said. “We’ve got to put down partisan silly politics and we should all work together. We should all focus on helping people.”
He presented his former rival with a book, “The Wisdom of Abraham Lincoln.”
Kirk said he hoped that they had begun “a new Chicago tradition.”
“There’s a time for the campaign to be over and a time for governing, which is now,” Kirk said.
Kirk said democracy can be, and always has been, a “pretty tough business.” He cited recent mock campaign ads that quoted invective uttered during the 1800 presidential battle between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.
Yet, he said, “I especially don’t want the young people of Illinois to think that everything in American politics is about yelling at each other, because what I’ve seen as a congressman is that in the end, you have to govern.”
Kirk said it is a job that must be done calmly and said he sees no place for personal animosities or hate in the halls of Congress.
“I recall that 46 percent of Illinois citizens voted for Alexi, and my job is to represent them, too,” he said.
Witnesses to the unique moment weighed in..
“I think it’s a good icebreaker,” one woman said.
“Hopefully it makes my mom proud,” said Giannoulias.
When asked about how negative and tough the campaign was, Kirk said, “It was. But it was a good ending.”