November 7th, 2008
02:54 PM ET
14 years ago

TRANSITION TO POWER: Obama's first presser as President-elect

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Watch the event on"](CNN) - Barack Obama held his first press conference as president-elect Friday, during which he said the economy would be his No. 1 issue.

"The United States has only one government and one President, and until January 20th of next year, that government is the current Administration. I have spoken to President Bush, and I appreciate his commitment to ensuring that his economic policy team keeps us fully informed as developments unfold," 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."

Watch the event on

Read his full remarks and the question and answer sessions after the jump

Remarks of President-elect Barack Obama

Press Avail on the Economy

Thursday, November 7th, 2008

Chicago, Illinois

This morning, we woke to more sobering news about the state of our economy. The 240,000 jobs lost in October marks the 10th consecutive month that our economy has shed jobs. In total, we’ve lost nearly 1.2 million jobs this year, and more than 10 million Americans are now unemployed. Tens of millions of families are struggling to figure out how to pay the bills and stay in their homes. 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.

The United States has only one government and one President, and until January 20th of next year, that government is the current Administration. I have spoken to President Bush, and I appreciate his commitment to ensuring that his economic policy team keeps us fully informed as developments unfold.

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.

This morning, I met with members of my Transition Economic Advisory Board, who will help guide the work of my transition team in developing a strong set of policies to respond to this crisis. We discussed several of the most immediate challenges facing our economy and key priorities on which to focus on in the days and weeks ahead:

First, we need a rescue plan for the middle class that invests in immediate efforts to create jobs and provides relief to families that are watching their paychecks shrink and their life savings disappear. A particularly urgent priority is a further extension of unemployment insurance benefits for workers who cannot find work in the increasingly weak economy. A fiscal stimulus plan that will jump-start economic growth is long overdue – and we should get it done.

Second, we must address the spreading impact of the financial crisis on other sectors of our economy: small businesses that are struggling to meet their payrolls and finance their holiday inventories; and state and municipal governments facing devastating budget cuts and tax increases. We must also remember that the financial crisis is increasingly global and requires a global response.

The news coming out of the auto industry this week reminds us of the hardship it faces – hardship that goes far beyond individual auto companies to the countless suppliers, small businesses and communities throughout our nation who depend on a vibrant American auto industry. The auto industry is the backbone of American manufacturing and a critical part of our attempt to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. I would like to see the Administration do everything they can to accelerate the retooling assistance that Congress has already enacted. In addition, I have made it a high priority for my transition team to work on additional policy options to help the auto industry adjust, weather the financial crisis, and succeed in producing fuel-efficient cars here in the United States. I have asked my team to explore what we can do under current law and whether additional legislation will be needed for this purpose.

Third, we will review the implementation of this Administration’s financial program to ensure that our government’s efforts are achieving their central goal of stabilizing financial markets while protecting taxpayers, helping homeowners and not unduly rewarding the management of financial firms that are receiving government assistance. It is critical that the Treasury work closely with the FDIC, HUD and other government agencies to use the substantial authority they already have to help families avoid foreclosure and stay in their homes.

Finally, as we monitor and address these immediate economic challenges, we will be moving forward in laying out a set of policies that will grow our middle-class and strengthen our economy in the long-term. We cannot afford to wait on moving forward on the key priorities that I identified during the campaign, including clean energy, health care, education and tax relief for middle class families.

My transition team will be working on each of these priorities in the weeks ahead, and I intend to reconvene this Advisory Board to discuss the best ideas for responding to these immediate problems.

Let me close by saying that I do not underestimate the enormity of the task that lies ahead. We have taken some major actions to date, and we will need further actions during this transition and subsequent months. Some of those choices will be difficult, but America is a strong and resilient country. I know that we will succeed if we put aside partisanship and work together as one nation. And that is what I intend to do.



QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President-elect. I wonder what you

think any president can accomplish during their first 100 days in

office to turn the economy around? How far can you go? And what will

be your priorities on day one?

