America Looks Ahead to Obama Administration



U.S. President-elect Barack Obama has begun assembling a White House team in advance of the presidential transition January 20. Mike O'Sullivan reports that after the excitement over the historic election dies down, the next president will face some serious domestic and international issues.

Barack Obama outlined some of the challenges facing the nation in his victory speech in Chicago Tuesday night. They include the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, environmental issues and an economic crisis. He predicted setbacks and false starts, but said he is confident the problems can be tackled. 

"There's new energy to harness, new jobs to be created, new schools to build and threats to meet, alliances to repair. The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there," he said.

Exit polls taken during the election show that more than six in ten Americans view the flagging economy as the most important issue facing the nation. One in ten voters cited other key concerns, such as the war in Iraq, health care and terrorism.

Who will be chosen as Treasury Secretary?

Mr. Obama has just 2 1/2 months to prepare for his transition, and there is speculation over the makeup of his new administration. Some wonder if his campaign advisers may have a formal role, perhaps in the key job of treasury secretary. Speculation surrounding that important job has focused on Paul Volcker, who was federal reserve chairman under President Ronald Reagan, and Robert Rubin, a former treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton. Some wonder if there may even be a role for another Obama supporter, the billionaire investor Warren Buffett.

Chief of Staff Position could go to former Clinton adviser

Senator Obama is starting to assemble his White House staff. News reports say he has offered the job of chief of staff to Rahm Emanuel, a Democratic member of congress who was once a senior adviser to former president Clinton.

The next president should have a sympathetic Congress when he takes the oath of office in January. It will be the first time since the early years of the Clinton presidency when Democrats have held the White House and a majority of seats in the House of Representatives and the Senate. They will still need cooperation from Republicans, especially in the Senate, where Democrats failed to get the 60 seats that would have protected them from procedural blocks known as filibusters. Some newly elected Democrats from conservative states, such as Virginia and North Carolina, may also want to embrace a moderate agenda.

President-elect urged to govern from center

In Washington Wednesday, the Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, urged the next president to govern from the center. 

"At a time of this economic crisis, our priority should be very clear about what we need to do. Each side of the spectrum can hope to influence the decision. But the fact is that a new president coming in, in my view, must take the country down the middle to solve the problems, to gain the confidence, to take us more strongly in a new direction," he said.

Analysts credit the Obama win to a highly effective campaign, an exceptional ability at fundraising, and a message that resonated with voters across demographic lines. In his victory speech, Senator Obama said he will be president for all Americans, even those who voted against him. 

DNC chairman says Obama's message resonates with voters

Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean says the message of the election is clear. 

"Americans have given all of us - Democrats, Republicans and Independents - a simple mandate to work together to find big solutions to the big challenges that face our country," he said.

As the president-elect turns his attention to the business of governing, the euphoria over his historic election has not subsided. Senator Obama is the first African American to be elected U.S. president. Another African American leader, Georgia Representative John Lewis, says the Obama victory will inspire future generations. Lewis spoke on NBC Television's Today show about the message of the Obama win.

"It doesn't matter whether you are black or white or Latino or Asian American or Native American, you can grow up in America and be anything that you want to be. People will be saying for years to come, 'If Barack Obama can do it, you can do it too,'" he said.

The man Senator Obama will replace in the White House, President George W. Bush, said this election is uplifting for a generation of Americans who watched the struggle for civil rights unfold, and are seeing the dream fulfilled four decades later.

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