Barack Obama, in his first television interview since his election, said the growing federal deficit should not worry Americans.
Obama seeks to 'restore balance'
WASHINGTON // The US president-elect Barack Obama, in his first television interview since his historic election, said Americans should not worry about the growing federal deficit for the next couple of years and urged help for the auto industry. While investors are still riding a rollercoaster on Wall Street, Mr Obama told CBS' 60 Minutes, in an interview broadcast yesterday, the economy would have deteriorated even more without the US$700 billion (Dh2,571bn) bank bailout. Re-regulation is a legislative priority, he said, not to crush "the entrepreneurial spirit and risk-taking of American capitalism" but to "restore a sense of balance". He also said, "We shouldn't worry about the deficit next year or even the year after. The most important thing is that we avoid a deepening recession." Mr Obama said he has spent the days since the election planning to stabilise the economy, restore consumer confidence, create jobs and get sound health care and energy policies through Congress. "There's no doubt that we have not been able yet to reset the confidence in the financial markets and in the consumer markets and among businesses that allow the economy to move forward in a strong way," Mr Obama said. "And my job as president is going to be to make sure that we restore that confidence." While he said "we have the tools", the president-elect said not enough has been done to address bank foreclosures and distressed homeowners. "We've gotta set up a negotiation between banks and borrowers so that people can stay in their homes," Mr Obama said. "That is going to have an impact on the economy as a whole. And, you know, one thing I'm determined is that if we don't have a clear, focused programme for homeowners by the time I take office, we will after I take office." Mr Obama credited Treasury secretary Henry Paulson for trying to remedy "an unprecedented crisis" the country has not seen since the Great Depression. "Hank Paulson has worked tirelessly under some very difficult circumstances," Mr Obama said. "And I think Hank would be the first one to acknowledge that probably not everything that's been done has worked the way he had hoped it would work." A member of the transition team works with Mr Paulson daily, Mr Obama said, getting the needed background and sometimes offering approaches to address the economic meltdown. In the CBS interview, Mr Obama also said that as soon as he takes office he will work with his security team and the military to draw down US troops in Iraq, shore up Afghanistan and "stamp out al Qa'eda once and for all." "I think it's important to get a national security team in place because transition periods are potentially times of vulnerability to a terrorist attack," he said. "We want to make sure that there is as seamless a transition on national security as possible." Mr Obama acknowledged meeting with former Democratic primary rival Sen Hillary Clinton last week, but refused to say whether she was being considered for secretary of state, as has been widely reported. He also said the Republican party will be represented in his cabinet. Throughout the interview, the Obamas engaged in amiable banter, often finishing each other's sentences. For example, when Barack Obama said he found it soothing to wash dishes, Michelle Obama interrupted, "Since when was it ever soothing for you to wash the dishes?" "You know, when I had to do it," the president-elect said. "I'd make it into a soothing thing." The Obamas promised their two daughters a new puppy would make the trip to Washington with them, but they said the dog will not become part of the first family until after they move into the White House on Jan 20. "We're on call-mode on the dog front," Mrs Obama said. "Because the deal with the dog was that we would get the dog after we got settled. Because as responsible owners we - I don't think it would be good to get a dog in the midst of transition." The president-elect said he has been enjoying the comforts of his own home since the election. "I'm sleeping in my own bed over the last 10 days, which is quite a treat," he said. "Michelle always wakes up earlier than I do. So listen to her roaming around and having the girls come in and, you know, jump in your bed. It's ... it's a great feeling."