Obama's diary: The first week in the Oval Office

Click to follow
The Independent US

Day one, 21 January: Ethics and secrecy

"For a long time now, there's been too much secrecy in this city. Transparency and rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency"

On his first full day at work, Mr Obama ordered strict limits on interrogation techniques, revoking an infamous Bush administration gloss on the Geneva Conventions. He signed twoexecutive orders and three presidential memoranda laying down strict new ethics guidelines and requiring more openness by government. He also appeared in the Oval Office without a jacket, a no-no during eight years of George Bush. Mr Obama met with top military commanders and, as promised on the campaign trail, ordered them to start shaping the 16-month withdrawal from Iraq.

Day two, 22 January: Guantanamo and terror

"The message we are sending around the world is that the United States intends to prosecute the ongoing struggle against violence and terrorism, and we are going to do so vigilantly; we are going to do so effectively; and we are going to do so in a manner that is consistent with our values and our ideals"

With a stroke of his presidential pen, Mr Obama signed an executive order that will close Guantanamo within a year. He also ordered a ban on torture during interrogation and a review of detention policies. But on Capitol Hill, his choice for intelligence chief left open the possibility that different interrogation techniques can be added for use by intelligence officers and not be publicised. Mr Obama later appointed George Mitchell as Middle East envoy and Richard Holbrooke as envoy to Afghanistan.

Day three, 23 January: Abortion

"For too long, international family planning assistance has been used as a political wedge issue, the subject of a back-and-forth debate that has served only to divide us. I have no desire to continue this stale andfruitless debate."

Mr Obama used the old trick of the "Friday news dump" – the traditional time to bury unpopular news – to overturn the ban on any US aid going to overseas groups that provide advice on abortion, otherwise known as the Global Gag Rule. This was also the day of the first two remote missile strikes in Pakistan on his watch. News also emerged that he had been allowed to keep a Blackberry device in the Oval Office, which allows top secret emails, phone calls and web browsing.

Day four, 24 January: Radio address

"We begin this year and this administration in the midst of an unprecedented crisis that calls for unprecedented action... if we do not act boldly and swiftly, a bad situation could become dramatically worse."

Signalling that he intends to leap over the heads of the mainstream media Mr Obama's first "radio address" wasactually a video posted on YouTube. At every opportunity, he has taken his case for the unprecedented spending and tax cut measure directly to the American public and this was noexception, with the address focused on the economy and his $825bnstimulus plan.

Day five, 25 January: Biden steps in

"The bottom line here is, we've inherited a real mess. We're about to go in and try to essentially reclaim territory that's been effectively lost."

As Mr Obama took time off to be with his family, Mr Biden went on Meet the Press to make the case for the administration on a range of issues from the economic stimulus package to the war in Afghanistan.

Day six, 26 January: The environment

"No single issue is as fundamental to our future as energy. It is time for this moment of peril to be turned into one of progress... America will not be held hostage to dwindling resources, hostile regimes, and a warming planet. Now is the time to make tough choices."

In his first major environmental act as president, Mr Obama marked another a stark departure from the Bush era, signing executive orders aimed at kick-starting the manufacture of more efficient cars. He ordered the Environment Protection Agency to look again at a request by California and 13 other states to set car emissions standards far more stringent than federal standards, to the dismay of the car manufacturers, which spent millions lobbying Congress to block such higher standards.

Day seven, 27 January: The economy

"Feel free to whack me over the head because I probably will not compromise on that part" [to Republicans seeking deeper tax cuts]

Almost exactly a week after his inauguration on the steps of the US Capitol, President Obama returned to The Hill to meet with the Senate and House Republicans and press the case for his economic stimulus plan. Republicans complain the Democratic $550bn spending proposal is excessive while their proposal to cut taxes by about $275bn does not go far enough and the House Minority leader has encouraged his members to vote against it.