President-elect Barack Obama said in an interview published today that he will keep his home in Chicago, follow through on a pledge to give a high-profile speech in a Muslim capital, and is not turning his back on the liberal parts of his agenda.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune on Tuesday, he also unequivocally denied any direct contact with Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich over his old US Senate seat. Blagojevich was charged Tuesday in a federal corruption case with trying to sell the seat, which he has the sole power to appoint, and with seeking to strong-arm the Tribune into firing editorial writers critical of him.
Obama called his based on the South Side of Chicago his "Kennebunkport," the Maine retreat of former President George H.W. Bush.
He also said he will work out with his national security team the timing and other details of a speech in the capital of an Islamic country. "I think we've got a unique opportunity to reboot America's image around the world and also in the Muslim world in particular," he said. "So, we need to take advantage of that and the message I want to send is that we will be unyielding in stamping out the kind of terrorist extremism that we saw in Mumbai. We will be at the same time unrelenting in our desire to create a relationship of mutual respect and partnership with countries and peoples of goodwill who want their citizens and ours to prosper together. And I think that the world is ready for that message."
Obama also said he will keep with tradition and be sworn into office with his full name -- Barack Hussein Obama -- though his foes tried to use it to slime him as a secret Muslim.
The president-elect answered liberal critics who say his appointments to the cabinet have veered too much to the political center. "Look, I have chosen the people who I think are best equipped to carry out an agenda of change. And people haven't been arguing somehow that my agenda has changed, because it hasn't," he said.
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.