Hitting the ground running

The Washington Post highlights some of the immediate actions we can expect from Barack Obama’s administration. Items like stem-cell research and environmental regulations top the list.

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.

In some instances, Obama would be quickly delivering on promises he made during his two-year campaign, while in others he would be embracing Clinton-era policies upended by President Bush during his eight years in office.

“The kind of regulations they are looking at” are those imposed by Bush for “overtly political” reasons, in pursuit of what Democrats say was a partisan Republican agenda, said Dan Mendelson, a former associate administrator for health in the Clinton administration’s Office of Management and Budget. The list of executive orders targeted by Obama’s team could well get longer in the coming days, as Bush’s appointees rush to enact a number of last-minute policies in an effort to extend his legacy.

Ron Paul’s contribution

Few of us would want libertarians running things in this country, but Ron Paul has demonstrated that they offer very important principles to our political discourse. Even a liberal like Michael Kinsley can appreciate that:

The libertarian perspective is useful, and undervalued. Why does the government pay farmers not to grow food? Why are medications for fatal diseases sometimes held off the market in case they aren’t safe? (Compared to death?) Legislators and regulators should ask themselves far more often than they do whether some government activity or other expands freedom or contracts it.

Republicans used to be for smaller government, but over the past 25 years, with the emergence of the religious right, they have become more and more willing to use federal power to advance their agenda and therefore restrict our freedoms. We now have a Republican administration telling the states that they can’t enact medical marijuana laws and limiting federal research on stem cells. We had a Republican congress telling state and federal judges that their rulings on a woman’s right to die should not be enforced. They even passed a law making it more difficult to play poker online. When will they leave us alone?

The Terry Schiavo case was a wake-up call. Americans will draw lines on the limits of government power over their lives. Republicans seem to have forgotten these principles.

Ballot initiatives break against conservatives

Last night on MSNBC, Pat Buchanon argued that the voters were rejecting the GOP but were supporting socially conservative ballot initiatives. It turns out he spoke to soon. Conservatives suffered significant defeats in South Dakota, Missouri and Arizona.

In conservative South Dakota, the voters overwelmingly rejected a ban on all abortions by a 55-45 margin. This is a huge loss for cultural conservatives and a significant win for liberals and for libertarians. This, coupled with the outrage over the Terry Schiavo fiasco, makes it clear that most voters do not want government officials intruding into their personal lives. The social conservatives have reached too far. Hopefully Republicans will pay attention and start moving back towards the middle on social issues. As for Democrats, hopefully they will develope a backbone on these social issues. Their unwillingness to stand up to the Republicans during the Terry Schiavo controversy was shamefull.

Missouri provided the next big win for liberals by passing the stem-cell research initiative. This has become a huge wedge issue for Democrats. Hopefully this vote, along with the gains by Democrats in the House and the Senate, will lead to passage of federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research with margins sufficient to override a veto by President Bush.

Finally, Arizona is the first state to reject a constitutional ban on gay marriage. The proposed amendment would have also banned civil unions. Again, many voters apparantly believed that the social conservatives went to far. A wide majority of Americans oppose gay marriage, but more and more Americans are open to the concept of protecting legal rights for civil unions.

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