What Are Obama's Priorities For Day One?

Obama in Hawaii, Dec. 27, 2008
President-elect Barack Obama greets onlookers after working out at the Semper Fit Center at Marine Corp Base Hawaii in Kailua, Hawaii Saturday, Dec. 27, 2008. Obama is closely monitoring the conflict in Gaza, aides said. Isreali airstrikes, in response to Palestinian militant rocket attacks, have killed at least 200 people.
AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

President-elect Barack Obama and his family are flying to Chicago tonight, ending a 12 day vacation in Hawaii.

Now it's down to work.

As Mr. Obama trades the white sands of Hawaii for the White House he faces an unprecedented slew of challenges, reports CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy.

"You have to look at the United States as a dam that is leaking," said CBS News analyst Douglas Brinkley. "It's not going to do good just to stick a finger in one hole, you're going to have to plug them all up quickly."

First, there's the economy and how to get it moving again. The president wants a stimulus plan on his desk by inauguration day that could top $750 billion dollars. The challenge will be getting the stimulus passed in Congress without tacking on billions in pork.

Add to that the task of addressing what caused the recession in the first place: "the broken banks, their inability to make credit, the trade deficit with China, and our massive oil imports," according to economist Peter Morici.

With 8 million more foreclosures expected in the next four years, Mr. Obama must also decide how to help homeowners. Just 357 have applied for help from Congress' latest program.

Also, U.S. automakers could be out of cash again by March. The president-elect will need to decide whether to let them go bankrupt or provide more government money.

"If he gives them too much, if he doesn't permit the automakers to renegotiate effectively with the unions, then a lot of distressed industries will be lining up, and before you know it, it will be the homebuilders and everyone else," says Morici.

Then there's the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Casualties in 2008 were the lowest since the Iraq war began in 2003. As of today, our troops now operate under Iraqi control and Mr. Obama has promised to withdraw our forces from Iraq within 16 months, with palsn to redeploy more troops to Afghanistan.

But, says retired Gen. David Grange, "When we withdraw from an area, it's the toughest part of any military operation, to withdraw properly, protecting your people, protecting your equipment, turning over facilities property."

And as the fighting in Gaza this week shows, there will be other conflicts.

While pundits say Mr. Obama named a team of rivals, some say that given the challenges ahead, he needed to.

"The Obama team says a big reason Hillary Clinton is secretary of state is that she's a force multiplier," says Politico's Mike Allen. "While he's dealing with the economy and congress at home, she can be representing him on the world stage."

In Hawaii, the Obamas kept a low profile. That's a luxury the soon to be president won't be able to afford for much longer.

  • Ben Tracy
    Ben Tracy On Twitter»

    Ben Tracy is a CBS News White House correspondent based in Washington, D.C.