Incoming White House senior adviser David Axelrod said this morning that President-elect Barack Obama will fulfill his campaign promise and begin on Wednesday the process of withdrawing America forces from Iraq within 16 months.
"He believes that that is a reasonable timetable. We've moved a great distance from the time he started talking about that, and now we're in an area where everyone agrees that we should be on a path to withdrawing those troops. And he is going to begin that process, as promised, on that day," Axelrod said in a "This Week" interview with George Stephanopoulos.
On Wednesday, Obama will call in his military commanders and ask them to come back with a plan for withdrawal.
But Axelrod made clear that the economy will be the top priority of the incoming administration, and that Obama will have a strong message for bankers once he takes office: start lending again.
"I think he's going to have a strong message for the bankers. We want to see credit flowing again. We don't want them to sit on any money that they get from taxpayers. And the other things that we have to deal with is transparency. No one can really tell you exactly where the money went, how it was spent. It's not easy to follow, even for people in government. We have to deal with that and we have to begin to address the housing issue in a way it hasn't been addressed yet," Axelrod said.
"And we have to make sure that the money doesn't go to excessive CEO pay and dividends when it should be going to lending," he said.
Axelrod went on to slam the way the Bush administration spent the first $350 billion of the TARP money.
"I think it's clear that it has to be administered in a much different way," Axelrod said. "First of all, the point is to get credit flowing again, to businesses and to families across the country. That hasn't happened with the expenditure of the first $350 billion."
On Obama's recovery plan, Axelrod was clear that "the reason that he came here two weeks early was to begin work on an economic recovery package." But he also tempered high expectations, explaining "any economist will tell you that even if we move rapidly, it takes a little while for this to move through the system and to put the brakes on what is the most serious economic downturn we've had in many, many generations."
But some Democrats have expressed doubts about the job-creating potential of Obama's economic plan. "I have my doubts," Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said earlier this week. "I don't think, you know, the -- most of the assessment is that this will reduce unemployment from what it would otherwise be by 2 percent. My people's analysis suggests maybe only have of that."
When asked by Stephanopoulos if they Obama team is "over-promising," Axelrod explained, "we have to try. It's not enough to be a doubter. It's not enough to question, not when we're in the situation we're in."
"We believe that this is a well-conceived approach to the problem we face. It's extraordinary and it's painful to have to do in terms of our debt. But it's something we have to do or we run the risk of that scenario that you suggest, double-digit unemployment."