Commentary: Daunting task ahead for Obama

This editorial appeared in The (Raleigh) News & Observer.

Barack Obama will come to the presidency of a nation facing multiple crises. Already, those around him with an eye on history invoke the name of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who took office in the depths of the Great Depression.

Even then, with bread lines and families literally on the street by the tens of thousands, Roosevelt received conflicting suggestions as to the pace of the rescue he had promised. He chose an aggressive approach, with a host of government programs and a multi-dimensional financial rescue plan. Over time, it worked.

Obama's priority-setting task is perhaps even more daunting. For one thing, the nation's budget deficit and foreign debt are astronomical, more so in view of the $700 billion bailout package approved by Congress. (The goal now is to spur spending by making credit more available.) A war in Iraq and an expanding campaign against terrorists in Afghanistan are draining resources as well. The new president will have to pick and choose, and the American people who elected him on promises of change and a restoration of prosperity, or at least a chance at it, will have to be patient.

It's clear that the economy is Job One, and that's as it should be given that the rest of Obama's agenda would be difficult to address unless the economic situation is on the rebound. The president-elect has signaled his support for an additional economic stimulus plan involving federal investment in infrastructure projects -- meaning many Americans could be put to work. Money in workers' pockets certainly would help free up the gears in suffering sectors such as retail and the auto industry.

To read the complete editorial, visit The (Raleigh) News & Observer.