Economy Dominates Obama’s First News Conference After Election
Mr. Obama also said that Congress must pass an economic
stimulus measure either before or just after his inauguration in January. He
also said unemployment benefits need to be extended.
In his first news conference since winning the presidency
Tuesday, Mr. Obama said he will defer to President Bush and his economic team
on major decisions until he takes power.
“The United States has only one government and one
president at a time,” he said.
The president-elect and Vice President-elect Joe Biden met
privately with 17 economic experts to discuss ways to stabilize the troubled economy.
The advisers, Biden and newly-named chief of staff Rahm Emanuel flanked Mr.
Obama as he spoke for 20 minutes from a podium that read “the Office of
the President Elect” at a hotel in his home town of Chicago.
The Illinois senator also said he wasn’t ready to announce
any selections for his Cabinet, adding, “When we have an announcement
about Cabinet appointments, we will make them.” He also said he
understands that “people want to know who’s going to make up our
Investors are awaiting the president-elect’s choice of
Treasury secretary who will spearhead economic recovery, but Mr. Obama made
clear he would not be rushed into making hasty appointments.
“I want to move with all deliberate haste, but I want
to emphasize deliberate as well as haste,” he said.
He also noted the latest Labor Department figures showing
that U.S. unemployment hit a 14-year-high in October after employers slashed
jobs by an unexpectedly steep 240,000.
Mr. Obama said he appreciated the cooperation President Bush
has offered in smoothing his transition to the White House and the Republican’s
“commitment that his economic policy team keep us informed.” He
expressed gratitude to the president for inviting him and his wife, Michelle,
to the White House on Monday.
In the spirit of bipartisanship, Mr. Obama said he expected
to have a substantive conversation with President Bush at that time and that
“I am not going to anticipate problems.”
He said his focus would be on producing jobs and mentioned
actions to help the auto industry and small business and aid for state and
local governments so they aren’t forced to lay off workers or raise taxes.
As he prepares to join an exclusive club of presidents, Mr. Obama
said: “I’ve spoken to all of them that are living” and has reread
some of President Lincoln’s writings.
With U.S. automakers also reporting billions in losses
Friday, the president-elect urged the Bush administration to accelerate a $25
billion retooling assistance plan already passed by Congress. The automakers
are lobbying for up to $50 billion to prevent a collapse that could cost over
two million jobs.
In his first foreign policy pronouncement as
president-elect, Mr. Obama called for an international effort to prevent Iran
from developing a nuclear weapon, a day after Iran’s president urged him to
implement a “fairer” U.S. policy in the Middle East.
Mr. Obama, who has said he does not rule out direct talks
with Iran’s leaders, also called on Tehran to end what he called the country’s
support for terrorist organizations.
The president-elect said he would be reviewing a letter from
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, congratulating him on his election, and
would “respond appropriately.” But he said the U.S. approach to Iran
could not be done in a “knee-jerk” fashion. “I think we’ve got
to think it through,” he said.
In the news conference, Mr. Obama also fielded questions
about another pressing matter: his family’s search for a pet dog.
After each question, Mr. Obama replied with caution — and a
dash of self-deprecating humor about his heritage in regards to the yet-to-be-selected
puppy. His family is looking for a dog that will not trigger daughter Malia’s
allergies. Ideally, he said it would come from an animal rescue shelter, but
“obviously, a lot of shelter dogs are mutts like me.”
But the economic crisis dominated the news conference, with
Mr. Obama stating, “I do not underestimate the enormity of the task that