In the Public Interest
January 9, 2009
Dear President-Elect Obama:
You have been receiving a great deal of advice since November 4, 2008 from people and groups who either want you to advance policies not covered in your campaign or who want you to be more specific about initiatives you emphasized.
There are two suggestions which may not be among your store of recommendations that need to be considered before you take office on January 20, 2009.
First, the public would benefit from a concise recounting of the state of the union and where the Bush Administration has left our country. As is your style, you can render such a bright line of serious problems inside and outside the government in a matter-of-fact manner. Otherwise, a blurring of who was responsible for what can taint your presidency.
Second, you need to make a clean break from the Bush regime’s law of rule to our declared commitment to the rule of law as in the firm adherence to constitutional requirements and statutory and treaty compliance. There is a Bush-Cheney stream of criminal and unconstitutional actions which are on auto-pilot day after day. You have pointed out some of these abominations such as a policy and practice of torture and violations of due process and probable cause. The task before you is to break these daily patterns just as soon as you ascend to the Presidency or be held increasingly responsible for them. This can be significantly accomplished by executive orders, agency or departmental directives, whistle-blower protections, enforcement actions and explicit legislative proposals.
With Americans wishing you well in this most portentous of times, the last thing they want to see is you tarnished by the preceding rogue regime and its ruthless monarchical forays. To avoid this contagion of power over law and its contiguous accountabilities at a time when you are striving for a “clean slate” administration, you must be decisive and eschew any excessive harmony ideology which has seemed to be your nature vis-à-vis those who are powerful but are opposed to your views.
One possible impediment to your making a comprehensive clean break for restoring the rule of law is that you have too easy an act to follow. There are a long list of violated civil liberties that need to be restored (the American Civil Liberties Union has compiled a list of immediate actions for you to take), and resolute commitments must be made so that it is clear the United States, for example, will not engage in, or countenance, torture. Only a few restorations, however, would produce a sense of relief and flurry of accolades — but they are hardly sufficient.
There are also regulations and interpretations of statutes that scholars believe to have been erroneous as a matter of law. As one guide for your new era of overdue regulation or reregulation—given the corporate wrongdoing these days—you may wish to refer to the Center for Progressive Reform’s report By the Stroke of the Pen.
The Bush lawlessness and state terrorism are like a contagious disease. If you do not remove their sprawling incidence, you will become their carrier. This means you must move fast to eject the mantle of war criminality and repeated unconstitutional outrages committed in the name of the American people here and abroad.
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