Mike the Mad Biologist

While the talk about symbolism is important, a president actually has to do stuff. I’ve been hoping that somewhere there are a bunch of smart people figuring how to unfuck all the stuff that Little Lord Pontchartrain has fucked up using the power of the Executive Branch (here’s one example)–hell, just coming up with a list of said fuckups would be a challenge. So I’m delighted to read this in 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.

On stem cells:

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.

Family planning:

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.”

Clean air:

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.

I really like that last sentence. Of course, this doesn’t deal with our little torture regime in Gimto, but, still, it’s a good start. Our country lost eight years of progress, and we need to get started.

This could be a good next few years….

Comments

  1. #1 Joshua
    November 10, 2008

    Actually, about Guantanamo

  2. #2 Scott
    November 10, 2008

    I agree with all this. However, even though Obama can undo with an Executive Order what Bush did with an Executive Order, it would be much better over the long run if he actually took the trouble to push things through the legislative process. It’s better to have the national debates and build the consensuses that Bush so assiduously avoided. Just because we may agree with the outcome, we and Obama shouldn’t fall into the trap of the Imperial Presidency. That knife cuts both ways.

    In fact, it would be great if Obama and Congress took some legislative steps to outlaw the use of the dreaded “signing statement”, or to at least limit its use to implementation of said legislation, instead of “reinterpretion” of said legislation.

  3. #3 Moopheus
    November 10, 2008

    “Just because we may agree with the outcome, we and Obama shouldn’t fall into the trap of the Imperial Presidency. ”

    Though as the article points out, some of the Bush EOs were undoing Clinton EOs undoing Reagan EOs, and so on. These are games every president has played, and the president does have legitimate authority to set the agenda for the executive branch. The signing statements are a different thing though, saying the president basically rejects the law, and Bush did that far more than any other president before him.

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