Monday, November 10, 2008

America Scheduled to Wake Up From Nightmare

I never thought I would see a news story like this. I had forgotten what hope felt like, this almost brings tears to your eyes.

I don't usually just copy and paste a news article without comment, but this is too good, here's the whole story from the Washington Post:
Transition advisers to President-elect Barack Obama have compiled a list of about 200 Bush administration actions and executive orders that could be swiftly undone to reverse White House policies on climate change, stem cell research, reproductive rights and other issues, according to congressional Democrats, campaign aides and experts working with the transition team.

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.

In some instances, Obama would be quickly delivering on promises he made during his two-year campaign, while in others he would be embracing Clinton-era policies upended by President Bush during his eight years in office.

"The kind of regulations they are looking at" are those imposed by Bush for "overtly political" reasons, in pursuit of what Democrats say was a partisan Republican agenda, said Dan Mendelson, a former associate administrator for health in the Clinton administration's Office of Management and Budget. The list of executive orders targeted by Obama's team could well get longer in the coming days, as Bush's appointees rush to enact a number of last-minute policies in an effort to extend his legacy.

A spokeswoman said yesterday that no plans for regulatory changes had been finalized. "Before he makes any decisions on potential executive or legislative actions, he will be conferring with congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle, as well as interested groups," Obama transition spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said. "Any decisions would need to be discussed with his Cabinet nominees, none of whom have been selected yet."

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.

Bush's August 2001 decision pleased religious conservatives who have moral objections to the use of cells from days-old human embryos, which are destroyed in the process.

But Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) said that during Obama's final swing through her state in October, she reminded him that because the restrictions were never included in legislation, Obama "can simply reverse them by executive order." Obama, she said, "was very receptive to that." Opponents of the restrictions have already drafted an executive order he could sign.

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.

"We have been communicating with his transition staff" almost daily, Richards said. "We expect to see a real change."

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.

The president-elect has said, for example, that he intends to quickly reverse the Bush administration's decision last December to deny California the authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles. "Effectively tackling global warming demands bold and innovative solutions, and given the failure of this administration to act, California should be allowed to pioneer," Obama said in January.

California had sought permission from the Environmental Protection Agency to require that greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles be cut by 30 percent between 2009 and 2016, effectively mandating that cars achieve a fuel economy standard of at least 36 miles per gallon within eight years. Seventeen other states had promised to adopt California's rules, representing in total 45 percent of the nation's automobile market. Environmentalists cheered the California initiative because it would stoke innovation that would potentially benefit the entire country.

"An early move by the Obama administration to sign the California waiver would signal the seriousness of intent to reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil and build a future for the domestic auto market," said Kevin Knobloch, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Before the election, Obama told others that he favors declaring that carbon dioxide emissions are endangering human welfare, following an EPA task force recommendation last December that Bush and his aides shunned in order to protect the utility and auto industries.

Robert Sussman, who was the EPA's deputy administrator during the Clinton administration and is now overseeing EPA transition planning for Obama, wrote a paper last spring strongly recommending such a finding. Others in the campaign have depicted it as an issue on which Obama is keen to show that politics must not interfere with scientific advice.

Some related reforms embraced by Obama's transition advisers would alter procedures for decision-making on climate issues. A book titled "Change for America," being published next week by the Center for American Progress, an influential liberal think tank, will recommend, for example, that Obama rapidly create a National Energy Council to coordinate all policymaking related to global climate change.

The center's influence with Obama is substantial: It was created by former Clinton White House official John D. Podesta, a co-chairman of the transition effort, and much of its staff has been swept into planning for Obama's first 100 days in office.

The National Energy Council would be a counterpart to the White House National Economic Council that Clinton created in a 1993 executive order.

"It would make sure all the oars are rowing in the right direction" and ensure that climate change policy "gets lots of attention inside the White House," said Daniel J. Weiss, a former Sierra Club official and senior fellow with the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

The center's new book will also urge Obama to sign an executive order requiring that greenhouse gas emissions be considered whenever the federal government examines the environmental impact of its actions under the existing National Environmental Policy Act. Several key members of Obama's transition team have already embraced the idea.

