Jan 8, 2009

World - US;Obama says he'll fight to keep his BlackBerry

Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President-elect Barack Obama vowed a fight to the finish on Wednesday -- not over his economic plan, but to hang on to his BlackBerry.

"They're going to pry it out of my hands," he told CBNC about his BlackBerry, a cellphone made by Research In Motion Ltd that handles e-mail and has become an essential accessory for on-the-go movers and shakers.

The 47-year-old Obama, cosseted in a security cocoon, driven around in a heavily guarded motorcade and finding he cannot walk down the street without a major fuss, is already feeling a bit suffocated.

He is trying to avoid the fate of President George W. Bush, who gave up e-mail when he took power in 2001 because his lawyers determined any such electronic communications would have to be preserved for posterity as presidential documents.

There are also concerns that presidential electronic communications could be hacked into by the mischievous or the malevolent.

Obama's interview mostly covered the plight of the U.S. economy and his thoughts on how to repair it:

* Obama did not rule out an increase in his economic stimulus package, already estimated at around $775 billion.

"We've seen ranges from $800 to $1.3 trillion and our attitude was that given the legislative process, if we start toward the low end of that, we'll see how it develops... But what we are concerned about is making sure that the money is spent wisely, that there's oversight, that there's transparency," he said.

* He promised a substantial overhaul of U.S. financial market regulations as a result of the Wall Street crisis and said he expected to unveil plans to fight home foreclosures in the next month or two.

* He would not be drawn out on whether he planned to pick Time Warner Inc Chairman Richard Parsons as Commerce secretary, but did say he is a "great guy" and a good friend.

During the session, he described in detail his frustration at being trapped in the White House bubble, citing examples from his recently concluded vacation in Hawaii where he said he was discouraged from going body-surfing.

He said his wife, Michelle, was amused at the hubbub over photographs showing him on the beach without wearing a shirt.

"It was silly, but, you know, silliness goes with this job," he said.

Obama said keeping in touch by e-mail was a way of escaping the trappings of power and staying in touch with regular people.

After all, Harry Truman once referred to the White House as the "great white jail."

"I've got to look for every opportunity to do that -- ways that aren't scripted, ways that aren't controlled, ways where, you know, people aren't just complimenting you or standing up when you enter into a room, ways of staying grounded," he said.

As of now, he is hanging on to his BlackBerry.

"This is a concern, I should add, not just of Secret Service, but also lawyers. You know, this town's full of lawyers. I don't know if you've noticed," he said.

(Additional reporting by Julie Vorman, Editing by Cynthia Osterman)


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