Yes, He Did

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

Credit where it’s due: Well done, Mr. Obama. I’m sure we’ll have our differences, but afer your first 40+ hours on the job, this libertarian couldn’t be happier.

The tally:

  • Obama rescinded Bush’s 2001 executive order allowing former presidents, vice presidents, and their heirs to claim executive privilege in determining which of their records get released to the public. Even better, he’s requiring the signature of both his White House counsel and the attorney general before he can classify a document under executive privilege.
  • Issued a memorandum to all executive agencies asking them to come up with a new plan for open government and complying with FOIA requests. He is also instructing three top officials, including the U.S. attorney general, to come up with a new policy on open government. The new policy would replace the existing policy, infamously set by a 2001 memo from John Ashcroft that instructed federal agencies to essentially to take every measure they can to refuse FOIA requests.
  • Put a freeze on the salaries of top White House aides.
  • Suspended the military trials at Gitmo, and is expected to issue an order closing Gitmo as soon as today.
  • Said this:

    “For a long time now there has been too much secrecy in this city. The old rules said that if there was a defensible argument for not disclosing something to the American people, then it should not be disclosed. That era is now over. Starting today, every agency and department should know that this administration stands on the side not of those who seek to withhold information, but those who seek to make it known.

    The mere fact that you have the legal power to keep something secret does not mean you should use it. The Freedom of Information Act is perhaps the most powerful instrument we have for making our government honest and transparent and holding it accountable. I expect my administration not only to live up to the letter but the spirit of this law.”

    Yes, it’s only been one day. But this is mighty impressive. Obama’s top priority upon taking office was to sign orders rolling back his predecessor’s expansion of executive power. Put another way, Obama’s top priority upon taking office was to institute limits on his own power.

    That’s something even a cynic like me can celebrate.

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  • 75 Responses to “Yes, He Did”

    1. #1 |  perlhaqr | 

      Well, now if he can just keep it up for the next 1458 days, we’re good.

    2. #2 |  Tokin42 | 

      #45 | Snake |

      He also made a rule stating that if you want to leave his administration to become a lobbyist, you have to wait until he leaves office.

      Classy. I’m impressed by his first policy statements as well, although I think he’s just greasing us all up for what’s to come.

      Not to continue pissing on everyone’s parade, but in order to get around that ban all you have to do is get a waiver from Obama. Would you be surprised to learn the ban lasted all of maybe 20 hours?

      Obama nominated William J. Lynn III as his Deputy Defense Secretary in a role that would require Lynn to essentially be the chief operations officer in that mammoth bureaucracy.

      But Lynn was among, other things, a lobbyist for Raytheon Co., one of the nation’s largest defense contractors.

      To not violate the new executive order the president signed yesterday, Lynn would require a waiver from the new administration.

      http://www.swamppolitics.com/news/politics/blog/2009/01/obama_lobbying_ban_hits_realit.html

    3. #3 |  Jon H | 

      “For example: What does he plan to do with all of the detainees (POWs, whatever) at Gitmo? And what sort of message does this send to the Taliban & Al-Qaeda?”

      Gitmo sends the message that Al Qaeda are dangerous supermen who are such a threat they need to be kept at a military base outside US territory.

      That does us no favors and boosts their reputation. It would be far better if they were treated more like, say, the Unabomber or Charles Manson.

    4. #4 |  Jon H | 

      Judi wrote: “He’s as much white as he is black.”

      What, is that stamped on his forehead? What would you think if you’d never seen Obama before or heard of his parentage?

      It’s the cabdriver test. What race would a cabdriver see if Obama, in casual clothes, tried to get a ride?

    5. #5 |  From Livejournal: Throwingstardna « Crabbyolbastard Ruminates | 

      […] Yes, He Did: […]

    6. #6 |  Robin | 

      His skin is dark and his hair’s all frizzy. Can we stop talking about this?