OBAMA: Well, I think that a new president can do an enormous

amount to restore confidence, to move an agenda forward that speaks to

the needs of the economy and the needs of middle-class families all

across the country.

I've outlined during the course of the campaign some critical

issues that I intend to work on.

We have a current financial crisis that is spilling out into rest

of the economy, and we have taken some action so far. More action is

undoubtedly going to be needed. My transition team is going to be

monitoring very closely what happens over the course of the next

several months.

The one thing I can say with certainty is that we are going to

need to see a stimulus package passed either before or after


OBAMA: We are going to have to focus on jobs, because the

hemorrhaging of jobs has an impact, obviously, on consumer confidence

and the ability of people to - to buy goods and services and can have

enormous spillover effects.

And I think it's going to be very important for us to provide the

kinds of assistance to state and local governments to make sure that

they don't compound some of the problems that are already out there by

having to initiate major layoffs or initiate tax increases.

So there are some things that we know we're going to have to do,

but I'm confident that a new president can have an enormous impact.

That's why I ran for president.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) from House Democrats that the stimulus

package may be in trouble, that it's going to be a hard time getting

out of a lame-duck session. Are you still confident that you would be

able to get something done before you actually take office?

OBAMA: I want to see a stimulus package sooner rather than

later. If it does not get done in the lame-duck session, it will be

the first thing I get done as president of the United States.

QUESTION: Senator, for the first time since the Iranian

revolution, the president of Iran sent a congratulations note to a new

U.S. president. I'm wondering if, first of all, if you responded to

President Ahmadinejad's note of congratulations and, second of all,

and more importantly, how soon do you plan on sending low-level envoys

to countries such as Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, to see if a

presidential-level talk would be productive?

OBAMA: I am aware that the letter was sent. Let me state -

repeat what I stated during the course of the campaign.

Iran's development of a nuclear weapon I believe is unacceptable.

And we have to mount a international effort to prevent that from


Iran's support of terrorist organizations I think is something

that has to cease.

I will be reviewing the letter from President Ahmadinejad, and we

will respond appropriately. It's only been three days since the

election. Obviously, how we approach and deal with a country like

Iran is not something that we should, you know, simply do in a knee-

jerk fashion. I think we've got to think it through.

But I have to reiterate once again that we only have one

president at a time. And I want to be very careful that we are

sending the right signals to the world as a whole that I am not the

president and I won't be until January 20th.

QUESTION: Picking up what we were just talking about, your

meeting with President Bush on Monday. When - he is still the

decider, obviously, stating the obvious. When you disagree with

decisions he makes, will you defer? Will you challenge? Will you

confront? And if it becomes confrontational, could that rattle the

markets even more?

OBAMA: Well, President Bush graciously invited Michelle and I to

- to meet with him and First Lady Laura Bush. We are gratified by

the invitation. 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.

I'm not going to anticipate problems. I'm going to go in there

with a spirit of bipartisanship and a sense that both the president

and various leaders in Congress all recognize the severity of the

situation right now and want to get stuff done.

And, you know, undoubtedly there may end up being differences

between not just members of different parties, but between people

within the same party.

The critical point and I think the critical tone that has to be

struck by all of us involved right now is the American people need

help. This economy is in bad shape. And we have just completed one

of the longest election cycles in recorded history.

Now is a good time for us to set politics aside for a while and

think practically about what will actually work to move the economy

forward. And it's in that spirit that I'll have the conversation with

the president.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President-elect. With the country

facing two wars and a financial crisis, do you think it's important

for you to move especially quickly to fill key cabinet posts, such as

treasury secretary and secretary of state?

OBAMA: When we have an announcement about cabinet appointments,

we will make them. There is no doubt that I think people want to know

who's going to make up our team.

OBAMA: And I want to move with all deliberate haste, but I want

to emphasize "deliberate" as well as "haste." I'm proud of the choice

I made of vice president, partly because we did it right. I'm proud

of the choice of chief of staff, because we thought it through.

