Obama vows to confront economic crisis head-on (Overall Lead)

November 8th, 2008 - 12:29 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaWashington, Nov 8 (IANS) US President-elect Barack Obama has vowed to confront one of the greatest economic challenges facing the country head-on once he takes office in January.Until then, he would work with President George W. Bush in bipartisan spirit during transition, Obama said Friday at his first press conference since winning the election, with an array of economic advisers lined up behind him.

“The United States has only one government and one president at a time,” he pointed out. And until Jan 20 of next year, that government is the current administration headed by Bush.

“Immediately after I become president, I’m going to confront this economic crisis head on by taking all the necessary steps to ease the credit crisis, help hardworking families, and restore growth and prosperity,” Obama said.

As he approached the lectern for his first nationally televised appearance in the ballroom of the Hilton Chicago with Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden, Obama smiled as he looked out at the assembled brain trust and paused for a moment before saying, “Oh wow”.

The galaxy of advisors includes former Treasury secretaries Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers, former Labour secretary Robert Reich, former chair of the National Economy Council Laura Tyson, former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker and billionaire investor Warren Buffett.

The session held only steps from Grant Park, where Obama delivered his victory speech on election night, carried the trappings of an official event, with eight American flags lined against blue drapes, and a freshly made seal on the lectern: “The Office of the President Elect.”

But Obama offered no new specifics about what he intended to do to curb the economic crisis during the 20-minute session during which he took nine questions. His answers were purposefully crisp and, at times, laced with humour.

“I do not underestimate the enormity of the task that lies ahead,” Obama said. “We have taken some major action to date and we will take further action.”

Expressing gratitude to Bush for his invitation to White House and the promise the outgoing leader has made to keep him fully informed about the state of the nation, Obama said he would work together with Bush in bipartisan spirit to help the country move forward.

Obama said when he goes to meet with the president Monday, “I’m sure that, in addition to taking a tour of the White House, there’s going to be a substantive conversation between myself and the president”.

Obama said that passing a stimulus package will be his first move if the lame-duck Congress fails to do so before he takes office Jan 20.

“It’s not going to be easy for us to dig ourselves out of the hole that we’re in,” he said. “But America is a strong and resilient country, and I know that we will succeed if we put aside politics and partisanship.”

Obama said he would move with “deliberate haste” to fill his Cabinet posts.

“And I want to move with all deliberate haste, but I want to emphasise ‘deliberate’ as well as ‘haste’.

“And I think it’s very important, in all these key positions, both in the economic team and the national security team, to get it right and not to be so rushed that you end up making mistakes.

“I’m confident that we’re going to have an outstanding team, and we will be rolling that out in subsequent weeks,” he said.

Asked how he would respond to the letter of congratulations from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, Obama said he would review the letter and respond in an appropriate fashion. He said any nuclear ambitions by Iran were “unacceptable”.

He said that he was studying the writings of Abraham Lincoln and that he had spoken to previous presidents.

“I’ve spoken to all of them that are living,” Obama said. “I didn’t want to get into a Nancy Reagan thing about, you know, doing any séances.”

A few hours later, Obama telephoned Reagan to “apologise for the careless and offhanded remark”. A spokeswoman for Obama, Stephanie Cutter, said he and Reagan had a warm conversation.

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