CHICAGO – President-elect Obama is calling on economic experts to discuss the first steps toward healing a damaged economy as he forms a new administration in the face of a worsening crisis.
“We’re not starting from nowhere,” said Lawrence Summers, a Treasury secretary under President Clinton and one of the 17 members of Obama’s transition economic advisory board who were to meet Friday with Obama.
“Throughout his campaign the president-elect has been talking about what we need to do. We need to put the middle class at the center of the policy approach in a way that it hasn’t been these last years,” Summers told NBC’s “Today.”
Leaders of business, government and academia to meet with Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden include executives from Xerox Corp., Time Warner Inc., Google Inc. and the Hyatt hotel company. Investor Warren Buffett was participating by telephone.
Obama also was holding his first news conference as president-elect after the meeting.
It was to be Obama’s first public appearance since Tuesday’s election, where exit polls showed that the economy was far and away the top issue for voters. More evidence of a recession came Friday when the government reported that the unemployment rate had jumped from 6.1 percent in September to 6.5 percent in October.
Obama has been meeting privately with his transition team, receiving congratulatory phone calls from U.S. allies and intelligence briefings, and making decisions about who will help run his government.
His first choice, for White House chief of staff, was Rahm Emanuel, a fiery partisan unafraid of breaking glass and hurting feelings. The choice of Emanuel is a significant departure from the soft-spoken, low-key aides that “No-Drama Obama” surrounded himself with during the campaign. And transition chief John Podesta, like Emanuel, is a former top aide to President Clinton and a tough partisan infighter, though less bombastic than the new chief of staff.
The selections are telling for Obama, who campaigned as a nontraditional, almost “post-partisan” newcomer. People close to him say the selections show he is aware of his strengths and weaknesses, and knows what he needs to be successful as he shifts from campaigning to governing.
Transition spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said Obama would not announce any personnel appointments Friday.
Friday morning, Obama and his wife, Michelle, attended a parent-teacher conference at the University of Chicago Lab School where their daughters, Malia and Sasha, are students. The couple planned to visit the White House on Monday at President Bush’s invitation.
Obama planned to stay home through the weekend, with a blackout on news announcements so he and his staff can rest after the grueling campaign and the rush of Tuesday night’s victory. He is planning a family getaway to Hawaii in December before they move to the White House, and to honor his grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, who died Sunday at her home there.
Obama, who bested Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, has made it clear he will rely heavily on veterans of her husband’s eight-year administration, the only Democratic presidency in the past 28 years.
Podesta was President Clinton’s chief of staff, and several other former Clinton aides are on Obama’s short lists for key jobs, Democratic officials say. Some helped write a large briefing book on how to govern, assembled under Podesta’s supervision.
Obama also is certain to bring to the White House a cadre of longtime aides like senior adviser David Axelrod and press secretary Robert Gibbs. Both have worked closely with Obama since he ran for the Senate in 2004.
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