President-elect Barack Obama said Americans will have to sacrifice to lift the nation from recession and acknowledged that some of his campaign promises may not be fulfilled because of what he described as a dire economic situation.
In a wide-ranging interview on ABC’s “This Week” that aired Sunday, Mr. Obama continued to sell his proposed economic stimulus package as “bold” and insisted Congress must pass it by mid-February.
“Everybody is going to have to give. Everybody is going to have to have some skin in the game,” Mr. Obama said about the package during the interview, taped Saturday in Washington.
Mr. Obama also used a form of the word “tough” three times to describe prospects for the package, then conceded: “I want to be realistic here — not everything that we talked about during the campaign are we going to be able to do on the pace that we had hoped.”
Mr. Obama lauded House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for saying recently she would keep Congress in session over the Presidents Day break if the package has not been passed by then. He also said that he was working closely with lawmakers to hammer out the details of the plan.
“Congress exercises all sorts of prerogatives. They’ve got all sorts of procedures. Everybody wants to be heard,” he said. “I’m respectful of that… . [O]ne of the things that we’re trying to set a tone of is that, you know, Congress is a co-equal branch of government. We’re not trying to jam anything down people’s throats.”
He urged citizens to be patient with the sinking economy. “I think we can fix it,” he said, “but it’s going to take some time. It’s not going to happen overnight.”
The president-elect said another campaign promise to shut down the federal detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, may have to wait. He said it would be a challenge to close the facility, as he had promised, within the first 100 days of his administration.
“We are going to get it done, but part of the challenge that you have is that you have got a bunch of folks that have been detained, many of whom may be very dangerous, who have not been put on trial or have not gone through some adjudication,” he said.
He said his legal and national security teams will try to create a fair legal process that “doesn’t result in releasing people who are intent on blowing us up.”
“I don’t want to be ambiguous about this,” he said. “We are going to close Guantanamo, and we are going to make sure that the procedures we set up are ones that abide by our Constitution. That is not only the right thing to do, but it actually has to be part of our broader national security strategy, because we will send a message to the world that we are serious about our values.
Mr. Obama said that, after two months of intelligence briefings, he recognizes the threat of a terrorist attack still looms.
“I think that we have made progress in certain areas, but those dangers are still there. And those dangers are not going to immediately go away, because we’re not talking about conventional armies where we have very clear measures of what their capacity is,” he said. “You know, if you have a small group of people in today’s world, with today’s technology, who are intent on doing harm and are willing to die, that is something that’s always going to be a challenge.”
Mr. Obama said he is confident his nominee for attorney general, Eric Holder, will be confirmed despite the expected pushback from Senate Republicans.
He noted that Mr. Holder has said that his role in President Clinton’s pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich was a mistake. Mr. Obama said there is no one more qualified to be attorney general than Mr. Holder.
“This is a man of unimpeachable integrity. I have every confidence that he will be confirmed,” he said.
Mr. Obama said he and his wife are attempting to find the right church in Washington to join without causing a major disruption.
Mr. Obama, who already has been seen out and about in the District of Columbia, said he wants to unite the fractured city.
“One of the things that I don’t like historically about Washington is the way that you’ve got one part of Washington, which is a company town, all about government, and is generally pretty prosperous,” he said. “Then, you’ve got another half of D.C. that is going through enormous challenges. I want to see if we can bring those two Washington, D.C.s together.”
The president-elect also quipped that finding a family dog to live in the White House is harder than choosing a new commerce secretary, but said his family will start checking with shelters in hopes of finding their top two choices — a Labradoodle or a Portuguese water hound.