Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Obama Continues A Number Of Unsettling Bush Policies

For eight years, we have rightly criticized President Bush for policies that go against transparency and, in more than one case, against constitutional protections.

Thankfully, President Obama has reversed course as promised on some of the policies. For example, it has agreed to declassify a large number of documents deemed secret by the Bush administration.

In a May 2009 memo [Adobe Acrobat required], President Obama has also reversed the Bush policy of preemption of state rights by the Federal Government (the policy that the Bush administration to block California's adoption of automobile emissions standards stricter than those mandated by federal law.)

President Obama has also pledged to close GITMO by early 2010, in spite of strong opposition from both sides of the aisle, and it has stopped the Bush policy preventing the release of photographs of the repatriation of the bodies of fallen soldiers.

But, unfortunately, the current administrations has also chosen to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor in many regards. Just because the president we like is doing it, does not mean that policies of the president we did not like have suddenly become right. This is sad for those of us who were looking for a reversal of the policies introduced or strengthened by an administration that has enhanced the concept of the Imperial Presidency.
For example, the Obama Administration has decided to continue President Bush's policy of blocking access to the White House visitor logs. This is particularly surprising, given President Obama's pledge to "make the White House the people’s house and send the Washington lobbyists back to K Street". Citizens For Responsibility and Ethics in Government has decided to sue. See CREW SUES SECRET SERVICE OVER REFUSAL TO RELEASE WHITE HOUSE COAL EXECS VISITOR LOGS.

On extraordinary rendition, the Obama administration has also decided to maintain the position of the Bush administration. This has drawn criticism from the ACLU (proving, for those conservative hacks who criticized the ACLU for its attacks on Bush administration policies that fly against constitutional safeguards, that the ACLU is committed to people's liberties, not to one political faction or another.)

In February 2009, Joan Walsh reported on Salon.com "[a]fter the Supreme Court ruled that Guantánamo detainees had the right to challenge their detention in U.S. courts, four Bagram prisoners tried to challenge their detention in U.S. District Court in Washington." Nonetheless, says Walsh, the Obama administration "backed the Bush administration claim that terror suspects held at Bagram Air Force base in Afghanistan have no constitutional rights."

And, quite dishearteningly, President Obama declared that he "will not pursue the prosecution of Bush-era officials who devised torture policy against detainees", as reported by ABC News.

The above list, unfortunately, is not all-inclusive.

The only encouraging fact is that neither the supposedly liberal media nor the progressive groups that have worked to get Obama elected have been uncritical of these decisions, in contrast with the attitude of the conservative media, which endorsed just about everything the Bush-Cheney administration did from 2001 to 2008.

There is hope, perhaps.

NOTE: ABC News has compiled a useful list of the Bush policies that the Obama administration has reversed, as well as those that it has chosen to continue.

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