In response to Chair of the House Financial Services Rep. Barney Frank's proposal to put $50 billion of the remaining funds towards preventing foreclosures, Obama said, "What I've done is asked my team to come together, come up with a set of principles around how we are going to maintain transparency, what are we going to do in terms of housing, how are we going to target small businesses that are under an enormous business crunch?"
"Let's lay out very specifically some of the things that we are going to do with the next $350 billion of money. And I think that we can gain -- regain the confidence of both Congress and the American people that this is not just money that is being given to banks without any strings attached and nobody knows what happens, but rather that it is targeted very specifically at getting credit flowing again to businesses and families."
Obama spoke out against criticism for his relative silence on the conflict in Gaza and defended his assertion that, when it comes to national security, "we cannot have two administrations at the same time simultaneously sending signals in a volatile situation."
But he added that his team is preparing to get involved once he takes office. "What I am doing right now is putting together the team so that on Jan. 20th, starting on day one, we have the best possible people who are going to be immediately engaged in the Middle East peace process as a whole. That are going to be engaging with all of the actors there. That will work to create a strategic approach that ensures that both Israelis and Palestinians can meet their aspirations," Obama said.
The president-elect stood by his comments last July made on a trip to Israel that "If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that. I would expect Israelis to do the same thing."
When asked if he would say the same in Israel today, Obama said, "I think that's a basic principle of any country is that they've got to protect their citizens."
Comparing his approach to the Middle East to that of previous administrations, Obama suggested that he will not be making a clean break from the Bush policy. "I think that if you look not just at the Bush administration, but also what happened under the Clinton administration, you are seeing the general outlines of an approach."
Earlier in the week, Vice President Cheney told Obama that, "Before you start to implement your campaign rhetoric you need to sit down and find out precisely what it is we did and how we did it. Because it is going to be vital to keeping the nation safe and secure in the years ahead and it would be a tragedy if they threw over those policies simply because they've campaigned against them."
"I think that was pretty good advice," said Obama. "I should know what's going on before we make judgments and that we shouldn't be making judgments on the basis of incomplete information or campaign rhetoric."
On the broader outlook for the Middle East, Obama reiterated his belief that "Iran is going to be one of our biggest challenges... And we are going to have to take a new approach. And I've outlined my belief that engagement is the place to start. The international community is going to be taking cues from us in how we want to approach Iran."