Obama Promises Quick Action On Economy

By: CBS/AP
By: CBS/AP

(CBS/AP) President-elect Obama said Friday that the country is facing the greatest economic challenge of our lifetime and "we're going to have to act swiftly to resolve it."

"Tens of millions of families are struggling to figure out how to pay the bills and stay in their homes," Obama said. "Their stories are an urgent reminder that we are facing the greatest economic challenge of our lifetime, and we must act swiftly to resolve them."

However in his first news conference since winning the presidency Tuesday, Obama deferred to President Bush and his economic team, noting that the country has only one government and one president at a time.

But, he said, "immediately after I become president I will confront this economic crisis head-on by taking all necessary steps to ease the credit crisis, help hardworking families, and restore growth and prosperity."

"I'm confident a new president can have an enormous impact," he added.

Surrounded by a large group of economic advisers, he said he has asked his transition team, specifically, to work on some ideas to help the staggering auto industry.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel, Obama's newly chosen White House chief of staff, was among those who stood at his side, along with former Feeral Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker and Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Earlier, Obama met with his economic advisers to discuss the first steps toward healing a damaged economy as he forms a new administration in the face of a worsening crisis.

"No question, we've got a critical economic situation," said Lawrence Summers on CBS News' The Early Show. Summers was a Treasury secretary under President Clinton and is one of the 17 members of Obama's transition economic advisory board who were to meet with him on Friday.

"I would hope that next year we will start to see a turn, but again, these problems were not made quickly, Summers added. "They're not going to be fixed overnight but what we need is to move aggressively but, at the same time, be steadfast.

On NBC's "Today," Summers also emphasized Obama's platform during the campaign. "We're not starting from nowhere," he said. "Throughout his campaign the president-elect has been talking about what we need to do. We need to put the middle class at the center of the policy approach in a way that it hasn't been these last years."

Leaders of business, government and academia met with Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden also include former Cabinet officials and executives from Xerox Corp., Time Warner Inc., Google Inc. and the Hyatt hotel company. Investor Warren Buffett was participating by telephone.

It was Obama's first public appearance since Tuesday's election, where exit polls showed that the economy was far and away the top issue for voters. More evidence of a recession came Friday when the government reported that the unemployment rate had jumped from 6.1 percent in September to 6.5 percent in October.

Obama has been meeting privately with his transition team, receiving congratulatory phone calls from U.S. allies and intelligence briefings, and making decisions about who will help run his government.

His first choice, for White House chief of staff, was Rahm Emanuel, a fiery partisan unafraid of breaking glass and hurting feelings. The choice of Emanuel is a significant departure from the soft-spoken, low-key aides that "No-Drama Obama" surrounded himself with during the campaign. And transition chief John Podesta, like Emanuel, is a former top aide to President Clinton and a tough partisan infighter, though less bombastic than the new chief of staff.

The selections are telling for Obama, who campaigned as a nontraditional, almost "post-partisan" newcomer. People close to him say the selections show he is aware of his strengths and weaknesses, and knows what he needs to be successful as he shifts from campaigning to governing.

Obama and his wife, Michelle, planned to visit the White House on Monday at President Bush's invitation.

Obama planned to stay home through the weekend, with a blackout on news announcements so he and his staff can rest after the grueling campaign and the rush of Tuesday night's victory. He is planning a family getaway to Hawaii in December before they move to the White House, and to honor his grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, who died Sunday at her home there.

Obama, who bested Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, has made it clear he will rely heavily on veterans of her husband's eight-year administration, the only Democratic presidency in the past 28 years.

Podesta was President Clinton's chief of staff, and several other former Clinton aides are on Obama's short lists for key jobs, Democratic officials say. Some helped write a large briefing book on how to govern, assembled under Podesta's supervision.

Obama also is certain to bring to the White House a cadre of longtime aides like senior adviser David Axelrod and press secretary Robert Gibbs. Both have worked closely with Obama since he ran for the Senate in 2004.

©MMVIII, CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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