Sunday, November 9, 2008

We Wonder, and He Delivers

No mention of torture, but it looks like Obama is setting up a massive wave of executive orders designed to mitigate the damage done by the Bush Administration as quickly as possible after he takes office in January. According to an article in the Washington Post, the list of items to be overturned already contains about 200 Bush actions, and is likely to grow in the coming months.

A team of four dozen advisers, working for months in virtual solitude, set out to identify regulatory and policy changes Obama could implement soon after his inauguration. The team is now consulting with liberal advocacy groups, Capitol Hill staffers and potential agency chiefs to prioritize those they regard as the most onerous or ideologically offensive, said a top transition official who was not permitted to speak on the record about the inner workings of the transition...

Still, the preelection transition team, comprising mainly lawyers, has positioned the incoming president to move fast on high-priority items without waiting for Congress.

Obama himself has signaled, for example, that he intends to reverse Bush's controversial limit on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, a decision that scientists say has restrained research into some of the most promising avenues for defeating a wide array of diseases, such as Parkinson's...

The new president is also expected to lift a so-called global gag rule barring international family planning groups that receive U.S. aid from counseling women about the availability of abortion, even in countries where the procedure is legal, said Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. When Bill Clinton took office in 1993, he rescinded the Reagan-era regulation, known as the Mexico City policy, but Bush reimposed it...

While Obama said at a news conference last week that his top priority would be to stimulate the economy and create jobs, his advisers say that focus will not delay key shifts in social and regulatory policies, including some -- such as the embrace of new environmental safeguards -- that Obama has said will have long-term, beneficial impacts on the economy.

All good news. I should say, too, that while the lack of any mention of the legal human rights of suspected insurgents and terrorists could be taken as a troubling sign, it's far too complicated an issue to undo with a single executive order. Nor would I expect him to talk about it publicly or with ease, since the law is ungodly complicated and it's hard to get a handle even on what it means now, let alone how you're going to change it.

But yes, I maintain that there would be no excuse for Obama failing to deal with the potential for United States sponsored torture immediately after taking office. Letting it slide would not only be wrong and easy, it would be tremendously dangerous from a strategic perspective.


  1. Here is the best part of all this: this news was reported yesterday, one day before Bush and Obama plan to meet at the White House. No evasion by Obama leading up to his meeting, no holding this story until after, no pretending that undoing Bush's legacy is not a priority for Obama.

    Bush will sit there simmering with his jaw tight, trying to be 'the statesman guy' while O flashes that 62 million vote smile and they chit chat.

    President Obama is telling us he will be a partisan and thumbing his nose at Bush.

  2. Obama administration. how sweet is it that we can use that tag from now on?

  3. @ ben folsom: Totally. There's no hint of an apologetic shifting in Obama's interactions with Bush, just a transparent things are going to be different attitude. I'm real curious as to how this meeting'll turn out, given things like this pretty hilarious account of their first meeting. But I think it will go well. Oddly, the Bush Administration's outward face during the late campaign (between Cheney's well-timed endorsement of McCain and the not-so-private shock at the Palin pick) was functionally as much on Obama's side as McCain's. And Bush has been surprisingly gracious in his talk about a smooth transition. Not that's not to be expected, or excuses the last eight years, but it's good to see him doing something right for a change.

    @jonsey: Oh. So. Sweet.

  4. @Ben Folsom and 6.54: I had the exact same reaction. The day before the meeting, calmly stating that your priorities are to unilaterally reverse as much of the last 8 years as possible. Brilliant. This cartoon sums it up pretty well.

  5. This cartoon sums it up pretty well.