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Obama Moves Quickly to Staff Administration


President-elect Barack Obama is moving quickly to fill important jobs in his administration and develop his response to the economic crisis. Political analysts say the transition to the new administration is particularly important with the nation facing an economic emergency as well as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel has more from Washington.

After meeting with his newly-formed Transition Economic Advisory Board Friday Mr. Obama left no doubt about the top priority of his administration.

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

But Mr. Obama was also careful to point out the United States has only one president at a time and the Bush administration will run the government until January 20 when he is sworn in as America's 44th president.

Still, Mr. Obama has indicated he wants to move quickly during the transition and within days of the election he announced his selection of Representative Rahm Emanuel as his White House Chief of Staff.

Leon Panetta, who served as chief of staff to former President Bill Clinton, says Mr. Obama's next appointments should focus on the economy.

"Hopefully the next step will be to put an economic team in place, early, because of the importance of transitioning now on economic issues," he said. "This is an unusual situation, where the president-elect of the United States not only is facing huge deficits and an economy in recession, but has a $700 billion rescue plan, which puts the president right in the middle of running the banks and the credit systems in this country."

Panetta says as soon as the economic team is in place Mr. Obama needs to make important appointments to deal with national security issues, especially the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Panetta says the president-elect must also move swiftly to improve America's image overseas.

"I do think it is really important for the president, obviously to reach out to the international world and reestablish relations with the world and reintroduce the United States to the rest of the world," he said. "Reaffirm our alliances, listen to people abroad."

The Director of Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, Darrell West, says Mr. Obama needs to lower expectations about how much can be accomplished in the days and weeks after he is sworn in.

West says during the transition Mr. Obama needs to explain just how difficult it will be to solve the economic crisis.

"Obama joked about being Superman. The problem he faces is that there are too many people in the United States, as well as around the world, who actually see him that way and expect him to perform miracles," he said. "Now he is an individual who has extraordinary leadership and communications abilities, but he is also taking office at the time of our most challenging transition since the Great Depression."

Terry Edmonds was the director of speechwriting for President Clinton. He says Mr. Obama maybe the best communicator in the White House since Ronald Reagan.

Edmonds says the skills that helped Mr. Obama win the election will serve him well during the transition and when he takes office.

"Barack Obama will begin his administration with some strong qualities that he has demonstrated throughout the campaign, which are steadfastness, a consistent message," he said. "He is a great communicator."

On Monday, Mr. Obama will meet with President Bush to discuss the transfer of power. No recent president-elect from an opposing party has been received at the White House so quickly after an election, underscoring how rapidly the transition is occurring in a time of war and financial crisis.

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