Angst on PBS Over Too-Long Wait for Obama's Inauguration

In the midst of a discussion about President-elect Barack Obama's national security team, Washington Week host Gwen Ifill on Friday night's program sought confirmation for her theory that “what people are beginning to say is that this President-elect should be President now” as “people are saying why isn't Barack Obama leading the fight about the auto-makers?”

New York Times reporter Peter Baker agreed: “That's right, exactly.” He proceeded to fret over how “people voted for change and this strange, odd 77-day waiting period that we impose...between our election and our inauguration” just isn't compatible with the “hyperactive 24/7 fast-moving culture that we have today.” Baker admired how “Obama is trying to find some balance between respecting President Bush,” whom Baker conceded is “still in charge,” and “finding a way to assert leadership.”

The exchange on the Friday, December 5 Washington Week on PBS:
GWEN IFILL: Is there any way to look at this and think to yourself that maybe what people are beginning to say is that this President-elect should be President now? I mean, there seems to be this pressure, people are saying why isn't Barack Obama leading the fight about the auto-makers? Why isn't he -- I saw a poll where his approval rating was higher for his handling of the Mumbai attacks than President Bush's, even though he didn't do anything.

PETER BAKER, NEW YORK TIMES: That's right, exactly.

IFILL: So there's this desire-

BAKER: People voted for change and this strange, odd 77-day waiting period that we impose, in effect, between our election and our inauguration -- which is necessary to build a new government and get ready -- but it's such a long period in a hyperactive 24/7 fast-moving culture that we have today. And Barack Obama is trying to find some balance between respecting President Bush, who's still in charge, and finding a way to assert leadership. He's had, so far now, six press conferences since the election. He's going to have a seventh on Sunday, Pearl Harbor day. This is an unusual amount of public exposure for a President who hasn't yet taken office and he's been faster in naming his top appointments than any President-elect in modern times. He's got more than half of his cabinet and senior White House team already named. He wants to show action, he wants to show leadership but he has a little bitted number of tools to do it.

DAVID WESSEL, WALL STREET JOURNAL: And look, it's not surprising, given how rapidly the economy is deteriorating, the prospect of the auto companies going bankrupt before the inauguration -- it's an urgent problem, and if you think the President is a lame duck and is impotent then you want the new guy to take over.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center