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US Prez-elect looks to history

Obama is drawing on techniques from his campaign and lessons from predecessors as he seeks to shape public attitudes about the economic downturn. Read on...See graphics

world Updated: Jan 13, 2009 00:07 IST

It is still a week before he takes office, yet President-elect Barack Obama is everywhere: on the Sunday talk shows, on radio and YouTube, on Capitol Hill, drawing on the techniques he employed during the campaign and lessons from predecessors as he seeks to shape public attitudes toward the economic downturn.

His aides said Obama had studied the way Franklin D. Roosevelt approached the first 100 days of his presidency, and in particular had seized on the notion of Roosevelt having a “conversation with the American public” to try to prepare it for a difficult time.

He has, aides said, even looked at the words Roosevelt used and the tone he struck.

Obama has sought to strike a balance: emphasizing the depth of the problem, to create a sense of political urgency for Congress to act quickly, while not being so pessimistic that he could further destabilise the jittery financial markets or deplete the sense of energy and hope accompanying his election.

Yet even as the president-elect looks to the past — he said on Sunday that he had been reading Lincoln in preparation for his inaugural address — he and his team are mobilising to use the most up-to-date techniques to communicate with the public and rally support.

His aides they would begin sending to supporters and posting on YouTube videotapes of economic experts in the administration — like Lawrence H. Summers, who will be director of the National Economic Council — talking in detail about Obama’s economic proposals.

At the same time, the incoming administration is preparing to release more reports that will set out in specific numbers the goals for the huge spending Obama is proposing. The details include things like how many classrooms will be modernized, one aide said.

First Published: Jan 13, 2009 00:03 IST