President-elect Barack Obama might have wanted some relaxation time -- or at least some thinking time before that White House he toured Monday becomes his.
But politics is inviting Obama in at every turn: world leaders reaching out; advocacy groups growing restless (already); a Senate run-off where his pull will be tested; a Democrat-turned-independent-turned-McCain-endorser whose future is being debated on the Hill; and, most pressingly, a series of financial matters that can't wait for Jan. 20 to be resolved.
(And Gov. Sarah Palin is inviting in politics at every turn -- what, is she running for something?)
There will be many Barack Obamas, surely, over the course of his presidency -- the one of the first 100 days, the economic healer, the wartime leader, the manager, the speaker, the relationship-builder, the one who responds to unforeseen crises, and the one who (soon enough) gears up for reelection.
All of them could be defined in part by the pre-presidential Obama we're seeing now. Just a week past Election Day, Obama is being asked to fill leadership voids all over Washington, and as he responds -- tentatively, for now -- he knows that he's setting the tone for when it counts.
Behind the pageantry, the makings of a presidential-level standoff: "President-elect Barack Obama yesterday urged President Bush to support immediate aid for struggling automakers and back a new stimulus package, even as congressional Democrats began drafting legislation to give the Detroit automakers quick access to $25 billion by adding them to the Treasury Department's $700 billion economic rescue program," Lori Montgomery and Michael D. Shear write in The Washington Post.
"Bush, speaking privately to Obama during their first Oval Office meeting, repeated his administration's stand that he might support quick action on those bills if Democratic leaders drop their opposition to a Colombia trade agreement that Bush supports," they report. "The discussions raised the stakes for a lame-duck session of Congress that could begin next week and came as fears about General Motors' financial condition yesterday pushed the company's stock price to its lowest level in about 60 years."
"A week after Mr. Obama's election, and more than two months before he takes office, the steadily weakening economy and the prospect of many more job losses are testing his effort to remain aloof from the nation's business on the argument that 'we only have one president at a time,' " Jackie Calmes writes in The New York Times.
"As the auto industry reels, rarely has an issue so quickly illustrated the differences from one White House occupant to the next," she writes. "How Mr. Obama responds to the industry's dire straits will indicate how much government intervention in the private sector he is willing to tolerate. It will also offer hints of how he will approach his job under pressure, testing the limits of his conciliation toward the opposition party and his willingness to stand up to the interest groups in his own."