- The Washington Times - Monday, November 17, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama on Sunday said that the United States faces an economic situation worse than anything since the Great Depression and that his administration will do “whatever it takes” to address the problem, including more stimulus spending, increased help for homeowners and aid to automakers.

But he cautioned that while “there are some parallels” to the challenge that America faced during the 1930s, he is not assuming that the solutions should be the same as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal.

“For us to simply re-create what existed back in the ‘30s in the 21st century, I think would be missing the boat,” Mr. Obama told CBS’ “60 Minutes,” in his first television interview since being elected the 44th president of the United States.

“We’ve gotta come up with solutions that are true to our times and true to this moment. And that’s gonna be our job,” said Mr. Obama, who will take the oath of office on Jan. 20.

Mr. Obama said he has “a pretty good idea” of whom he wants in his Cabinet, and that he will announce his first choice “soon.” He confirmed that he met last week with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, whom he defeated in the Democratic presidential primary, but he would not say what they discussed or whether he offered her a Cabinet position, such as secretary of state.

“She is somebody who I needed advice and counsel from. She is one of the most thoughtful public officials that we have. Beyond that, you’re not getting anything out of me,” he said.

Much of the interview focused on the economic crisis, which spurred leaders from the world’s biggest economies to meet in Washington over the weekend for the first of what they said will be several summits on the problem.

The next summit will be in April, near the end of Mr. Obama’s first 100 days in office. In that first 100 days, he said, he will focus on kick-starting the economy through fiscal stimulus.

“We’re gonna have to spend money now to stimulate the economy,” he said. “We shouldn’t worry about the deficit next year or even the year after. That short term, the most important thing is that we avoid a deepening recession.”

Mr. Obama also said that if a program to help more homeowners to avoid foreclosure is not in place by the time he takes office, he will implement one.

He said he supports helping the Big Three automakers - Ford, Chrysler and General Motors - to avoid bankruptcy, but only on the condition that they improve their performance.

“It can’t be a blank check,” he said. “The discussions are shaped around providing assistance but making sure that that assistance is conditioned on labor, management, suppliers, lenders, all the stakeholders coming together with a plan, what does a sustainable U.S. auto industry look like?”

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