President Obama's Day One: Church, Then Economy & War Advisers

WASHINGTON (AP) - In a first-day whirlwind, President Barack Obama showcased efforts to revive the economy on Wednesday, summoned top military officials to chart a new course in Iraq and eased into the daunting thicket of Middle East diplomacy.

"What an opportunity we have to change this country," said the 47-year-old chief executive, who also issued new ethics rules for his administration and hosted a reception at the presidential mansion for 200 inauguration volunteers and guests selected by an Internet lottery.

After dancing at inaugural balls with first lady Michelle Obama past midnight, Obama entered the Oval Office for the first time as president in early morning. He read a good luck note left behind by President George W. Bush, then began breaking cleanly with his predecessor's policies.

Aides circulated a draft of an executive order that would close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, within a year and halt all war crimes trials in the meantime.

Closing the site "would further the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice," read the draft prepared for the new president's signature. A copy was obtained by The Associated Press.

Some of the 245 detainees currently held at Guantanamo would be
released, while others would be transferred elsewhere and later put
on trial under terms to be determined.

Obama's Cabinet was moving closer to completion.

At the Capitol, the Senate confirmed Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state after a one-day delay forced by Republicans. The
vote was 94-2, and spectators seated in the galleries erupted in applause when it was announced.

Treasury-designate Timothy Geithner emerged unscathed from his
confirmation hearing, apologizing for having failed to pay $34,000 in taxes earlier in the decade.

To the evident anger of Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Republicans on the panel invoked longstanding rules to postpone a vote on Eric Holder's appointment as attorney general.

Six Cabinet members have been confirmed so far, as have the two top officials at the Office of Management and Budget.

Obama's schedule for the day included separate sessions on the
economy and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The new president has pledged to take bold steps to revive the economy, which is struggling through the worst recession since the
Great Depression. Last week, he won approval to use $350 billion in
leftover financial industry bailout funds.

He presided over the White House meeting on the economy as the
House Appropriations Committee moved toward approval of $358 billion in new spending, part of the economic stimulus package making its way to his desk.

The new commander in chief held his first meeting in the Situation Room, where he, Vice President Joe Biden and senior military and foreign policy officials discussed war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama campaigned on a pledge to withdraw U.S. combat forces from Iraq within 16 months, and to beef up the commitment in Afghanistan.

The new White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said Obama's
phone calls to leaders in the Middle East were meant to convey his
"commitment to active engagement in pursuit of Arab-Israeli peace from the beginning of his term."

Gibbs also that in conversations with Israeli, Palestinian, Egyptian and Jordanian leaders, the president emphasized he would work to consolidate the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

Obama intends to name former Senate Majority leader George Mitchell as a special envoy to the region.

Not everything was new at the White House.

In the Oval Office, Obama worked at a desk built from the timbers of a British naval vessel, the HMS Resolute, and used off-and-on by presidents since the 1870s, including Bush. It also appeared that the carpet that Bush used in his second term, a yellow sunbeam design, was still in place.

If some of the furnishings remained in place, there was no doubt that the new president meant to fulfill his campaign promise of change.

"As of today, lobbyists will be subject to stricter limits than under any ... other administration in history," Obama told reporters as he signed the new rules. The restrictions included a ban on gifts by lobbyists to anyone serving in the administration.

He also imposed a pay freeze for about 100 White House aides who
earn $100,000 or more. Its implementation was unclear, since none of them was on the payroll before Tuesday's noontime inauguration.

Obama and his wife began their day at a prayer service that is traditional for the first business day of a new administration. They were joined in front-pew seats by Biden and his wife, Jill, as well as former President Bill Clinton and his wife, hours away from confirmation as the nation's top diplomat.

"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 and his wife also played host and hostess for a select 200 at an open house.

"Enjoy yourself, roam around," a smiling Obama told one guest. "Don't break anything."

At least two more executive orders are expected in coming days,
according to two Obama officials.

One official said the first will require all U.S. personnel to follow the U.S. Army Field Manual while questioning detainees. The manual explicitly prohibits threats, coercion, physical abuse and waterboarding, which creates the sensation of drowning and has been
termed a form of torture by critics.

