Obama's First Day In Office
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
From the studios of NPR West, this is Day to Day. I'm Madeleine Brand.
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And I'm Alex Cohen. Coming up, the country's financial institutions are in big trouble, so why not nationalize big banks?
BRAND: That's a question the Obama administration may consider. Today, President Obama begins his first full day in office. NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson joins us now from the White House. And, Mara, tell us, his first day in office, what's he doing?
MARA LIASSON: Well, this morning President Obama arrived in the Oval Office. He spent 10 minutes alone in the office. He also fished out the note from the desk that was left to him by President Bush. That's a tradition. The envelope was marked, "To Number 44 From Number 43." We don't know what was in that note. Usually it's Godspeed and good wishes, something like that.
Then at 8:45, the chief of staff came in to discuss the schedule. The First Lady also came by a little after nine. Then he made four phone calls - to King Abdullah of Jordan, Prime Minister Olmert of Israel, Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian authority, and President Mubarak of Egypt. Obviously, his first foreign policy priority is the conflict in Gaza.
Then after he made the phone calls to foreign leaders, he went up to an interdenominational prayer service at the Cathedral. Later today, he will be swearing in some of his new Cabinet secretaries, holding an event where he'll announce some ethics rules for the White House. And then at the end of the day, he will be meeting with his National Security Council to have them begin making plans for withdrawing from Iraq and escalating in Afghanistan.
BRAND: And he's already made a decision regarding Guantanamo, right?
LIASSON: Yes. He promised during the campaign to close Guantanamo. He hasn't issued the executive order yet doing so, but he did lay the groundwork, which is asking a judge to suspend the trials currently going on for Guantanamo detainees. And they will be suspended for 120 days. That gives him time to issue the order and start figuring out what he's going to do with those people.
BRAND: And what other executive orders do you anticipate?
LIASSON: Well, one of the things he's going to do is issue orders about abortion, public funding of abortion. That's kind of a traditional ping-pong policy. When Democratic presidents are in office, they make it easier for people to get funding for abortion and organizations who provide abortion counseling to get federal funding. When Republicans are in office, they usually reverse that policy.
He's also going to be overturning President Bush's policy on stem cell research. It's interesting, that's something that Congress could have done itself. But in consultations with the Democratic congressional leaders, it was decided that President Obama wanted that to do for himself. And then Congress got the opportunity to reverse the Bush policy on expanding the children's health insurance program.
BRAND: All right. So, meanwhile, he's going to need some advice from his Cabinet members, and we still have some Senate confirmation hearings to go. Today, Tim Geithner for Treasury secretary is up, but what about the rest of them?
LIASSON: Well, there have been a lot confirmed, and he will be swearing in some of them at midday today. But he's got his interior secretary, Ken Salazar, confirmed. He's got his national Homeland Security Department chief, Janet Napolitano, confirmed. He's got his education secretary, Arne Duncan, confirmed. The big ones that we're waiting for, as you said, Tim Geithner, whose hearings are today, Eric Holder at justice, his hearings are also today. Hillary Clinton, secretary of state, should be getting a vote later this afternoon.
BRAND: NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson, thank you.
LIASSON: Thank you.
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