Diary

Obama to target Bush executive orders in first days

Get a load of this.

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.

The stakes couldn’t be higher.

On one hand, civil libertarians and other critics of the Bush administration may feel betrayed if Obama doesn’t move aggressively to reverse legal policies that they believe have violated the Constitution and international law.

On the other hand, Obama risks alienating some conservative Americans and some – but by no means all – military and intelligence officials if he seeks to hold officials accountable for those expansive policies.

These are some of the legal issues confronting him:

• How does he close the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba? He’s pledged to shutter it, but how quickly can he do so when it holds some detainees whom no administration would want to release?

• Obama has declared coercive interrogation methods such as waterboarding unconstitutional and illegal, but will his Justice Department investigate or prosecute Bush administration officials who ordered or condoned such techniques?

• Will the new administration press to learn the full extent of the Bush administration’s electronic eavesdropping and data-mining activities, and will it curtail or halt some of them?

• The Bush administration exerted tight control over the Justice Department by hiring more Republican-leaning political appointees and ousting those who were viewed as disloyal. Will Obama give the department more ideological independence?

The waning days of the Bush presidency may hold some interesting surprises.

Obama to target Bush executive orders in first days