Obama calls for swift action on economy

November 7, 2008 8:54:30 PM PST
President-elect Barack Obama held his first news conference Friday afternoon since capturing the election three days ago. He sent a signal to the country that he is ready to govern.Friday's press conference followed a meeting with Obama's economic advisory board about what must be done to heal the nation's economy.

If you were looking for personal reflections on winning this historical election, or how he celebrated with friends and family behind closed doors when the dream became a reality, or walking out into the stage in front of that huge Grant Park crowd on that magic November night, you were probably disappointed Friday, because there was none of that at Barack Obama's first post-election news conference. And, with the exception of a couple light moments toward the end, it was deadly serious and all about the economy.

The tone of President-elect Barack Obama's first post-election news conference, with his newly-appointed chief of staff Rahm Emanuel at his side, reflects the seriousness of the country's deepening economic crisis, which was the topic of a roundtable discussion with more than a dozen economic experts from business, finance and government who joined Obama at the news conference after sharing their views at a roundtable discussion.

"Immediately after I become president, growth and prosperity, I'm going to confront this economic crisis head on by taking all necessary steps to ease the credit crisis and help hard-working families and restore growth and prosperity," Obama said.

The economic rescue plan that Obama is asking Congress to start approving immediately includes a massive public works program to create jobs, new protections for middle class homeowners and taxpayers, help for small businesses and local governments staggered by the recession, and for auto companies that are trying to re-tool, and a review of the $700 billion rescue of Wall Street and the banks.

"I do not underestimate the enormity of the task that lies ahead. We have taken some major action to date, and we will need further action during this transition and subsequent months," said Obama.

"On balance, I thought the president hit it on the nail," said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, (D) Los Angeles.

On Monday, the Obamas, Barack and Michelle, will be meeting the President and Laura Bush at the White House. Obama is expecting a good working relationship with a president he criticized mercilessly during the campaign, and he appreciates the advice he has been getting from past presidents Clinton, Carter and Bush Sr.

"I've spoken to all of them that are living. Obviously President Clinton -- I didn't want to get into a Nancy Reagan thing about, you know, doing any seances," said Obama.

That was one of the light moments Friday. The other was when Barack Obama talked about the puppy his daughters will be getting once they resolve some complicated issues.

The president-elect took only eight questions, and he knew in advance who he was going to call on, two Chicago newspaper reporters were on the list, but not any local television reporters.

"He did a really good job sort of saying, 'Help is on the way, but don't rush me; there is only one president at a time," said Professor Mike Conklin, DePaul University.

In fact, Obama did a news conference without making news, according to Chicago Sun-Times Columnist Laura Washington. She says Obama was deliberate and reasonable because he's still listening and gathering information about all the issues.

"He answered every question that was thrown at him, but he didn't give out any information about the thinking of his plans. He's still deliberating. That's the genius of who he is," Washington said.

Obama, however, did apologize after the Nancy Reagan comment, which didn't go over well with some Republicans.

Obama was asked if he's getting help from any of the former presidents.

"In terms of speaking to former presidents, I have spoken to all of them that are living, obviously, President Clinton. I didn't want to get into a Nancy Reagan thing about doing any séances," Obama said.

Jeremy Rose of Chicago Young Republicans says it started things off on the wrong foot.

"I lost count of how many times he said bipartisan, and then he makes an off-the-cuff comment about the widow of the hero of the conservative movement," Rose said.


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