Can The Global Crisis Wait For A New President?
LIANE HANSEN, host:
This is Weekend Edition from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.
An inauguration date of January 20 can seem arbitrary when a country is facing its worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. From bailouts for the car industry to a financial summit next weekend, there are a lot of decisions with long-term consequences that might not be able to wait until Inauguration Day. NPR's Dina Temple-Raston has more.
DINA TEMPLE-RASTON: The transition from a Bush administration to an Obama one is nothing if not awkward. Mr. Obama tiptoed around the issue during his first press conference on Friday.
(Soundbite of press conference)
President-elect BARACK OBAMA: We are facing the greatest economic challenge of our lifetime, and we are going to have to act swiftly to resolve it. Now, the United States has only one government and one president at a time. And until January 20 of next year, that government is the current administration.
TEMPLE-RASTON: President Bush and President-elect Obama are running up against the fact that the machinery of global finance isn't waiting for Washington, and some decisions may need to be made now. Vince Reinhart from the American Enterprise Institute said neither leader can afford to drag his feet.
Mr. VINCENT REINHART (Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute): I think the general lesson is, the longer you take to deal with the financial problem, the more expensive it gets, mainly because firms that are flailing about just burn through money. Witness the auto companies that are burning through billions of dollars each month.
TEMPLE-RASTON: General Motors announced dismal earnings on Friday and said it could run short of money by mid-2009. In response, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson asking that he expand the $700 billion bailout to include car companies. So far, the Bush administration has hesitated to do so. Vince Reinhart says...
Mr. REINHART: Since those actions can have long-lived consequences, they should be informed by what the next administration wants to do.
TEMPLE-RASTON: The most immediate issue for the Obama team is how to finesse next week's Group of 20 meeting in Washington. World leaders and finance ministers are arriving to discuss a coordinated global plan aimed at addressing the financial crisis. President Bush simply won't be in a position to commit the U.S. government to much of anything.
Mr. ROBERT HORMATS (Vice Chairman, Goldman Sachs International): Awkward moments can be avoided, and I think that both groups are committed to avoiding them.
TEMPLE-RASTON: Robert Hormats is vice chairman of Goldman Sachs International. He says the Bush administration needs to give Obama's economic team some sort of observer status at that meeting.
Mr. HORMATS: The follow-up work is going to have to be handled by the Obama administration. So the more the Obama administration team can work on the process and interact with the other participants, the easier it will be ensure a smooth follow-up to that meeting.
TEMPLE-RASTON: The French have already suggested a follow-up meeting in Paris in February. The president and president-elect plan to meet at the White House tomorrow. Dina Temple-Raston, NPR News, New York.