Obama considers auto industry a priority

November 7, 2008 6:43:27 PM PST
President-elect Barack Obama met with his economic advisors Friday and then outlined some of the steps he will take to solve the financial crisis.

Obama told reporters at his first post-election news conference that it is time to set politics aside and concentrate on the work of helping the nation's economy.

With his economic team lined up behind him, Obama was sending a signal that he is ready to govern and that the economic crisis that helped sweep him into office will be his highest priority.

"Some of the choices that we make are going to be difficult. 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," said Obama.

One of his big priorities is helping U.S. automakers.

"The auto industry is the backbone of American manufacturing and a critical part of our attempt to reduce our dependence on foreign oil," said Obama, who did not outline specifics. "I've asked my team to explore what we can do under current law and whether additional legislation will be needed for this purpose."

But ABC News has reported it could take as much as $75 billion to save the big three automakers.

Political pundit and creator of The Huffington Post Web site, Arriana Huffington, thinks it sounds like bailing out high-risk lenders.

"Well it's really about time for the governor to stop subsidizing behavior that is not going to work in the long-term future," said Huffington.

We watched this morning's news conference with San Francisco attorney Jeff Bleich, a long-time friend and advisor to the president-elect. Bleich believes, like Obama, that government aid to the auto industry could help save it.

"You know to just abandon the automobile industry would be to cut off your nose to spite your face. That's not helping the economy at all," said Bleich.

Bleich believes the government could push automakers to build more fuel-efficient cars.

"What you need to do is address the issue head-on which is allow that industry to go forward, but on terms that will allow it to be successful in the future," said Bleich.

It isn't that automakers did not realize that building fuel-efficient cars would be a good thing long-term, it was those short-term profits that kept them building SUVs. It will be be revealing to see how strongly the new administration ties its financial help to changing the industry's short-term focus.

The president-elect met with his economic advisors Friday morning and then told reporters he is going to focus on creating jobs. He was short on specifics. Much of what he said sounded like a stump speech.

"Immediately after I become president I'm 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," said Obama.

Bleich admits we did not hear much that was new in Obama's press conference. However, Obama did say that he is going to push for an economic stimulus package that he will focus on growing the economy from the bottom up.

"I think the only other thing that I heard him say, which is an important reminder to the nation, is that we have some big challenges and it's going to take some time to get those in place," said Bleich.

Bleich says Obama is proceeding carefully with his plans for the economy and who he will pick to be for his cabinet. Friday was an opportunity to show the nation who he is listening to.

"These are people who take the economy seriously and aren't governing by ideology. They're governed by what works, what's effective," said Bleich.

"The crisis is growing and basically the days when the stock market doing better doesn't mean anything and I think we all need to realize that. This is not going to turn around overnight and it's going to require dramatic policy shifts and the support of everybody in the country," said Huffington.

Obama cabinet picks

Washington insiders are buzzing over Obama's potential cabinet picks. Candidates rumored to be on the short list for secretary of state include senators Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. However, Obama suggested Friday not to expect announcements on cabinet posts anytime soon.

Feinstein in line to head Senate Intelligence Committee

California Senator Dianne Feinstein may be in for a promotion in Congress. Ninety-year-old Virginia Senator Robert Byrd is voluntarily giving up his position as head of the Appropriations Committee. That sets a shuffle in motion that could make Feinstein the first female chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Some political observers say that could decrease the chances Feinstein would run for governor in 2010.

The first "network presidency"

Panelists at an Internet conference in San Francisco say Obama owes a lot to the Internet for his rise to the presidency.

"Just like Kennedy brought in the television presidency, I think we're about to see the first wired or connected or Internet -- I don't know what you're going to call it -- the first network presidency," said Democratic consultant Joe Trippi. Trippi says Internet users watched 14.5 million hours of Obama campaign videos on YouTube.

All of the panel members at the Web 2.0 Summit who appeared supported Obama.

Republicans Karl Rove and Newt Gingrich declined invitations to attend.


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