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Obama To Hold Economy Press Conference


From the studios of NPR West, this Day to Day. I'm Alex Chadwick.


I'm Madeleine Brand. Coming up, unemployment numbers are out today. Not only are the numbers bad, they may actually undercount the true unemployment situation.

CHADWICK: Unemployment and other economic news, the topic of President-elect Barack Obama's first news conference. That's coming up a little later today in Chicago. He'll meet with reporters after meeting with his top economic advisers. Here with more is NPR's David Schaper. He's in Chicago. David, this seems like it's going to be a pretty important press conference for Senator Obama.

DAVID SCHAPER: Well, yeah. I think it is. I think it's his very first one and it's very important for a number of reasons. He has to first and foremost look presidential. We've been seeing him try to do this a little bit more and more on the campaign trail in recent weeks and months. But you know, there's only so much you can do when you're out on the campaign trail, and he has to show that he has a firm grasp of some of these issues. You know, the economy, obviously, first and foremost among them, because his campaign themes have all been about hope and change, and the number-one overriding issue to voters was the economy.

So, he has to go beyond those slogans and show that he's in the process of taking some action, even though he and his economic advisers really don't have the power to do much yet. I suspect there will be a lot of questions about possible cabinet choices, the tenor and tone he is trying to set with those choices. He'll be grilled on foreign affairs, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, I'm sure. So, he needs to show the American people that he's well-versed in all of these issues and instill confidence that they made the right choice on Tuesday.

CHADWICK: But this is his first public moment since that really stirring speech in Grant Park on Tuesday night. Do you have any idea from his people about what it is he wants to say? Does he have a message he wants to get out here?

SCHAPER: I think, number one, the message is that he wants to show that he is on top of the economy. And there's economic news today that is not good news. The unemployment rate jumping from 6.1 percent in September to 6.5 percent in October. I think you're going to hear a theme about the need to put the middle class at the center of the economic policy that comes out of an Obama administration. Lawrence Summers, Treasury secretary under President Clinton, is one the 17 economic advisers who's meeting with President-elect Obama today. And he said so this morning that he wants to put the middle class at the center of the economic-policy approach that comes out of this administration. So, I would expect Mr. Obama to elaborate on that and echo those points. I don't think we're going to get any big news on any major cabinet appointments. No personal news is expected today, but his cabinet is starting to take a little bit of shape. It looks much like what we saw in the Clinton White House, too.

CHADWICK: Let me ask you about this meeting with the economic advisers. Warren Buffet there, I think, by maybe video phone or something and 16 other members of this Transition Economic Advisory Board. What went on there? This was a closed-door meeting. Do we have any idea exactly what people are talking about?

SCHAPER: I think that they're all kind of weighing in on some of the issues that are most pressing on them. These are all people who I know that the Obama campaign relied on for advice at times. Now, they have to shape a policy, and I think that they're lending their views of where the direct administration should go and, first and foremost, how to pick up the $700 billion financial-rescue package from the Bush administration and carry it on in the Treasury Department moving forward.

I'm sure there will be names bandied about (ph) about who should direct this effort as Treasury secretary, but I don't know that we'll have any firm answers on the full shape of that direction, where they go with the policy and ultimately who will lead the Treasury Department under President Obama.

CHADWICK: NPR's David Schaper with us from Chicago, where later today President-elect Barack Obama will hold his first press conference as president-elect. David, thank you.

SCHAPER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Alex Chadwick
For more than 30 years, Alex Chadwick has been bringing the world to NPR listeners as an NPR News producer, program host and currently senior correspondent. He's reported from every continent except Antarctica.
David Schaper
David Schaper is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, based in Chicago, primarily covering transportation and infrastructure, as well as breaking news in Chicago and the Midwest.