Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hitting the ground running

One of the biggest reasons I voted for Obama was that I believed we needed a younger person with a lot of energy to tackle the repair job after 8 years of deliberate incompetence. On that score at least, Obama is living up to my expectations. I was exhausted just watching the events unfold and fell asleep before they made it to the last inaugural ball. Yet despite that brutally long day of pomp and ceremony, Obama managed to sign a few executive orders.

His 120 day suspension of all pending Gitmo cases is getting the big press today. I don't know what that means in terms of ultimately shutting down that hell hole, but it seems to me that an executive review is at least a good start. What's clearer is that there will be big changes at the Office for Legal Counsel. The new staff bodes well for a restoration of the rule of law:
Lederman, another former Clinton Office of Legal Counsel lawyer, is perhaps the most prominent of several high-profile opponents of the Bush Administration's executive power claims joining Obama, a mark that he intends not just to change but to aggressively reverse Bush's moves on subjects like torture. With hires like Barron, Johnen, and Lederman, Obama is not just going back to Democratic lawyers: These are anti-Bush lawyers.
President Obama is also making his intentions on the Middle East turmoil clear with the naming of former senator George Mitchell as his Middle East envoy. Mitchell was a key player in Northern Ireland back in the day and the appointment seems to signal that Obama is going to get serious about trying to broker peace agreements between Israel and the Palestinians.

Also on Obama's agenda today are meetings with the key military brass and the National Security Council "to launch a reassessment of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan." One hopes it's with an eye to start withdrawing troops.

And finally, the order he signed yesterday calling for a halt in implementing Bush's 11th hour regulatory rule changes will at least stem some of the damage. Sadly, not all of it. Bush beat the clock on some of them.
For example, just six weeks ago, the Bush administration issued revised endangered species regulations to reduce the input of federal scientists and to block the law from being used to fight global warming. [...]

Another Bush administration regulation that went in effect this month overturned a 25-year-old federal rule that severely restricts loaded guns in national parks.
Obama vows to reverse these sort of changes but the process will be lengthier. Still, considering what he got done in the first 24 hours, for the moment I have great hope that our new president will be able to accomplish much more than his critics, or even his supporters, believe is possible.

[More posts daily at The Detroit News.]


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