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Incoming US Presidents Face Difficult 'Honeymoon'


The road to the White House is often a challenging one. But once there, a successful candidate can encounter an even tougher "honeymoon" period. President-elect Barack Obama has said he plans to focus first on the economy. His transition head, John Podesta, says Mr. Obama may reverse some of President Bush's executive orders. VOA's Robert Raffaele asked several Washington insiders what advice they would give the incoming president.
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U.S. President-elect Barack Obama faces perhaps the most daunting challenges of any incoming U.S. leader in decades.

He inherits a slumping economy and a $700 billion financial bailout approved by Congress.

He will be commander-in-chief of a military fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. And he faces potential threats from leaders who have been openly critical of the United States.

In his first news conference as President-elect November 7, Mr. Obama said the economy would be his top priority.

"It is not going to be quick and it is not going to be easy for us to dig ourselves out of the hole that we are in," Obama said. "But America is a strong and resilient country, and I know we will succeed."

Brian Darling is with the research group, the Heritage Foundation. He says Mr. Obama must not overreach.

"Exit polling indicated that the American people still consider themselves reasonably conservative. This is a more of a center-right nation," Darling said. "So what President Obama has to worry about is he can't move forward on actions that would offend many Americans, like, taking action to take away many Americans guns and different shots of lesbian couple from maybe [pushing legislation] something on gay marriage, issues like that."

Former White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta served President Bill Clinton. He says Mr. Clinton moved too aggressively on one issue.

"Bill Clinton had 'gays in the military' and that was clearly, whether you agree or disagree with the issue, that was the wrong issue to kick off at the beginning," Panetta said. "So it's really important to focus on what is that most important issue and there's no question: To this president the most important issue is the economy."

Kenneth Duberstein served as chief of staff for President Ronald Reagan, a Republican.
He says in the weeks before taking office, Mr. Reagan sent Duberstein and other Republicans to Capitol Hill to forge ties with lawmakers from both parties.

"To see if we could find allies, even with a "D" [for Democrats] on their forehead, who could start putting together a coalition around economic recovery," Duberstein said.

Stephen Hess, of the Brookings Institution, was a White House advisor to several presidents.

He says the president-elect has an advantage Mr. Reagan did not. Mr. Obama's party controls Congress.

"He has a heap of members of his own party there. The reaching out doesn't have to be quite as deep in order to get things passed," Hess said.

President-elect Obama takes office on January 20.

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