The second order will set up a study of interrogation methods that could be added to the Army manual, including some that may be more aggressive than those currently permitted.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to discuss the orders until they are released.
Associated Press writers Jennifer Loven, Darlene Superville,
Philip Elliott, Ben Feller and Lara Jakes contributed to this

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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  • by TRUTH BE TOLD on Jan 23, 2009 at 08:41 AM
    I have to agree with LIFE because Bush did not even take the time to do away with NAFTA during his 8 years in office and just look what happened more jobs going overseas. Yes, plenty of people have worked hard and lost their jobs due to NAFTA so people cannot say they did not work hard. I know somebody that worked in the same factory for 30 years and the plant shut down and moved to Mexico. Now can you not tell me they did not work hard? I blame the goverment. Clinton never should have been allowed to do that and since Bush claimed he was so determine to protect this country, why didn't he try to get NAFTA stopped?? No, he wanted a free trade agreement with Columbia the drug country.
  • by Anonymous on Jan 23, 2009 at 07:45 AM
    I'm a woman and we want to be equal--Put us into combat. We will die in the next wars until we are equal to men.
  • by Note to LIFE on Jan 23, 2009 at 05:54 AM
    Let's see...the stimulus check that Bush gave us is the same thing Obama wants to use but when Bush did it, the Dems thought it was a bad idea. Now that they want to do the same thing, it is now a good idea...right? So please tell me, what is this plan Obama and Biden have to create jobs? I have heard no details or plans on how this will work. Do you believe everything you hear? Give me some facts man, not just hot air. Another thing; why do you want the government to take care of lower and middle class Americans? What about personal responsibility? Are you one of those that doesn't want to work hard to get ahead? Do you want to live like the Doctor down the street but refuse to further your education and work long hours to get ahead in life? Large government is not the answer. Take responsibility for yourself and you don't need the help of the government. One last thing; jobs are leaving due to NAFTA which was signed by Clinton. You whiny little liberals kill me!
  • by Halyn Location: Somerset on Jan 23, 2009 at 05:48 AM
    Last time I checked, war is not pro-life!
  • by Ray Location: Hampton on Jan 23, 2009 at 05:32 AM
    Hey, LIFE, you may wish to re-take Civics 101. It's not the government's responsibility to create jobs. That's what socialist governments do. Constitutional Republics (like America) are responsible for making it a better climate for Capitalism to flourish, and BUSINESSES and INDUSTRY to create jobs.
  • by Amos Location: Lexington on Jan 23, 2009 at 04:05 AM
    To So much conservative hate: Jesus WASN'T against hate and slander, but I'm pretty sure he wasn't for abortion, either. Where did we read that taxpayers will be paying for abortions? Do the math. Obammy signed legislation to provide funding to planned parenthood (including Mexico) his first day in office. Where do you think that money is coming from, a bake sale? Then again, maybe this is his way to control illegal immigration. Maybe we should wait and see.
  • by Ray Location: Hampton on Jan 22, 2009 at 07:12 PM
    SMCH - the Church is the 'ecclesia' - the "Called Out Ones" who worship and follow Christ in Spirit and Truth. The building is irrelevant. Since this was a pagan event - there was no Church present. And I stand by my comment. It was a godless pagan ceremony, and 0bama is a devout supporter of abortion. Stop me when I lie. Christ was very clear that those who obey and follow Him in faith will inherit the Kingdom. Those who don't will perish in eternal hell-fire. The Pharisees thought His comments were 'hateful' too. We're to expose the works of darkness - not embrace them.
  • by Amanda on Jan 22, 2009 at 06:40 PM
    The Bible clearly speaks against homosexuals and abortions. It talks about how we shouldn't kill as well. Last time I checked an abortion is killing and last time I checked Obama supported abortion. Seems to me that he can't have it both ways.
  • by Diane Location: Mt.Sterling on Jan 22, 2009 at 03:21 PM
    smch. When you remove all restrictions who do you on morality who do you think pays for it. You where not quoting me when you were railing about Godless Pagan Ceremonies. I just asked this article's writer why he didn't clarify who was praying at the ceremony. So who's hateful and untruthful now?
  • by LIFE on Jan 22, 2009 at 12:35 PM
    I am glad Bush is gone because look at the state of the economy. He knew the economy was bad but did you see him try to do anything to help the economy? NO. At least, Obama's and Biden's plan is to help the working class Americans and try to create jobs. Bush did not care about the lower and middle class american, he was just concerned about helping Third World Countries.
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