Obama’s Day One: Church, then econ, war advisers
WASHINGTON ” President Barack Obama stepped into the Oval Office for the first time as chief executive on Wednesday and summoned economic advisers and top military officials to separate meetings aimed at delivering the change he promised as a candidate.
A multi-denominational prayer service at Washington National Cathedral and an open house at the presidential mansion were also on the schedule of the 44th president, taking office on a promise to fix the battered economy and withdraw U.S. troops from the unpopular war in Iraq on a 16-month timetable.
The shift in administrations ” former President George W. Bush was back home in Texas ” was underscored in far-off Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where a judge granted Obama’s request to suspend the war crimes trial of a young Canadian. The judge, Army Col. Patrick Parrish, issued a one-sentence order for the 120-day continuance without so much as a hearing, possibly the beginning of the end for the former administration’s system of trials for alleged terrorists.
Obama and first lady Michelle Obama sat in the first row for Wednesday’s invitation-only prayer service. Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, joined them, as did former President Bill Clinton and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., awaiting confirmation as secretary of state later in the day.
“Grant to Barack Obama, president of the United States, and to all in authority your grace and good will. Bless them with your heavenly gifts, give them wisdom and strength to know and to do your will,” prayed the Rev. Andy Stanley, one of numerous clerics from several religions to speak.
Obama’s first White House meetings as president meshed with quickened efforts in Congress to add top Cabinet officials to the roster of those confirmed on Tuesday and to advance the economic stimulus measure that is a top priority of his administration.
Treasury Secretary-designate Tim Geithner, appearing before the Senate Finance Committee for a confirmation hearing, said enactment of the new president’s economic stimulus was essential. He also said the Senate’s decision last week to permit use of the second $350 installment of a financial industry bailout “will enable us to take the steps necessary to help get credit flowing.”
He said Obama and he “share your belief that this program needs serious reform.”
Geithner also apologized for his failure to pay personal taxes earlier in the decade, calling the omission a mistake. The taxes were repaid in stages, some after an IRS audit and the rest after a review of his returns late last year by Obama’s transition team.