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Obama's First 100 Days in the White House

Obama needs to be bold with the challenges he faces: a cratering economy, broken healthcare system, two wars, poverty and inequality and much more.
 
 
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At the end of this remarkable week, we're starting to look ahead to the First 100 Days of the Obama presidency. Already, we're hearing calls in the mainstream media warning the new administration "not to overreach." And working overtime, the Inside-the-Beltway Punditocracy continues to reveal 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 clear referendum on political philosophies -- and the progressive philosophy won."

Obama himself his talked about needing to measure his accomplishments over the first 1,000 Days, rather than 100, given the problems he has inherited from arguably the worst 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 has dominated this country for nearly thirty years. But the First 100 Days are still crucial -- not only in signaling to the American people and the world that the administration will take determined steps to repair this nation -- but there is a historical precedent for the need to move forward expeditiously in order to seize the moment and the mandate.

President Obama will need to be bold to deal with the challenges he faces: a cratering economy, broken healthcare system, two wars, poverty and inequality, and the stained US reputation in the world. The millions who were mobilized and inspired by Obama's campaign and candidacy also have their work cut out for them -- continuing to drive a bold agenda to respond to these crises -- just as progressives have in recent years on the war, energy independence, trade, healthcare, and other issues that are defining the new "center" of American politics and hearts and minds.

Here is a list of actions -- ones I care deeply about -- that President Obama can take in the First 100 Days to immediately achieve real and significant change. Some of these he can literally achieve on Day 1 with the stroke of a pen, others will demand coalition building and an inside-outside strategy to push legislation. Many of these ideas are drawn 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 a comment.

Bush Executive Orders: As Obama himself said of his first 100 days when campaigning in Denver, "I would call my attorney general in and review every single executive order issued by George Bush and overturn those laws or executive decisions that I feel violate the constitution."

Economic Stimulus: Stop the bleeding -- through expanded health and unemployment benefits and providing real aid to beleaguered state and local 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 to kids and passing the State Children's Health Insurance Program legislation vetoed by Bush.

Women's Health and Reproductive Rights: Repeal the Global Gag Rule that requires NGOs receiving federal funding to neither promote nor perform abortions in other countries.

Energy and the Economy: Announce a clean energy strategy that will reduce oil dependence, address global warming, create thousands of green jobs, 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 real opportunities to renegotiate mortgages and remain in their homes.

Poverty and Inequality: Appoint a Hunger Czar -- as Senator George McGovern 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 food security of every human being." Announce your commitment to the goal of cutting poverty in half in ten years.

Labor and Trade: Reject Colombia, Korea and Panama trade agreements as currently written and ensure future agreements promote the public interest. 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 to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks. Call for a new climate treaty and ask Al Gore to lead that effort.

Guantnamo: Close it, and try people in the US or resettle in countries where they face no risk of persecution or torture. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof offers a compelling idea to "turn it into an international center for research on tropical diseases that afflict poor countries… [serving as] an example of multilateral humanitarianism"

Detention: Close all CIA black sites and secret detention sites. End extraordinary rendition. Abolish preventive detention that allows people to be held indefinitely without charge. Initiate criminal investigations into programs of rendition and secret detention. End trials by military commission. End opposition to full habeas corpus hearings for detainees in Guantnamo and other similar situations. Make known the names and whereabouts of all those detained in rendition and secret detention programs.

Torture: End use in court of any evidence obtained through torture. Officially reject all memos, signing statements and executive orders that justify the use of torture. Establish an independent commission of inquiry into all aspects of detention and interrogation practices in the "war on terror." Announce administration will work for redress and remedy for victims of human rights violations for which US authorities are found to be responsible.

Protect Dissent: Ensure that the FBI adheres to surveillance guidelines. Open Justice Department investigation into surveillance related misconduct. Pledge to end all secret surveillance programs not reviewed by courts or congressional committees.

Limit State Secrets Privilege: issue new Executive Orders that reverse the expansion of state secrets privilege and the over-classification of documents. Pass legislation making it clear that military contractors are accountable for abuses.

Roll Back Executive Power: Repudiate unitary presidency. Renounce use of signing statements as a tool for altering legislation. Pledge to abide by the War Powers Act and end abuse of Authorization to Use Military Force. (Or as Bruce Fein -- a key player in the Reagan Justice Department -- 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 and people's lives.

Katrina vanden Heuvel is editor of The Nation.

 
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