LITTLE ROCK -- After a weekend of golf, jogging and movies, President-elect Bill Clinton returned to the business of building an administration yesterday, saying an economic summit was at the top of his agenda since the economy "was what the election was about."
"I want to bring in some of the brightest people in the country from a broad range of backgrounds to talk to them about the gravity of the situation . . .,," he said, leaving the state capital after morning meetings with his state Cabinet, his lieutenant governor and his mother.
He said that, although the unemployment rate has held steady and even declined slightly, "underneath that, manufacturing unemployment is up, production is down. There are a lot of very troubling signs in the economy. I think this is what the election was about.
"I just think it would be a very good thing for me and for the country to have two or three days where we really just focus on [the economy], give some people the chance to have their say to me directly and talk about what our options are."
George Stephanopoulos, Mr. Clinton's spokesman, said he expects the two- or three-day Little Rock meeting to take place some time before Christmas.
Aides said Mr. Clinton is hoping to have his economic players, including a Treasury secretary, director for the Office of Management and Budget and a chief of a proposed economic security council, chosen by Thanksgiving.
Mr. Clinton spent the afternoon at the governor's mansion where, in meetings with Vice President-elect Al Gore and then newly appointed transition director, Warren Christopher, he worked on a timetable for the transition.
Further transition team appointments, but no Cabinet announcements, are expected this week, said Mr. Stephanopoulos.
He added that the transition board, including Washington lawyer and newly appointed transition board chairman Vernon Jordan, will hold a conference call meeting today and convene -- in person -- in Little Rock next week.
The spokesman also suggested that the president-elect, who has had no formal conversations with the press since winning office, is likely to hold his first press confer
ence sometime this week.
Earlier in the day, after a morning jog and workout at the YMCA, Mr. Clinton met with Arkansas Lt. Gov. Jim Guy Tucker and mapped out a schedule for the governor's resignation.
"We still have a few things we need to get a handle on," said Mr. Tucker, declining to announce any date for the transfer of power.
Last week, a court here ruled that Mr. Tucker would inherit the duties of the governor's office when Mr. Clinton resigns, but the ruling is expected to be appealed.
The president-elect also spent part of the morning returning calls to German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and South African President F.W. de Klerk, all of whom had phoned to congratulate him on his win and express a desire to meet with him soon.
In his conversation with Mr. Rabin, Mr. Clinton stressed his support for the continuation of the peace talks, "and said that he hoped there would be no delay or slowing down," said Mr. Stephanopoulos.
The spokesman reported that Mr. Clinton "commended" Mr. de Klerk for working toward a democratic process, saying that although he was concerned about racial violence in South Africa, he was pleased with recent progress. And he congratulated Mr. Kohl on the third anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and said he hoped to strengthen trade relations.
The Clinton spokesman denied Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole's recent suggestion that there was some contact between the Clinton campaign and Iran-contra special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh in the final days of the presidential race.
Mr. Dole has called for an investigation of Mr. Walsh who, four days before the election, released documents relating to the indictment of former Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger.
The documents showed that then-Vice President George Bush supported the arms-for-hostages deal.
"It' s the silliest thing I've ever heard and they know it," said Mr. Stephanopoulos. "There was no contact between Judge Walsh and our campaign."
Mr. Dole has also recommended that Mr. Bush pardon Mr. Weinberger and others involved in the Iran-contra scandal.
Mr. Clinton has avoided comment on this question in the last few days.
But when asked yesterday if the president-elect agreed with the proposed pardon, the spokesman said, "I'll have to ask him, but I don't believe so."