    7. #7 |  Jason | 

      “Obama rescinded Bush’s 2001 executive order allowing former presidents, vice presidents, and their heirs to claim executive privilege in determining which of their records get released to the public.”

      I’d wait until Obama comes to the end of his presidency before I’d rejoice about this one.

      “…Put a freeze on the salaries of top White House aides.”

      How long will this freeze last and how much money will it save? Is this symbolic or substantive?

      “…Obama’s top priority upon taking office was to institute limits on his own power. That’s something even a cynic like me can celebrate.”

      Again, symbolic or substantive? Time will tell.

    8. #8 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

      PJ Doland:
      “I’m at least glad we’ll be living in Obama’s welfare state instead of McCain’s police state.”

      That’s an interesting point. I would rather live in a somewhat paternalistic European-style social democracy than a deeply authoritarian garrison state. But, I don’t think we necessarily have to choose between the two anymore. Obama has shown a willingness to listen to friends and rivals alike since his days on the Harvard Law Review, so hopefully he’ll be looking for options beyond strengthening large, bureaucratic welfare agencies. Besides, when was the last time you heard a Democrat discuss eliminating ineffective programs?

      Times are tough, and the pressure on Obama to go overboard on the economy will be great. As a man of the (non-socialist) Liberal-Left, I may not object as fiercely to some proposals as hardcore libertarians would, but I won’t settle for more of the same either.

      I wish we could get to the point when we could have a national discussion about the possibility of a basic income for all, instead of traditional welfare for the poor. People ranging from Martin Luther King to Milton Friedman to Charles Murray have discussed this. If everyone received a dividend (a limited example would be the Alaska Permanent Fund, funded through oil revenues) to pad their income a bit, people would have greater flexibility when looking for satisfying work. Coupled with reduced regulations for entry level positions and small business, this could energize those who now live paycheck to paycheck. It may actually make the issue of unions moot, since workers would not feel forced stick with crappy jobs as much as they do currently. An added bonus: This could break down some of the divide between liberals and libertarians (or the Left and Right flanks of libertarianism).

    9. #9 |  Lucy | 

      #42

      Not to be one of those darn readers ready to leap to the defense of our fearless blogfather, but if Balko is a liberal, then cheers to liberals.

      I sit in class with liberals everyday at my college. Three days a week I sit in a mandatory class which consists of communitarian propaganda from the teacher and agreement from the class. I have learned that the social contract exists whether I agree or not. That breaking the law, even the old hippie standby of draft dodging, is not okay. You can just find a new country. Forget not paying taxes as a form of protest!

      These are liberals. Balko has expressed occasional and tentative flashes of slight optimism about Obama’s ability to be less completely horrible than Bush or McCain on some issues. Wooooow, what a commie.

      Jesus Christ, Balko would be berated as a miserable cynic by my friends and classmates.

      Balko also continues to blog about police brutality and the horrors of the drug war, and done great work in helping to get Cory Maye off of death row. Meanwhile, liberals blink stupidly and ask “outrage? drug war?” or cheerfully say that THEY are getting away with their pot smoking, so it’s not really a concern.

      I would love to be able to sit in a class with someone as liberal as Radley Balko.

      (Forgive the defense instinct here, that’s what comes of making me read Robert Bellah’s “The Good Society” if I want to graduate.)

    10. #10 |  O’DonnellWeb - This is not a homeschooling blog. » Blog Archive » Elsewhere on the Internet (January 22nd 09:32) | 

      […] The Agitator » Blog Archive » Yes, He Did – Obama acted like a Libertarian on day 1 in office. I don#039;t expect it to continue, but I#039;ll take it. […]

    11. #11 |  Thank You, Barack Obama | 

      […] couldn’t say it better, so I’m just going to cut & paste the entirety of Radley Balko’s post: Credit where it’s due: Well done, Mr. Obama. I’m sure we’ll have our differences, but afer […]

    12. #12 |  Don | 

      “But why does everyone refer to him as the 1st black prez?

