back eight years of Bush’s policies while setting a new course. Obama made “a clean break from business as usual” by freezing salaries of senior White House staff members who earn more than $100,000 a year as well as implementing the strictest ethics rules of any presidential administration.
From day one, he worked to meet his campaign promises. For example, Obama told members of his national security team to “engage in additional planning necessary to execute a responsible military drawdown from Iraq”; and signed four executive orders, which included creating panels to study interrogations of suspected terrorists and closure of the Guantanámo Bay Detention Camp within a year.
His quick action during the transition helped put the administration in the starting blocks. Days after his swearing-in ceremony, several of his cabinet appointees, including Hillary Clinton and Timothy Geithner, designates for secretary of the State and Treasury departments, respectively, were confirmed.
His communications officials maintain that keeping Americans safe from terrorists is priority No. 1, but fixing the economy is a primary concern. Thousands of Americans still contend with massive layoffs, the foreclosure crisis, and a lack of confidence in the economy. To attack the problem, the nation’s chief executive has added a comprehensive economic briefing—similar to the national security review—to his daily schedule. His economic team, led by Geithner and Lawrence Summers, his chief adviser in this area, is in the process of developing recommendations on the deployment of the remaining half of last year’s $700 billion bailout. They plan to use those dollars for foreclosure relief and stabilizing financial institutions, among other things. And he seeks to gain bipartisan congressional support for his ambitious $825 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a stimulus plan that promises to create jobs through a $250 billion infrastructure repair program, help the jobless and families through $300 billion in state aid, and boost consumer spending through $275 billion in tax breaks. “I think it’s the type of program that will revitalize our state economies,” asserts Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, one of a number of governors who met with Obama shortly after his election. But not all pols embrace the Obama plan. A number of Democratic congressmen want to reduce the tax package, while the Republican opposition wants deeper tax cuts.
Nevertheless, Obama appears energized and focused on the challenges of strengthening the economy, rebuilding American industry, and restoring confidence in our integrity at home and abroad. For one, he has considerable political capital due to the overwhelming support of the American public—most of whom seem patient enough to wait until his policies take hold. They have heeded Obama’s words: “The challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America: they will be met.”