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No Rest For Obama

SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is Weekend Edition from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Joining us live in just a moment, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. But first, President-elect Obama got down to business in Chicago this week. He chose Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel as his White House chief of staff. He got his first classified intelligence briefing. And yesterday, he faced reporters for the first time since the election. Here's NPR's David Greene.

DAVID GREENE: That election night in Chicago was quite a scene.

(Soundbite of Barack Obama's acceptance speech, Grant Park, Chicago, Illinois)

President-elect BARACK OBAMA: Yes, we can. Thank you. God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.

(Soundbite of crowd ovation)

GREENE: After the cheering faded, Senator Obama remained in Chicago and for a couple days, held closed-door meetings with advisers and also intelligence officials. Then yesterday, his first news conference as president-elect.

(Soundbite of press conference)

President-elect OBAMA: Thank you very much everybody. Thank you very much. This morning, we woke up to more sobering news about the state of our economy.

GREENE: Specifically, a national unemployment rate of 6.5 percent, the highest in 14 years. The president-elect was backed by a row of economic advisers lined up in front of a row of American flags. He didn't reveal any new ideas for dealing with the crisis, but he did say he expected Congress to pass a new stimulus package, including an extension of unemployment benefits. The Bush administration has balked at this, saying it wants time for the $700 billion relief plan passed in October to kick in. Senator Obama said yesterday he knows he's not yet calling the shots.

(Soundbite of press conference)

President-elect OBAMA: I want to see a stimulus package sooner rather than later. If it does not get done in the lame-duck session, it will be the first thing I get done as president of the United States.

GREENE: The struggling U.S. economy is forcing Senator Obama into an awkward dance. He criticized President Bush's handling of the economy during the campaign, but now as president-elect, he has to try and make the transition smooth and at times work as a partner with President Bush to give Americans confidence in the economy. The president-elect said he looks forward to meeting with President Bush at the White House on Monday.

(Soundbite of press conference)

President-elect OBAMA: I'm not going to anticipate problems. I'm going to go in there with a spirit of bipartisanship and a sense that both the president and various leaders in Congress all recognize the severity of the situation right now and want to get stuff done.

GREENE: There were some lighter moments yesterday, like when Senator Obama was asked about the White House puppy he's promised his daughters. The senator said planning for that has been a struggle. His older daughter, Malia, has allergies, so on one hand they want a solid breed that's hypoallergenic.

President-elect OBAMA: On the other hand, our preference would be to get a shelter dog. But obviously, a lot of shelter dogs are mutts like me.

GREENE: Senator Obama took questions for just under 15 minutes. No word on when he'll face reporters again. David Greene, NPR News, Chicago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.