Barack Obama wants to find ways to make his mark quickly in the opening days of his presidency and reverse the legacy of George W. Bush. Obama will focus his efforts on the list of executive orders that shaped White House policy, reversing them quickly. That does not require legislative approval, but it could bring the most contentious issues to the forefront immediately and create more polarization than post-partisanship (via Jazz Shaw):
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.
One suggestion might even make sense, from a states-rights perspective. Bush signed an EO blocking California from adopting its own emissions requirements for automobiles, apart from the federal CAFE standards. That EO was a sop to the auto industry, but it defied federalism. If Obama rolled back that EO, it would support the federalist principle of state sovereignty and weaken, however slightly, the Commerce Clause attack on it.
The other top two targets will enrage the pro-life lobby. Obama plans to end the federal ban on funding for human embryonic stem-cell research (hEsc) and upend the Mexico City rule that forbids federal foreign aid to be used to promote abortion. He can expect a big controversy on both.
The hEsc order annoys researchers who can’t get money for their projects elsewhere, but that’s because the technology has surpassed hEsc. Scientists have since developed plenipotentiary stem cells from adult tissue, ending the need to destroy embryos at all. If hEsc really held out any promise apart from other technologies, it would not need federal funding at any rate — it would have private donors lining up to invest in it, as other stem-cell research does.
While American voters feel some ambiguity on abortion, they overwhelmingly do not want their tax dollars paying for or facilitating abortions. The Mexico City rule forbade federal funds to be used to facilitate the acquisition of abortions by groups abroad, much as the Hyde Amendment prohibited federal funds to be used in the same manner domestically. If Obama rescinds it, he can expect a great deal of outrage from pro-life groups and a reopening of the debate over the use of tax money to procure abortions anywhere.
These aren’t exactly low-hanging fruit, nor are they the acts of someone who professed to find middle ground between pro-life and pro-choice groups. These are the acts of a pro-abortion absolutist, and they presage the sponsorship of Planned Parenthood’s Freedom of Choice Act. So much for governing from the center.