Obama says critical to stabilize economy
CHICAGO (Reuters) - President-elect Barack Obama said in remarks published on Wednesday he would like to move past the era of government bailouts but that right now it is important to "stabilize the patient" and save the U.S. economy from losing millions of jobs.
In an expansive interview with the Chicago Tribune, Obama also said that at some point he would like to give a speech from an Islamic capital as a way to help "reboot America's image around the world and also in the Muslim world in particular."
And, he said when he takes the oath of office on January 20 on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington he will use all three of his names -- Barack Hussein Obama -- because that is the tradition for the swearing-in ceremony.
Some Republicans had used his middle name during the presidential campaign to suggest Obama was a Muslim, which he is not.
The interview was published a day after Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was charged with trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat that Obama resigned after winning the presidential election in November.
Obama said he had not talked to the governor about filling the seat either before or after the election, but he declined to comment on whether any of his top aides had spoken to Blagojevich or his chief of staff, saying the matter was under investigation and "it would be inappropriate" to comment.
"I have not discussed the Senate seat with the governor at any time," Obama said. "My strong belief is that it needed to be filled by somebody who is going to represent the people of Illinois and fight for them."
The reeling U.S. economy has been a looming presence for Obama as he prepares to move to the White House, and he made clear in the interview that he would continue the Bush administration's bailout of businesses whose failure could lead to a crippling economic disaster.
Obama argued strenuously in favor of assisting the U.S. auto industry -- a bailout that is close to agreement between the Bush White House and the Democratic-led U.S. Congress. Polls show that a majority of Americans oppose bailing out the Big Three automakers.
"I do think that it's going to be critical for our economic team to present a framework of how we're going to move this economy forward that doesn't involve the federal government spending the next several years picking winners and losers," Obama said.
"But, right now, I think that what we're all facing are some significant, systemic risks that could lead to millions of more Americans losing their jobs. And, so, as messy as it may be, I think there's a sense of 'Let's stabilize the patient,'" he said.
Once the economy is stabilized, he said, then it will be time to set in place new regulations to avoid the type of risk-taking that led to the housing crisis, which set off the economic collapse.
Obama said the economic crisis would not change his core proposals, such as a tax cut for 95 percent of Americans, but that he might have to change the sequencing as a way of getting more Americans back to work as quickly as possible.
He will inherit a U.S. jobless rate that in November was 6.7 percent, the highest in 15 years.
On the campaign trail, Obama argued the United States needed to rebuild its image around the world, particularly with Muslims, as a result of the Iraq war and the U.S. war against Islamic extremists.
Obama would not say when he hoped to give a speech in an Islamic capital, but said it was a promise he had campaigned on and intended to fulfill.
He said he wanted to send a message both of improving U.S. relations abroad but also that the United States "will be unyielding in stamping out the kind of terrorist extremism that we saw in Mumbai," the financial capital in India struck by attacks two weeks ago.
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