US president-elect Barack Obama said that selecting his national security team is a top priority.
“I think it’s important to get a national security team in place because transition periods are potentially times of vulnerability to a terrorist attack,” Obama told CBS’ 60 Minutes in an interview broadcast on Sunday. “We want to make sure that there is as seamless a transition on national security as possible.”
In his first television interview since his historic election win, Obama said he has spent the days since the election from doing “whatever it takes” to stabilize the economy, restore consumer confidence and create jobs to getting sound health care and energy policies through Congress.
The president-elect also said that as soon as he takes office he will work with his security team and the military to draw down US troops in Iraq, shore up Afghanistan and “stamp out al-Qaeda once and for all.”
While investors are still riding a rollercoaster on Wall Street, Obama said the economy would have deteriorated even more without the US$700 billion bank bailout. Re-regulation is a legislative priority, he said, not to crush “the entrepreneurial spirit and risk-taking of American capitalism” but to “restore a sense of balance.”
“There’s no doubt that we have not been able yet to reset the confidence in the financial markets and in the consumer markets and among businesses that allow the economy to move forward in a strong way,” Obama said. “And my job as president is going to be to make sure that we restore that confidence.”
Obama comes to the Oval Office with an ambitious list of campaign promises that will require Capitol Hill’s cooperation and approval, and the team he has been announcing in recent days is heavy on the legislative experience that Obama is lacking.
Obama resigned his Illinois Senate seat on Sunday after just under four years of service, half of which he spent out on the presidential campaign trail.
During the campaign, Obama had Pete Rouse as his Senate chief of staff to take care of his business on Capitol Hill. On Sunday, Obama named Rouse to be a senior adviser in his White House. Rouse has 24 years of experience as a top Senate aide, also running the offices of former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Obama’s Illinois colleague, Democrat Senator Dick Durbin.
Other names that have begun to roll out recently come with varying degrees of Washington experience. Obama is drawing on accomplished Chicago friends, longtime congressional aides and former Clinton administration officials, including some with ties to the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
The new chief of staff, Representative Rahm Emanuel, combines the Chicago roots and the legislative connections. Vice president-elect Joe Biden’s chief of staff Ron Klain held the same role for former vice president Al Gore.
Obama has picked Mona Sutphen and Jim Messina as his deputy chiefs of staff. Like Rouse, Messina has served as chief of staff for three different lawmakers and has a vast network of relationships to show for it that he can tap on Obama’s behalf.
Philip Schiliro, who has more than 25 years experience working for Congress, is Obama’s liaison to Capitol Hill.
Biden has said he intends to be a frequent voice on the Hill and use his 36 years of experience as a lawmaker to promote the administration’s agenda. That’s a departure from Vice President Dick Cheney, who only appeared occasionally on the Hill to meet with Republican members and cast a tie-breaking vote.
Obama also said Americans shouldn’t worry about the federal deficit for the next couple of years.
“The most important thing is that we avoid a deepening recession,” he said.
He said there hadn’t been enough done to address the plight of homeowners facing foreclosure.
“We’ve gotta set up a negotiation between banks and borrowers so that people can stay in their homes,” Obama said.
The president-elect also urged help for the auto industry.
Obama also confirmed reports that he intends to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, and “make sure we don’t torture” as “part and parcel of an effort to regain America’s moral stature in the world.”
Obama also said he plans to put al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in the crosshairs.
“I think capturing or killing bin Laden is a critical aspect of stamping out al-Qaeda,” Obama said. “He is not just a symbol, he’s also the operational leader of an organization that is planning attacks against US targets.”
NPP WARNING: The NPP’s chairman said that a security law proposed by Beijing means it has renounced its promise to maintain ‘one country, two systems’ in HK The Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) yesterday proposed changing the law to provide protection for those seeking political asylum. China at the opening of the National People’s Congress in Beijing on Thursday introduced a draft security law for Hong Kong to ban treason, subversion and sedition, with a review expected next week. TPP caucus whip Jang Chyi-lu (張其祿) said that the party is concerned about democracy advocates in Hong Kong and has taken action to support them. The party has proposed an amendment to Article 18 of the Act Governing Relations with Hong Kong and Macau (香港澳門關係條例), which stipulates that the government can offer
The number of people from Hong Kong applying for residency in Taiwan last year rose 41 percent from a year earlier to 5,858, National Immigration Agency statistics showed. The statistics also showed that 600 applications were filed by Hong Kong residents in the first quarter of this year — three times the number filed in the same period last year — with applicants apparently not deterred by the COVID-19 pandemic. Just one day after it was reported that the Chinese government plans to enact new national security laws in Hong Kong, inquiries regarding immigration to Taiwan grew 10-fold, a Hong Kong-based immigration
‘BEGINNING OF THE END’: Democracy advocate Joshua Wong urged Hong Kongers to stand up and fight, and let the Chinese government know that they will not cave Hong Kong protesters yesterday battled with riot police in busy downtown areas, showing their opposition toward China’s dramatic move to crack down on dissent in the biggest demonstration since the coronavirus swept through the territory in January. Police deployed a water cannon and fired tear gas in the Causeway Bay shopping area after hundreds of protesters had gathered to oppose new national security legislation from China. Police warned the crowd they were taking part in an illegal gathering, and later said in a statement that “rioters threw umbrellas, water bottles and other objects at them.” At least 120 people were arrested,
‘TAIWAN IS SAFE’: As there have been no new local cases for 42 days, people should feel free to travel around the nation — as long as they follow disease prevention rules No new cases of COVID-19 were reported yesterday and only 20 of the people hospitalized after testing positive are still being treated in hospitals, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said yesterday in Pingtung County’s Kenting (墾丁) as he promoted a “new disease prevention lifestyle” for the nation. As yesterday was the 42nd consecutive day with no new domestic cases, and experts consider 28 consecutive days with no domestic case — the span of two incubation periods — a sign that a community is relatively safe, Taiwan is safe, said Chen, who heads the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC),