News

    Obama: Top Priority Will Be Struggling US Economy

    Multimedia

    Audio

    President-elect Barack Obama has left little doubt that the struggling U.S. economy will be his number one priority when he takes office on January 20.  VOA National correspondent Jim Malone reports from Washington.

    On three consecutive days, Barack Obama held news conferences to announce members of his economic team, and to reassure the public that turning around the weakened economy was on the top of his presidential agenda.

    "My first priority and my first job is to get us on the path of economic recovery, to create 2.5 million jobs and to provide relief to middle class families," he said.

    Rutgers University political science professor Ross Baker says the president-elect's relentless focus on the economy is clearly by design.

    "They may have initially planned to make their national security appointments first," he said. "But now it appears that they have moved the economic team to the head of the cue.  So I think that really is a measure to reassure the public because so much of the problem involved with the economic crisis is psychological."

    Voters said the weak U.S. economy was the main issue in the presidential election, so Mr. Obama has little choice but to make economic revitalization his top priority, even before he is sworn in as president in January.

    But Mr. Obama made many other promises during the campaign, including promises to address energy, health care reform and climate change.

    Rutgers expert Ross Baker says action on some of those issues may have to wait.

    "The agenda of the president-elect has really been set by the economic crisis," he said. "Any newly elected president would have to do deal with this and it is certainly affecting many of his plans.  I suspect that some of his efforts to curb greenhouse gases and so on may have to be set aside temporarily.  I think that certainly his proposals on national health insurance may have to be postponed."

    Mr. Obama has moved quickly to put his economic team in place, as well as key members of his incoming White House staff.

    That has not always been the case with presidential transitions.

    For example, former President Bill Clinton got a late start on many of his appointments, and that caused him problems early in his first year as president.

    "This incoming administration has done a wonderful job of studying the mistakes of the past and figuring out two things," said Bruce Buchanan, a presidential scholar at the University of Texas. "One, how important it is to have your plan ready to go, to take advantage of this brief window of opportunity to hit the ground running.  The Obama team is now taking shape much earlier than either the Clinton or Carter teams did.  And it also means that you need to involve the opposition party early in the deliberations."

    In the coming weeks, Mr. Obama is expected to announce his foreign policy and national security team, including some familiar faces.

    The current Defense secretary, Robert Gates, is reportedly willing to stay on in the new administration.

    Mr. Obama is also expected to name former Democratic presidential rival Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.

    Bruce Buchanan says the Clinton choice is Mr. Obama's most surprising so far.

    "It is risky," he said. "It is a bold move by Obama to attempt to work with someone against whom he fought so vigorously so recently.  It's also a widely believed fact that the Clinton's represent not only great talent, but also great complexity and difficulty and ambitions of their own, and it's an open question whether Mrs. Clinton can subordinate herself to even a President Obama."

    There are plenty of precedents for appointing former political opponents to the cabinet.

    In 1824, President John Quincy Adams chose rival Henry Clay to be secretary of state.

    Following the election of 1860, President Abraham Lincoln reached out to several former opponents and included them in his cabinet, a feat documented by historian Doris Kearns Goodwin in her 2005 book entitled 'Team of Rivals'.

    It's a book Mr. Obama often cited during the 2008 campaign for the White House.  

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora