- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 23, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama has asked his economic team to draft a plan to save or create 2.5 million jobs by 2011 and on Saturday announced the leaders of his White House press team.

The Democrat told the nation in his second weekly radio address Saturday morning he has “already directed” members of the team to craft an economic-recovery plan, saying it should be “big enough to meet the challenges we face” and that he intends to press Congress to pass it so he can sign it after taking office.

His remarks, taped Friday, will be posted on the transition Web site and YouTube page, Change.gov. His first address was viewed more than 890,000 times on YouTube.

Mr. Obama formally named his longtime aide and close adviser Robert Gibbs as press secretary Saturday, along with two top members of the White House communications team. Mr. Gibbs, well-liked by reporters and a frequent traveler on the Obama campaign plane, started working with Mr. Obama during his run for the U.S. Senate in spring 2004.

The long-anticipated move caps two years of Mr. Gibbs’ acting as one of the key spokesmen for the Obama campaign. He was a regular guest on morning political shows and held his own against combative television hosts.

As press secretary, Mr. Gibbs, 37, will be the face of the Obama administration, meeting the press each day and pushing and defending the president’s policies from the podium. When Mr. Obama toured his future home recently, Mr. Gibbs huddled with President Bush’s press secretary, Dana Perino.

His 5-year-old son, Ethan, sometimes was spotted on the trail, and often bragged that one of the best times he had this year was when Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, baby-sat him during their vacation in Hawaii.

Mr. Gibbs is a native of Auburn, Ala., who now lives in Alexandria. He has worked on many campaigns and for several politicians.

The transition team also announced that Ellen Moran would be director of communications and Dan Pfeiffer, 32, would be deputy director of communications.

Miss Moran is executive director of Emily’s List, a native of Amherst, Mass., and has worked for the Democratic National Committee, the AFL-CIO and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. She also worked on Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin’s 1992 presidential bid and helped plan two presidential inaugurations for Bill Clinton.

Mr. Pfeiffer was communications director for the campaign and holds the same position for the transition team. Before joining the campaign in January 2007, Mr. Pfeiffer worked for Sen. Evan Bayh, Indiana Democrat, as communications director. He worked for Health and Human Services Secretary-designate Tom Daschle, the former Senate Democratic leader; the 2000 presidential campaign of Vice President Al Gore and the Democratic Governors Association.

He frequently communicates with reporters and worked tirelessly in the days before Mr. Obama clinched the Democratic nomination sending out notes about superdelegates who were flocking to his boss.

In a statement Mr. Obama said the group brings a “breadth and depth of experience” and called Miss Moran a “talented new addition to our team.”

In his economic address, Mr. Obama said it would be a two-year, nationwide effort “to jump-start job creation in America and lay the foundation for a strong and growing economy.”

He reprised his promises from the campaign trail, saying he would put people to work rebuilding the nation’s roads and bridges and create jobs in solar, wind and biofuel to make homes more energy efficient as part of a broad plan to stem climate change.

“These aren’t just steps to pull ourselves out of this immediate crisis; these are the long-term investments in our economic future that have been ignored for far too long,” Mr. Obama said. “They represent an early down payment on the type of reform my administration will bring to Washington — a government that spends wisely, focuses on what works and puts the public interest ahead of the same special interests that have come to dominate our politics.”

In a frank assessment of the economic situation, Mr. Obama cited the 1.2 million jobs lost this year and noted that scholars and analysts warn the nation could lose “millions” more “if we don’t act swiftly and boldly.”

He said Inauguration Day on Jan. 20 is a chance for a new start, but cautioned the economic crisis is “likely to get worse before it gets better.”

The Obama transition team would not confirm widespread news reports that he will select New York Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Tim Geithner for Treasury secretary, but the markets soared when news leaked about it Friday afternoon.

Calvin Mitchell of Mr. Geithner’s communications team said Friday his phone had been ringing off the hook all afternoon, but declined to comment on the reports.

“I must direct all questions to the Obama-Biden transition team,” he said.

Obama aides also declined to offer any guidance on when they would release the president-elect’s choices for his economic team, but Monday is widely considered a safe bet.

The president-elect also said that his family would keep its home in Chicago’s Hyde Park when they move to Washington in January.

A news camera caught Mr. Obama saying Friday afternoon at Manny’s Deli in Chicago that the real estate market makes it a bad idea to sell the $1.6 million home, where he lives with Mrs. Obama and their daughters, Sasha and Malia.

“We’re keeping our house,” Mr. Obama told a woman in the deli in a comment caught by the TV camera and posted online in a “Web extra.”

He grinned, adding, “We’re staying in there for a while. Now’s not the time to sell.”

The Obama home in the South Side neighborhood has been protected by Secret Service round-the-clock for months. His patient neighbors have gotten used to having to show ID when approaching their homes.

Tourists wandering around to catch a glimpse of his home have been turned away by agents with weapons guarding each end of the street. Since he won the election, the street next to his own also has been closed off for one block on each side.

The comments Friday in Manny’s were the Democrat’s first about a potential “Western” White House, the sort of presidential vacation site that many reporters had hoped would be in his native Hawaii. President Bush goes to his ranch in Crawford, Texas, when on vacation.

The Obama family has gone to Honolulu, where his recently deceased grandmother lived, over many winter holidays. He made his decision to run for president while vacationing in December 2006.

He also took a few days off early this year in the Virgin Islands.

In the video from Manny’s Deli, which can be found at WashingtonTimes.com/weblogs/bellantoni, the woman he’s speaking to hints that Mr. Obama had White House ambitions more than a decade ago, telling the president-elect, “Well, you asked for it. I remember 12 years ago. …”

A reporter and wire scribes in the protective pool that trails Mr. Obama at all times were with him Friday as he ordered corned beef sandwiches from the deli, but were not within earshot of the comment about his home.

Mr. Obama also dodged a question from a Reuters news service reporter about the plight of the auto industry.

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