At the end of this remarkable week, we’re starting to look ahead to theFirst 100 Days of the Obama presidency. Already, we’re hearing calls inthe mainstream media warning the new administration “not to overreach.” And working overtime, the Inside-the-Beltway Punditocracy continues toreveal its ability to ignore reality–even while describing itself as”realist”–with its claims that this is still a center-right nation,despite all evidence to the contrary.
But as Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman writes in today’s New York Times, “Let’s hope that Mr. Obama has the good sense to ignore this advice…this year’s presidential election was a clearreferendum on political philosophies–and the progressive philosophywon.”
Obama himself his talked about needing to measure his accomplishmentsover the first 1,000 Days, rather than 100, given the problems he has inherited from arguably theworst president ever (my words, not Obama’s). Indeed, it will take years to undo the damage of the Bush administration and the conservative ideology that hasdominated this country for nearly thirty years. But the First 100 Daysare still crucial–not only in signaling to the American people and theworld that the administration will take determined steps to repair thisnation–but there is a historical precedent for the need to moveforward expeditiously in order to seize the moment and the mandate.
President Obama will need to be bold to deal with the challenges hefaces: a cratering economy, broken healthcare system, two wars, povertyand inequality, and the stained US reputation in the world. Themillions who were mobilized and inspired by Obama’s campaign andcandidacy also have their work cut out for them–continuing to drive abold agenda to respond to these crises–just as progressives have inrecent years on the war, energy independence, trade, healthcare, andother issues that are defining the new “center” of American politics andhearts and minds.
Here is a list of actions–ones I care deeply about–that PresidentObama can take in the First 100 Days to immediately achieve real andsignificant change. Some of these he can literally achieve on Day 1with the stroke of a pen, others will demand coalition building and aninside-outside strategy to push legislation. Many of these ideas aredrawn from good groups like the Center for Constitutional Rights, Amnesty International USA, the Apollo Alliance, and Public Citizen. You may have others and I’d welcome hearing yours – just post acomment.
Bush Executive Orders: As Obama himself saidof his first 100 days when campaigning in Denver, “I would call myattorney general in and review every single executive order issued byGeorge Bush and overturn those laws or executive decisions that I feelviolate the constitution.”
Economic Stimulus: Stop the bleeding–through expanded health andunemployment benefits and providing real aid to beleaguered state andlocal governments so they can sustain essential public services.
Iraq: Present plan and hold to your timeline for withdrawal.
Health Care Reform: Begin immediately by expanding health insurance tokids and passing the State Children’s Health Insurance Programlegislation vetoed by Bush.
Women’s Health and Reproductive Rights: Repeal the Global Gag Rule that requires NGOs receiving federal funding to neither promote norperform abortions in other countries.
Energy and the Economy: Announce a clean energy strategy that willreduce oil dependence, address global warming, create thousands of greenjobs, and improve national security. Groups like the Apollo Alliance, Center for American Progress, and Natural Resources Defense Council have strong and concrete plans in this regard. Incorporate elements of this plan into stimulus package.
Bailout for Main Street: Work to ensure that homeowners have realopportunities to renegotiate mortgages and remain in their homes.
Poverty and Inequality: Appoint a Hunger Czar–as Senator GeorgeMcGovern and Congressman Jim McGovern call for in a recent op-ed–who would “coordinate the various food, nutrition and anti-poverty programs… to increase the independence, purchasing power and foodsecurity of every human being.” Announce your commitment to the goal ofcutting poverty in half in ten years.
Labor and Trade: Reject Colombia, Korea and Panama trade agreements ascurrently written and ensure future agreements promote the publicinterest. Work towards passage of Employee Free Choice Act.
Science: Allow federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.
Global Warming: Reverse the Bush EPA decision and allow California toregulate greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks. Call for a newclimate treaty and ask Al Gore to lead that effort.
Guantánamo: Close it, and try people in the US or resettle in countries where they face norisk of persecution or torture. New York Times columnist NicholasKristof offers a compelling idea to “turn it into an international center for research on tropicaldiseases that afflict poor countries… [serving as] an example ofmultilateral humanitarianism”
Detention: Close all CIA black sites and secret detention sites. Endextraordinary rendition. Abolish preventive detention that allowspeople to be held indefinitely without charge. Initiate criminalinvestigations into programs of rendition and secret detention. Endtrials by military commission. End opposition to full habeas corpushearings for detainees in Guantánamo and other similar situations. Makeknown the names and whereabouts of all those detained in rendition andsecret detention programs.
Torture: End use in court of any evidence obtained through torture. Officially reject all memos, signing statements and executive ordersthat justify the use of torture. Establish an independent commission ofinquiry into all aspects of detention and interrogation practices in the”war on terror.” Announce administration will work for redress andremedy for victims of human rights violations for which US authoritiesare found to be responsible.
Protect Dissent: Ensure that the FBI adheres to surveillance guidelines. Open Justice Department investigation into surveillance relatedmisconduct. Pledge to end all secret surveillance programs not reviewedby courts or congressional committees.
Limit State Secrets Privilege: issue new Executive Orders that reversethe expansion of state secrets privilege and the over-classification ofdocuments. Pass legislation making it clear that military contractorsare accountable for abuses.
Roll Back Executive Power: Repudiate unitary presidency. Renounce useof signing statements as a tool for altering legislation. Pledge toabide by the War Powers Act and end abuse of Authorization to UseMilitary Force. (Or as Bruce Fein–a key player in the Reagan JusticeDepartment–said, “Renounce presidential power to initiate war anywhere on the planet,including Iran.”)
These are doable, and by taking these steps–with deliberate haste–President Obama would get a real start on repairing our nation andpeople’s lives.