      He’s as much white as he is black”

      My snarky response to that has always been “so you think he would have gotten to sit in the middle of the bus?” Pedigree isn’t the issue – there was a time when one black great-grandparent would have been enough to keep someone from getting elected dogcatcher. Jon H is dead-on with the cabdriver assessment.

    13. #13 |  RWW | 

      I wish we could get to the point when we could have a national discussion about the possibility of a basic income for all…

      Witness the power of non-principle.

    14. #14 |  Wordman | 

      Might want to add this to the list:

      http://www.emergentchaos.com/archives/2009/01/change_i_can_believe_in.html

    15. #15 |  TheGunGeek | 

      As has been pointed out already, this is really mostly just talk. If he truly had principles, he wouldn’t be issuing waivers right off the bat. He would stand by what he said and what he signed.

      Freezing high level staff salaries? He’s probably just going to make it up in bonuses, allowances, etc. in a manner similar to what Clinton did when he “cut the white house staff”. All he did was convert them from employees to contractors so that their pay came out of a different bucket in order to make his budget look better. It actually cost the taxpayers MORE money to do it, but he got to claim that he was doing something so people would praise his cost cutting measures.

      Just like Obama is “doing something”. I’m guessing that he wants to make the Clintons produce papers that they’ve been hiding so far in order to have ammunition to use against Hillary in 2008, when she will try to run against him.

      If he really wants transparency in government, he wouldn’t have hired a team of lawyers to fight having to do something as simple as producing a copy of his birth certificate to prove that he was eligible to become President. Do you think the white house will release it now? Do you honestly believe that a FOIA request to the white house to prove that he is legally allowed to be in the oval office will actually get you a copy of his birth certificate?

      If he had principles, he would stand by them. If he believed in transparency in government, he would exhibit some transparency in his own dealings. Until then- it’s all just talk intended to improve his image and nothing more.

      It’s just like how he said it’s so bad that the Gitmo prisoners haven’t had trials, so he suspended the trials. He said that he had talked to Cheney and agreed with him about Gitmo being a complicated subject and that he would take the time to really understand all the situations and ramifications before making any changes regarding the prisoners at Gitmo. That was also just another one of his lies to look good. There’s no way that a day or so spent celebrating was sufficient time, unless you are so closed minded about it that you really don’t care what the reality is.

      He reminds me of Bill Clinton in one very important way- he’s a habitual liar, but a whole lot of people believe what he says, just because he’s the one saying it.

    16. #16 |  Raise a toast to Obama « Muse Free | 

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    17. #17 |  links for 2009-01-23 « Overton’s Arrow | 

      […] The Agitator » Blog Archive » Yes, He Did "Credit where it’s due: Well done, Mr. Obama. I’m sure we’ll have our differences, but afer your first 40+ hours on the job, this libertarian couldn’t be happier." (tags: Obama politics progress libertarian news transparency Gitmo)   […]

    18. #18 |  fishbane | 

      Just like Obama is “doing something”. I’m guessing that he wants to make the Clintons produce papers that they’ve been hiding so far in order to have ammunition to use against Hillary in 2008, when she will try to run against him.

      Sorry for what might be an obvious question, but what year do you live in?

    19. #19 |  manunderstress.com » Blog Archive » Obama Good | 

      […] Obama. Even making curmudgeon libertarians happy already. Some nerds are also inspired by the recent changes to the whitehouse.gov robots.txt, and […]

    20. #20 |  EconTech » Republicans Coalition Fraying? | 

      […] couldn’t say it better, so I’m just going to cut & paste the entirety of Radley Balko’s post: Credit where it’s due: Well done, Mr. Obama. I’m sure we’ll have our differences, but afer […]

    21. #21 |  Decisamente un altro stile - Pagina 2 - MMORPGITALIA FORUM | 

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      […] a thank you I found at Radley Balko’s blog, The Agitator. I think he sums it up […]

    24. #24 |  NickZedd | 

      But why did he have to waste time on his first day in office going to church?

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