US president-elect Barack Obama was to launch his three-state “Whistle Stop Tour” yesterday mirroring former US president Abraham Lincoln’s historic 1861 journey by train from Philadelphia to Washington.
Obama was to speak in Philadelphia at around 10am yesterday before he and his family depart on their journey accompanied by a group of “everyday Americans” who have met Obama or vice-president-elect Joe Biden at some point and told them a compelling story.
Capacity crowds are expected at inauguration celebrations in Washington, and the 217km trip with various stops along the way is aimed at allowing as many people as possible to participate in the celebrations.
On Friday, Obama made a pitch for his massive economic stimulus plan at a Midwestern factory that manufactures wind turbine parts, saying his proposal would help create solid jobs in up-and-coming industries.
“Renewable energy isn’t something pie in the sky. It’s not part of a far-off future. It’s happening all across America right now,” Obama told workers on Friday in a Cleveland suburb. “It can create millions of additional jobs and entire new industries if we act right now.”
Just days before taking the oath of office as the 44th president, Obama used the factory as a backdrop as he sought to generate support from the public — constituents of skeptical Republicans and Democrats in Congress — for his pricey plan to pull the country out of recession.
Obama held the campaign-style event a day after the Senate agreed to give him access to the second half of last fall’s US$700 billion financial industry bailout and House Democrats unveiled a US$825 billion stimulus package.
One of the largest bills ever to make its way through Congress, it calls for federal spending of roughly US$550 billion and tax cuts of US$275 billion over the next two years to revive the sickly economy. It also focuses heavily on energy, education, health care and highway construction.
Seeking to counter critics’ claims of excessive spending and too few tax cuts, Obama cast the package as necessary to create long-lasting, well-paying jobs in industries such as alternative energy, and help hard-hit industrial states such as Ohio now and in the future.
“It’s not too late to change course — but only if we take dramatic action as soon as possible,” Obama said.
He pledged: “The first job of my administration is to put people back to work and get our economy moving again.”
A new Associated Press-GfK poll found that public expectations for Obama’s success after Tuesday’s inauguration were far higher than for any US president in a generation. It found that 65 percent of those surveyed believe he will be an “above average” president or better, including 28 percent who think he will be “outstanding.”
The poll also found broad optimism that Obama could help turn the US economic crisis around, with 71 percent saying the economy will likely improve during the first year of his presidency.
Also on Friday, two US officials said Obama was preparing to prohibit the use of waterboarding and harsh interrogation techniques by ordering the CIA to follow military rules for questioning prisoners.
The proposal Obama is considering would require all CIA interrogators to follow conduct outlined in the US Army Field Manual, the officials said. The plans would also have the effect of shutting down secret “black site” prisons around the world, they said.