WASHINGTON - President-elect Barack Obama is steering clear of this weekend's emergency global financial summit in Washington, a decision that gives him distance from his unpopular predecessor's policies and avoids any appearance of upstaging the current president.
''He wants to start with a clean slate,'' said Ross Baker, a political analyst at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Baker said Obama appears sensitive to propriety and does not want to look as though he is setting policy when ''he has not yet had his hand on the Bible'' to take the oath of office.
President George W. Bush had been open to having Obama take part in the summit on Friday and Saturday of leaders of the G20, which includes top industrial and developing economies such as France, Great Britain, Italy, China, Brazil and India.
But neither Obama nor his aides will attend.
''He's very interested and thought it was very good to have the meeting. But in a phrase you'll hear in exceedingly large numbers of times between now and the 20th of January, there's only one president at a time,'' senior Obama aide Robert Gibbs told reporters on Monday.
Bush has put Dan Price, a White House expert on international economics, in charge of briefing Obama and his team. ''We are discussing the summit with representatives of President-elect Obama, and are seeking their input and views,'' said White House spokesman Tony Fratto.
Even if Obama had wanted to attend the summit, experts said there would not have been time to prepare for it.
Obama, who made history a week ago as the first black US president-elect, takes over from Bush on Jan. 20. He has yet to select his Treasury secretary or any other members of his economic team.
''There is so much careful choreography that goes into these events,'' said Simon Johnson, former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund who is now with Peterson Institute for International Economics think tank. …