Obama's Meet The Press Interview: Discusses Economy, Auto Bailout, Iran, Foreign Policy, More (VIDEO)
***UPDATE*** 12/7 12:31PM -- SCROLL DOWN FOR VIDEO
Obama discussed the importance of using the White House as a "bully pulpit" to encourage the youth of America to reach for the stars in the arts and sciences, and to remind people that the White House is "the people's house":
"Part of what we want to do is to open up the White House and remind people this is the people's house," Obama told NBC's Tom Brokaw during a "Meet the Press" interview taped Saturday in Chicago.
"There is an incredible bully pulpit to be used when it comes to, for example, education: Yes, we're going to have an education policy; yes, we're going to be putting more money into school construction. But ultimately we want to talk about parents reading to their kids. We want to invite kids from local schools into the White House."
The president-elect said his administration is interested in "elevating science once again, and having lectures in the White House where people are talking about traveling to the stars or breaking down atoms, inspiring our youth to get a sense of what discovery is all about."
"Thinking about the diversity of our culture and inviting jazz musicians and classical musicians and poetry readings in the White House so that once again we appreciate this incredible tapestry that's America," he said.
"Historically, what has always brought us through hard times is that national character, that sense of optimism, that willingness to look forward, that sense that better days are ahead," Obama said. "I think that our art and our culture, our science--you know, that's the essence of what makes America special, and we want to project that as much as possible in the White House."
***UPDATE*** 12/7 10:16AM
President-elect Barack Obama said the economy seems destined to get worse before it gets better and he pledged a recovery plan "that is equal to the task ahead."
Obama also said in an interview broadcast Sunday that the survival of the domestic car-making capacity is important, yet any bailout must be "conditioned on an auto industry emerging at the end of the process that actually works."
Less than six weeks before he takes office, Obama said that help for homeowners facing foreclosure is an option as part of his plan. He sidestepped a question about when he plans to raise taxes on wealthy Americans.
Obama's interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" was his most extensive since winning the White House more than a month ago.
In the intervening weeks, the economy has showed clear signs of worsening. Employers said they eliminated more than 500,000 jobs in November alone and retailers reported disappointing holiday-season sales.
"The economy is going to get worse before it gets better," he said twice in the early moments of the interview, taped Saturday in Chicago.
The president-elect announced on Saturday he would call for the most massive spending on public works since the creation of the interstate highway system a half-century ago. In a word of caution to powerful lawmakers, he said the first priority would be "shovel-ready" projects _ those that could create jobs rights away.
"The days of just pork coming out of Congress as a strategy those days are over," he added.
Obama on the economy getting worse before it gets better.
Obama also discusses a potential bailout of the auto companies, but he was careful not to commit himself too firmly to any specific plan.
Brokaw and Obama discuss the potential diplomatic approaches to Iran.
Obama outlines his approach to foreign policy in general.
EARLIER: Barack Obama will be on Meet the Press Sunday. NBC has released an excerpt from the interview in which Obama announces that tomorrow, on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, he will name General Eric Shinseki as Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Shinseki gained fame for losing his job in the Bush Administration after he testified to Congress that an occupation of Iraq would require hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops, a view which was not shared by the Pentagon under Donald Rumsfeld, but is now widely regarded as correct. Watch the excerpt from the interview below, and check back for the full video.
Transcript of Obama video clip:
PRESIDENT-ELECT OBAMA: Tomorrow, you had mentioned earlier, is when we commemorate Pearl Harbor, and so I'm going to be making announcement tomorrow about the head of our Veterans Administration, General Eric Shinseki, who was a commander and has fought in Vietnam, Bosnia, is somebody who has achieved the highest level of military service. He has agreed that he is willing to be part of this administration because both he and I share a reverence for those who serve. I grew up in Hawaii, as he did. My grandfather is in the Punch Bowl National Cemetery. When I reflect on the sacrifices that have been made by our veterans and, I think about how so many veterans around the country are struggling even more than those who have not served -- higher unemployment rates, higher homeless rates, higher substance abuse rates, medical care that is inadequate -- it breaks my heart, and I think that General Shinseki is exactly the right person who is going to be able to make sure that we honor our troops when they come home.
BROKAW: He's the man who lost his job in the Bush Administration because he said we will need more troops in Iraq than Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld thought we would need at that time.
PRESIDENT-ELECT OBAMA: He was right.
Think Progress flashes back to Shinseki's Senate testimony:
In the run-up to war in Iraq in early 2003, General Eric Shinseki testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that it would take "several hundred thousand soldiers" to secure Iraq:
I would say that what's been mobilized to this point, something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers, are probably, you know, a figure that would be required. We're talking about post-hostilities control over a piece of geography that's fairly significant with the kinds of ethnic tensions that could lead to other problems.
Just two days later -- and exactly five years ago today -- then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, swiftly and infamously dismissed Shinseki's assessment:
The organization of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America released this statement praising the choice of Shinseki:
"IAVA applauds President-elect Obama and the transition team for making this historic selection. General Shinseki has a record of courage and honesty, and is a bold choice to lead the VA into the future. The President-elect has demonstrated an understanding of the urgency of the issues facing America's veterans by making this announcement early. General Shinseki is widely-respected, honest and experienced. He is a man that has always put patriotism ahead of politics, and is held in high regard by veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. IAVA looks forward to supporting him to implement the historic change that is needed at the VA.
As a wounded, decorated, combat veteran, and the first Asian American in US History to be a four-star general, General Shinseki, has the potential to be an effective and dedicated advocate for veterans of all generations.
Shinseki, 66, is slated to take the helm of the government's second largest agency, which has been roundly criticized during the Bush administration for underestimating the amount of funding needed to treat thousands of injured veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Thousands of veterans currently endure six-month waits for disability benefits, despite promises by current VA Secretary James Peake and his predecessor, Jim Nicholson, to reduce delays. The department also is scrambling to upgrade government technology systems before new legislation providing for millions of dollars in new GI benefits takes effect next August.
Sen. Daniel Akaka, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, praised Shinseki as a "great choice" who will make an excellent VA secretary.
"I have great respect for General Shinseki's judgment and abilities," said Akaka, D-Hawaii, in a statement. "I am confident that he will use his wisdom and experience to ensure that our veterans receive the respect and care they have earned in defense of our nation. President-elect Obama is selecting a team that reflects our nation's greatest strength, its diversity, and I applaud him."