And I think it's very important, in all these key positions, both

in the economic team and the national security team, to - 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.

QUESTION: Yes, sir. To what extent - to what extent are you

planning to use your probably pretty great influence in determining

the successor for your Senate seat? And what sort of criteria should

the governor be looking at in filling that position?

OBAMA: This is the governor's decision; it is not my decision.

And I think that the criteria that I would have for my successor

would be the same criteria that I'd have if I were a voter: somebody

who is capable; somebody who is passionate about helping working

families in Illinois meet their - meet their dreams.

And I think there are going to be a lot of good choices out

there, but it is the governor's decision to make, not mine.

Lynn Sweet?

QUESTION: Mr. President-elect...

OBAMA: What happened to your arm, Lynn?

QUESTION: I cracked my shoulder running to your speech on

election night.

OBAMA: Oh, no.


QUESTION: (inaudible)

OBAMA: I think that was the only major incident during the -

the entire Grant Park celebration.

QUESTION: Thank you for asking. Here's my question. I'm

wondering what you're doing to get ready. Have you spoke to any

living ex-presidents, what books you might be reading?

Everyone wants to know, what kind of dog are you going to buy for

your girls? Have you decided on a private or public school for your


OBAMA: Let - let me list those off.

In terms of speaking to former presidents, 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.

I have re-read some of Lincoln's writings, who's always an

extraordinary inspiration.

And, by the way, President Carter, President Bush, Sr., as well

as the current president have all been very gracious and offered to

provide any help that they can in this transition process.

With respect to the dog, this is a major issue. I think it's

generated more interest on our Web site than just about anything.

We have - we have two criteria that have to be reconciled. One

is that Malia is allergic, so it has to be hypoallergenic. There are

a number of breeds that are hypoallergenic.

On the other hand, our preference would be to get a shelter dog,

but, obviously, a lot of shelter dogs are mutts like me. So - so

whether we're going to be able to balance those two things I think is

a pressing issue on the Obama household.

And with respect to schools, Michelle will be - will be scouting

out some schools. We'll be making a decision about that in the


QUESTION: You are now privy to a lot of intelligence that you

haven't had access to before, in fact, much of what the president

sees, I'm sure all of it.

First of all, do you - what do you think about the state of U.S.

intelligence, whether you think it needs beefing up, whether you think

there's enough interaction between the various agencies?

And, second of all, has anything that you've heard given you

pause about anything you've talked about on the campaign trail?

OBAMA: Well, as you know, if - if there was something I had

heard, I couldn't tell you. But...


OBAMA: I have received intelligence briefings. And I will make

just a general statement.

Our intelligence process can always improve. I think it has

gotten better. And, you know, beyond that, I don't think I should

comment on the nature of the intelligence briefings.

OBAMA: That was a two-parter. Was there another aspect to that?

QUESTION: Well, just whether - you know, absent what you've


OBAMA: OK, I get you.

QUESTION: ... whether anything has given you pause.

OBAMA: I'm going to skip that.

QUESTION: Mr. President-elect, do you still intend to seek

income tax increases for upper-income Americans? And if so, should

these Americans expect to pay higher taxes in 2009?

OBAMA: The - my tax plan represented a net tax cut. It

provided for substantial middle-class tax cuts; 95 percent of working

Americans would receive them.

It also provided for cuts in capital gains for small businesses,

additional tax credits. All of it is designed for job growth.

My priority is going to be, how do we grow the economy? How do

we create more jobs?

I think that the plan that we've put forward is the right one,

but, obviously, over the next several weeks and months, we're going to

be continuing to take a look at the data and see what's taking place

in the economy as a whole.

But, understand, the goal of my plan is to provide tax relief to

families that are struggling, but also to boost the capacity of the

economy to grow from the bottom up.

All right. Thank you very much, guys.

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