Friday, November 7, 2008

Obama wastes no time


Before results of Barack Obama's historic election were 48 hours old, the president-elect was at work laying the groundwork for his promised sweeping changes in Washington.

This hit-the-ground-running style reflects two things: Obama's natural organization and operating methods and the urgent attention demanded by an array of crises at home and abroad.

A White House chief of staff, Illinois Democratic Rep. Rahm Emanuel, has been appointed. A 12-person transition team is in place. Obama is meeting with advisers on major foreign policy and military cabinet appointments. A proposed emergency $100 billion public works appropriation to create jobs in rebuilding the U.S. infrastructure is being given to Democratic congressional leaders. Decisions are being made about which nations to visit on his first trip abroad to attend a meeting of European leaders. And CIA intelligence briefings began Thursday.

For the months ahead—before and after his inauguration on Jan. 20—Obama will keep news reporters working 'round the clock to keep abreast of his moves.

One straw in the wind of what Obama can expect comes from IBM chief executive Samuel Palmisano, who proposes the Obama agenda adopt technology innovations in utility grids, traffic management to stop fuel waste, food distribution, water conservation and health care. Palmisano says inefficient power generation wastes 67 percent of electrical energy, adding to consumer costs. Investments in higher tech infrastructure could create jobs along with new efficiencies.

Business and industry leaders who benefited from years of easy-going pandering by the Bush administration ironically may become President Obama's best allies in moving his economic and environmental agendas. They know that partnering with government in new infrastructure initiatives would be good for them and the country and they likely will pitch in to accelerate economic recovery.

New policies and programs are vital. But just as crucial if change and reform are to be truly effective is purging the executive branch of acolytes of far rightwing dogma hired more for their social views than their skills. The era of ideology-based White House politics must end.

Obama also must quickly reverse onerous Bush-Cheney legislation and executive orders that legalized abuse of the Constitution's due process and privacy provisions and created the appearance of America-gone-police-state.

In reality, Obama has two short years with a Democratic House and Senate to right the listing ship of state before the next election. He has no time to waste.




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