Thursday, January 22, 2009

President Obama's First Day

President (it's so nice to say that without putting "elect" in front of it) Barack Obama certainly waisted no time in changing the direction of the U.S federal administration. In contrast to the former president, President Obama today instructed the Washington bureaucracy to be more open to requests for information. He also included himself by stating that any requests for information that the President does not wish to release will be referred to the attorney-general and to the White House legal counsel who will determine whether or not the President is permitted to keep the requested information private.

President Bush and Vice-President Cheney (can we please use the prenomial ex, just this one time?) routinely invoked executive privilege when faced with requests from Congress, from the media or from agencies. Not so under President Obama (at least not today). In one of the many memoranda to come out of his office today, one stated "The Freedom of Information Act should be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails"(Time). The President (I can't believe how much I suddenly like that word, I'm not even American) stated that "“Let me say it as simply as I can. Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency..." (The Globe and Mail). Contrast this to when Dick (Vader) Cheney once said that he "alone may determine what constitutes vice-presidential records or personal records" (Ibid.)

Well, hold my coat and give me a rock. The President is going to follow the law! Not as some loophole allows him to, but as it was actually intended to be! Imagine if Barack Obama actually lives up to what he set out today just on that matter alone. So, less secretive, that's one thing that President Obama got up to today.

The President's office was "was flooded" with calls from world leaders offering "best wishes" (L.A Times). The President also made a number of calls around the world. One of which, the very first call to come from the new president "stunned Palestinians and Israelis alike". '“We were not expecting such a quick call from President Obama, but we knew how serious he is about the Palestinian problem,' said a very excited Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior adviser to Mr. Abbas." (Globe and Mail, in a different article).

According to that article there is a great deal of excitement among Muslim nations that the U.S will begin moving in a new direction. Also excitement from the Christian world as Pope Benedict XVI told Obama to be "the promoter of peace and cooperation between nations"(IranVNC).

It's also expected that the President will close Guantanamo Bay prison soon. Some news sources are reporting that the order has already come, others are saying it is expected in a week or so.

So, I'd say that this day marks a promising beginning. That call to Palestine was exactly the right thing for him to do at that moment and his executive orders instantly signal a change in direction without actually having to do anything. The more substantive matters will certainly have to follow, but for a first day I give him an A+.

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