Other early Obama initiatives may address the need for improved food and drug regulation and chart a new course for immigration enforcement, some Obama advisers say. But they add that only a portion of his early efforts will be aimed at undoing Bush initiatives.

Despite enormous pent-up Democratic frustration, Obama and his team realize they must strike a balance between undoing Bush actions and setting their own course, said Winnie Stachelberg, the center's senior vice president for external affairs.

"It took eight years to get into this mess, and it will take a long time to get out of it," she said. "The next administration needs to look ahead. This transition team and the incoming administration gets that in a big way." Obama Positioned to Quickly Reverse Bush Actions


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andrea-not anon
A story for this election. My next door neighbor was the first African American doctor who was allowed to practice at Washington Hospital Center- he is quite elderly now and hasn't practiced for quite some time. His wife told me yesterday as we were discussing the win, that she was so happy Virginia went for Obama because her family was from Virginia. At 11, because of segregation, the closest school she could go to was miles away. Her family sent her to her oldest sister who lived in New York so she could get a good education but it broke her heart to live so far from her parents and other siblings. For her, it seemed impossible that some day there could be an African-American in the White House. I know that this is an important election for me and it has caused great emotion for me too but I cannot feel it like people who know what it was like to live under segregation; to be told where they could eat and sit and what they could and could not do because of the color of their skin- as my neighbor said- when it was the law.

November 10, 2008 11:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I never thought I would see a news story like this."

I don't know why. This happens whenever there is a change in party in power.

"I had forgotten what hope felt like, this almost brings tears to your eyes."

Oh, brother.

"I don't usually just copy and paste a news article without comment, but this is too good, here's the whole story from the Washington Post"

Try the USA Today. I'm sure they had the same thing in a fifth the words. More blogworthy.

Or better yet, summarize it your self. I could do it in three sentences, tops.

November 10, 2008 4:15 PM  
Blogger David S. Fishback said...

Here is what I wrote to some friends and family last week:

No novelist could have written such a story and been taken seriously.

Bobbi and I had tears of joy Tuesday night. For those of us who were entering adulthood in the late '60s, it will take a while to fully absorb how we feel. Perhaps our feelings will be governed to some degree by the expectations we had for America in our youth, and the degree to which we have felt disillusioned in the 40 years since 1968. My overwhelming thought Tuesday night was that this is how it is supposed to be, but has not been.

Still, this is an historic and magnificent moment. Not just (or even mostly) because we elected an African American. But, rather, because we elected someone with the temperament, intellect, and wisdom to lead us in trying times. And because President-Elect Obama is so clearly the best person to lead us. His speech Tuesday night provided precisely the template we need. The phrase "he gets it" has been overused. But in this instance, it is fully apt.

The most moving, eloquent, and resonant coda I've read from my perspective is this piece by Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe:

My heart is smiling.

November 10, 2008 6:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David, I thought last Tuesday night was moving too. Seeing Jesse Jackson brought to tears, you couldn't help but think about him on the balcony with MLK as he died. To think how far we've come just since I was a kid, who then would have ever thought this possible? It was an incredible night to behold even for myself, who didn't vote for Obama and expects to be one of his critics eventually.

Still, the idea of Jim getting teary-eyed over executive orders on oil-drilling and stem cell research is quite comical.

Someone, bang a gong!

November 10, 2008 10:54 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Anon, it might be funny to you, but I love this country, and it did make me teary to see what has happened overnight. This has been 8 years of nightmare, and now I see they have hundreds of things they will change back, and it suddenly makes me think maybe things will be okay again.

I am cynical, but luckily I am not as cynical as you. I suddenly find that I have hope.


November 10, 2008 11:03 PM  
Blogger David S. Fishback said...


When, as is very likely, stem cell research enables us to effectively treat or even cure diseases that ravage our families, our friends, or even ourselves, even you may be teary-eyed thinking back to January 2009.

Jim doesn't need my defending, but he has shown over the last nearly four years on this blog his love of our community and our country. Vigorous debate and thoughtful analysis of our problems is essential for democracy to flourish. Thank you, Jim.

November 11, 2008 7:38 AM  
Anonymous Robert said...

There are a host of anti-lgbt policies of the Bush administration that Obama could change with the stroke of a pen. My community gave him its overwhelming support. Let's see what he does about it.

November 11, 2008 10:14 AM  

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