Obama: Fixing economy comes before fixing deficit

WASHINGTON (AP) - President-elect Barack Obama says eliminating the federal deficit is less important than getting the U.S. economy back on track.

"We shouldn't worry about the deficit next year or even the year after," Obama said in an interview broadcast Sunday on CBS' "60 Minutes." "The most important thing is that we avoid a deepening recession."

Obama also said selecting his national security team is one of his top priorities, "because transition periods are potentially times of vulnerability to a terrorist attack. We want to make sure that there is as seamless a transition on national security as possible."

One of the things he will do as president is create a program to help keep homeowners from foreclosure, says President-elect Barack Obama in his first post-election interview. Obama and future First Lady Michelle Obama spoke to Steve Kroft in an interview broadcast on 60 Minutes on WTOL-11.

He also said he would make cabinet appointments soon and would name a Republican.

In the interview, Obama tells Kroft about the change in his life the election victory has caused, the need to set his priorities and talks about a variety of issues, including the economic crisis, the failing auto industry, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and America's prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

On helping homeowners avoid foreclosure:

STEVE KROFT: Once you become President are there things that you'll change?

BARACK OBAMA: We have not focused on foreclosures and what's happening to homeowners as much as I would like...We've got to...set up a negotiation between banks and borrowers so that people can stay in their homes.  That is going to have an impact on the economy as a whole.  And, you know, one thing I'm determined is that if we don't have a clear focused program for homeowners by the time I take office, we will after I take office.

On His Interaction with Treasury Secretary Paulson:

STEVE KROFT: Are you in sync with Secretary Paulson in terms of how the $700 billion is being used?

BARACK OBAMA: Well, look Hank Paulson has worked tirelessly under some very difficult circumstances...I think Hank would be the first one to acknowledge that probably not everything that's been done has worked the way he had hoped it would work. You know what we've done is we've assigned somebody on my transition team who interacts with him on a daily basis.  And, you know, we are getting the information that's required and we're making suggestions in some circumstances about how we think they might approach some of these problems.

STEVE KROFT: Are they listening?

BARACK OBAMA: We'll find out.

On Aiding the Auto Industry:

STEVE KROFT: The Congress has said there are not the votes in Congress to pass any kind of a relief package for General Motors.

BARACK OBAMA: For the auto industry to completely collapse would be a disaster in this kind of environment...So it's my belief that we need to provide assistance to the auto industry.  But I think that it can't be a blank check. So my hope is that over the course of the next week, between the White House and Congress, the discussions are shaped around providing assistance but making sure that that assistance is conditioned on labor, management, suppliers, lenders, all of the stakeholders coming together with a plan -- what does a sustainable U.S. auto industry look like?  So that we are creating a bridge loan to somewhere as opposed to a bridge loan to nowhere.  And that's I think what you haven't yet seen.

On Reading President Abraham Lincoln:

BARACK OBAMA: I've been spending a lot of time reading Lincoln...there is a wisdom there and a humility about his approach to government, even before he was president, that I just find very helpful.

STEVE KROFT: Put a lot of his political enemies in his cabinet.


STEVE KROFT: Is that something you're considering?

BARACK OBAMA: Well, I tell you what.  I find him a very wise man.

On the challenges ahead:

STEVE KROFT:Have there been moments when you've said, 'What did I get myself into?'

BARACK OBAMA: I will say that the challenges that we're confronting are enormous.  And they're multiple.  And so there are times during the course of a given a day where you think, "Where do I start in terms of moving-- moving things forward?"  And I think that part of this next two months is to really get a clear set of priorities, understanding we're not going be able to do everything at once, making sure the team is in place, and moving forward in a very deliberate way and sending a clear signal to the American people that we're going to be thinking about them and what they're going through.