David B.




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November 17, 2008

First Obama Priority: The De-Bushification of the Executive Branch


It is now two weeks since the election of Barack Obama as America’s next president, and a scant two months until he takes the oath of office. “Change,” as vociferously promised throughout the election season, is truly coming to Washington, sweeping away the ancien regime of President Bush, Vice President Cheney and their paleocon pals, whose final days in power are coming to resemble those of waning South American dictators.


Bereft of meaningful influence, incapable of being taken seriously and stripped of credibility either in Congress or the international community, there is little left for Bush to do but flail his way toward the January 20 finish line, scribbling executive orders and making vague public proclamations until the glorious moment in which he officially becomes part of the past.


But as the nation’s eight-year Bush nightmare creaks to its conclusion, Barack Obama’s nightmare begins as he inherits a nation propelled toward utter disintegration by his predecessor. An economy in ruins, a collapsing infrastructure, a skyrocketing national debt, diminished global influence, a tattered international reputation and two failed wars are just a few of the housewarming gifts Obama receives upon his arrival at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, with innumerable other poison pills waiting in the wings. Shy of launching nuclear attacks on major American cities, there is little more Bush could have done to ensure that the America Obama inherited was on the verge of complete collapse.


Many have already pointed out – and with no small degree of smugness – that Obama’s vision for a transformed America might need to be “tempered” in the face of these grim realities. The notion certainly comes as no surprise to Obama, his team, or his supporters. It is a given that the physician must stabilize the patient before attempting to affect a cure, and the America Bush is leaving behind is currently bleeding to death on the operating table. Obama is going to have his work cut out for him from the first minute of his administration, with the resuscitation of the code-blue economy being the first urgent order of business.


The George Wills, David Gergens and Karl Roves may smile to themselves in self-satisfaction as the much-hyped first 100 days of the Obama presidency fail to produce comprehensive health care reform, meaningful progress toward an Iraq drawdown or the promised rethink of national energy policy. Should these promised broad-stroke initiatives be momentarily sidelined in light of the procession of crises, however, this should not be seen as resigned acceptance of the status quo.


The change Obama promised will likely be gathering momentum behind the scenes as he and his team undertake the de-Bushification of federal offices, departments and bureaus.


In a particularly savvy move, Obama’s transition leadership have announced the formation of teams tasked with reviewing the activities and performance of virtually all significant government agencies. Innocuously packaged as a routine transition exercise, the genuine objective is likely to be a thorough assessment of the extent of staff-level neocon infection of these agencies, followed by the identification and purging of the legions of hapless incompetents and crazed ideologues whose various failures and malfeasances have created the miscellaneous major messes in which the nation finds itself.


From empty-headed Liberty University graduates at the Department of Justice to Club for Growth and Heritage Foundation moles in the Department of Commerce, a lot of right-wing flacks, flunkies and shills are going to be polishing their resumes and praying for soft landings in the private sector. Obama’s team is smart enough to recognize that repairing the damage Bush hath wrought remains impossible so long as his proxies, apparatchiks and saboteurs remain in positions of influence.


America may well have to wait for the health care, environmental and other reforms Obama has promised, but when they do arrive, they will likely be more sweeping, more effective and more far-reaching by virtue of the fact that Obama was willing to bide his time. By visibly and publicly establishing trust by attending to the nation’s most urgent needs, while less-visibly and less-publicly ridding the federal bureaucracy of retrograde and obstructionist elements, Obama lays the groundwork for a wholesale Rooseveltian transformation of the American state.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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