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Obama: Seamless Security Transition A Priority

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Obama: Seamless Security Transition A Priority


Obama: Seamless Security Transition A Priority

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This is Morning Edition from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning. His face has been everywhere since the election, but President-elect Barack Obama has limited the number of times he takes questions. One exception came last night on "60 Minutes," the CBS News program. Obama spoke about national security, the nation's deep economic troubles, and adjusting to life as the next president of the United States. For part of the interview, he was joined by future first lady Michelle Obama who says that in some ways reality has not sunk in. Here's NPR's Don Gonyea.

DON GONYEA: The issues that dominated the campaign are dominating President-elect Obama's transition to the presidency. On national security, he's now receiving daily intelligence briefings on potential threats. In the interview with CBS correspondent Steve Kroft, he spoke of the need to be especially vigilant now.

(Soundbite of Obama interview on CBS News program "60 Minutes")

President-elect BARACK OBAMA: I think it's important to get a national security team in place because transition periods are potentially times of vulnerability to a terrorist attack. We want to make sure that there is as seamless a transition on national security as possible.

GONYEA: On the economy, the magnitude of the challenge has been compared to what Franklin Roosevelt faced when he became president 75 years ago.

President-elect OBAMA: What you see in FDR that I hope my team can emulate is not always getting it right, but projecting a sense of confidence and a willingness to try things and experiment in order to get people working again. And I think that that's what the American people expect. You know, they're not expecting miracles.

GONYEA: The president-elect also said that the average American knows that the president can't just snap his fingers and make everything OK, but that they do say this...

President-elect OBAMA: What we do expect is that the guy is going to be straight with us. We do expect that he's going to be working really hard for us. We do expect that he's going to be thinking about ordinary Americans and not just the wealthy and the powerful. And we do expect that if something doesn't work, that they're going to try something else until they find something that does. And that's the kind of common-sense approach that I want to take when I take office.

GONYEA: The interview also included discussion of the personal - of how one prepares to take on the weight of the presidency, particularly during perilous times for the economy, coupled with involvement in two wars overseas. Obama told CBS's Kroft he's turned to the writings of President Abraham Lincoln.

President-elect OBAMA: There's a wisdom there and a humility about his approach to government, even before he was president, that I just find very helpful.

Mr. STEVE KROFT (Correspondent, "60 Minutes"): He put a lot of his political enemies in his Cabinet.

President-elect OBAMA: He did.

Mr. KROFT: Is that something you're considering?

President-elect OBAMA: Well, I tell you what. I find him a very wise man.

GONYEA: As for when we'll start to get the names of Cabinet nominees, the president-elect would only say "soon." He was joined by his wife, Michelle, for a portion of the program last night.

President-elect OBAMA: There are still some things we're not adjusted to.

Ms. MICHELLE OBAMA: Like what? What do you want? What aren't you adjusted to?

President-elect OBAMA: Me not being able to take a walk.

Ms. OBAMA: Oh, well, you know. It's true.

President-elect OBAMA: No, I mean, those are things that...

Ms. OBAMA: I don't walk as much as he does, so I guess I don't miss it.

President-elect OBAMA: Yeah. I mean, you know...

Ms. OBAMA: You want to go for a walk?

President-elect OBAMA: I do. I'd love to take you for a walk. Although, it's cold today, but...

Ms. OBAMA: Yeah. I wouldn't go with you.

President-elect OBAMA: I know.

GONYEA: Then a bit more seriously.

President-elect OBAMA: I mean, the loss of anonymity - and this is not a complaint, this is part of what you sign up for - but, you know, being able to just wander around the neighborhood. I can't go to my old barbershop now. I've got to have my barber come to some undisclosed location to cut my hair. You know, the small routines of life that keep you connected, I think some of those are being lost. One of the challenges I think that we're going to be wrestling with is how to stay pretty normal.

GONYEA: President-elect Barack Obama on CBS's "60 Minutes' last night. Today his schedule in Chicago includes his first post-election meeting with the man he defeated for the presidency, Senator John McCain. Don Gonyea, NPR News.

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