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Obama urges Bush, Congress to pass a stimulus package

The president-elect also pushes for a $25 billion bailout of the auto industry before he takes office.

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"Immediately after I become president I am going to confront this economic crisis head on," said Obama.

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Obama faces two conflicting imperatives regarding the nation's problems, according to presidential transition experts.

On the one hand, he's being pressured to jump right in and begin to formulate policy. On the other, he does not want to become saddled with responsibility for policies that he does not yet have the power to design and implement as he sees fit.

"He's taking office at a time of our most challenging transition since the Great Depression," said Darrell West, vice president of governance studies at the Brookings Institution, at a Nov. 7 post-election seminar.

Perhaps Obama's biggest problem right now is unrealistic expectations, said Mr. West. To avoid a backlash of disappointment among voters, Obama may need to push at the beginning of his term for measures that can gain some bipartisan support and thus pass Congress relatively quickly.

"He can do that with a stimulus package," said West.

Obama is making the right move by assembling his White House team before moving on the cabinet, said Leon Panetta, who served in the White House as chief of staff under President Clinton.

In his first personnel move, Obama named Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel his chief of staff. But his next step should be assembling his economic team, in particular, naming his secretary of the Treasury.

"That's what America is looking for right now," said Mr. Panetta.

Obama, for his part, declined at his press conference to be drawn into speculation about possible Treasury picks. He will make cabinet appointments in due time, he said.

"I want to move with all deliberate haste. And I want to emphasize 'deliberate,' as well as 'hasteā€š' " he said.

Obama said that he had spoken with all living ex-presidents as well as the current president since Election Day. "They have all been very gracious," he said.

The president-elect was cautious in discussing his response to a lengthy congratulatory letter from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"Iran's development of a nuclear weapon is unacceptable.... I will be reviewing the letter and I will respond appropriately," said Obama.

And the president-elect noted that the choice of a White House dog is a "major issue" in the Obama household. While he promised his daughters they could have a dog if he won, one of them is diagnosed as allergic to dogs, so the new pet must be a breed that is "hypoallergenic," Obama said.

They would also like to get a shelter dog, but that may not be possible, given that most shelter dogs are "mutts like me," said Obama.