- The Washington Times - Friday, December 19, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama on Thursday said he will force “a shift in ethics” on Wall Street and argued for new, aggressive controls on markets as he named his financial regulatory team.

“We have been asleep at the switch — not just some regulatory agencies but some of the congressional committees,” Mr. Obama said at a press conference in Chicago, also blaming “a White House that started with the premise that deregulation was always good.”

Mr. Obama promised to release a detailed regulatory plan as “one of my earliest initiatives” and said it will force the kind of “adult supervision” of markets Americans are yearning for now, in the wake of Bernard L. Madoff’s $50 billion Wall Street financial fraud. But he said new rules aren’t enough.

“Everybody from CEOs to shareholders to investors are going to have to be asking themselves, ‘Not only is this profitable, not only whether this will boost my bonus, but is it right? Does it conform to some higher standards in terms of how we operate?’” Mr. Obama said.

Rounding out his economic team, Mr. Obama has decided to nominate former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk to be U.S. trade representative, and Rep. Hilda L. Solis to be labor secretary, a senior Democratic official confirmed. They will join the new financial regulatory regime Mr. Obama announced Thursday: Mary Schapiro to be the next chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Gary Gensler to be chairman of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission and Dan Tarullo as a new member of the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors.

Reuters News Agency reported Mr. Obama has also chosen retired Navy Adm. Dennis Blair to be director of national intelligence.

Mr. Obama said Thursday the deficit could top $1 trillion, or more than double fiscal year 2008’s record figure.

And he asked voters to be patient with him, saying he will make mistakes, but plans to be up-front about it.

“One of the things that I hope is that the American people will find when we make a mistake, we’re willing to fess up to it and change,” he said.

Mr. Obama also defended his decision to have the Rev. Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., deliver the invocation at his inauguration.

The pick has angered some of Mr. Obama’s supporters who oppose Mr. Warren’s views, which generally hew to socially conservative religious tenets.

“Rick Warren gets plenty of attention through his books and media appearances. He doesn’t need or deserve this position of honor,” said People for the American Way President Kathryn Kolbert.

But Mr. Obama said Mr. Warren’s selection is part of a new attitude of reaching out to have a dialogue. Mr. Obama said he’d been invited to speak at Mr. Warren’s church, even though they disagree on issues.

“That dialogue, I think, is part of what my campaign’s been all about,” he said.

Mr. Warren issued a statement Thursday night from California.

“I commend President-elect Obama for his courage to willingly take enormous heat from his base by inviting someone like me, with whom he doesn’t agree on every issue, to offer the invocation at his historic inaugural ceremony.”

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