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Obama quietly huddles with Buffett

From Ed Henry and Dan Lothian, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Visits by other business leaders may be in the offing, official tells CNN
  • Obama, finance billionaire Warren Buffett take unlisted meeting
  • The two discuss the economic crisis, energy reform
  • President presents Buffett with a tie to replace frayed one

Washington (CNN) -- As the recession continues to play a monumental role in the midterm election battle, CNN has learned that President Barack Obama quietly met with billionaire Warren Buffett for an hourlong meeting at the White House Wednesday, according to senior officials familiar with the chat.

The 11:15 a.m. meeting was not listed on Obama's public schedule, the officials said, but the White House released a photograph of the encounter after it had ended.

In addition to the economic crisis, the two men discussed energy reform and other issues, according to the officials.

As the president continues to push for more private-sector jobs, one senior administration official said additional big guns could be expected to pay visits to the White House.

"This effort will continue," the official said.

Beyond the optics of a Buffett visit, business giants can offer something Obama's highly credentialed economics team can't, the official said -- "Outside perspective from people who are working in business every single day."

Buffett formally endorsed Obama in the 2008 presidential campaign, giving him critical credibility in the heated battle with Republican presidential candidate John McCain over which man would better handle the financial crisis.

But the so-called "Sage of Capitalism" has sometimes been critical of Obama's handling of the economy as president. In March 2009, Buffett suggested that the new commander-in-chief had too much on his plate.

"And I think we've had, and it's the nature of the political process somewhat, but we've had muddled messages and the American public does not know," Buffett said on CNBC. "They feel they don't know what's going on, and their reaction then is to absolutely pull back."

At the time, White House aides said Buffett was focusing his criticism more on the process in Washington than on Obama himself.

At the meeting's end, Obama presented Buffett, one of the world's richest men, with a tie. A senior White House said the gift was "not pre-planned" but a gesture from the president "at the end of the meeting because his [Buffett's] tie was frayed."

The aide said Buffett was offered a choice between a red and blue tie and chose the red.

 
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