Thursday, November 20, 2008

Our Ms. Brooks: Leaving Extra Ws Behind

Rosa Brooks has noticed all the little gifts the Bush administration is leaving behind for the incoming Obama administration. The Federal Register is working overtime to keep up with all of the regulatory changes and executive orders which have issued in the past several months.

You knew that W & Co. wouldn't go gently into that good night, didn't you?

Please. We're talking about the people who brought us precooked intelligence, Guantanamo, torture and extraordinary rendition. Who developed bizarre legal doctrines, asserting that the commander in chief is allowed to ignore federal law, and the vice president doesn't "belong" to the executive branch. Who enthusiastically dismantled long-standing regulatory frameworks and who still insist (as George W. Bush did last week) that "too much" government regulation is our main problem, even as the economic crisis deepens.

You really didn't think these guys would exit meekly, did you? ...

These rules can be enacted by the outgoing Bush administration with relative ease and speed, but reversing them will be far more difficult for the Obama administration: extensive study, notice and comment requirements mean that reversals may take several years, during which a lot of damage will have been done.

Bush also has signed more than 250 executive orders since taking office. Some are innocuous; others, not so much (permitting the use of interrogation techniques most experts consider torture, for instance). Some are still classified. The Obama transition team will need to go through these with a fine-tooth comb, identifying executive orders that require immediate change or reversal.

And while all of the house warming gifts are ticking away in the White House, President Obama will also have to worry about all of the Bush appointees who managed to burrow their way into civil service in the various agencies, all looking forward to furthering the Bush agenda while undercutting that of the new administration. No wonder, Ms. Brooks argues, the President Elect is hiring so many Clinton administration members to assist him: they're the only ones with enough experience in Washington to know how to handle this sort of sabotage.

One thing is certain. The change we were promised will be difficult to accomplish at the start. The new administration will have its hands full just sweeping up all of the little "W's" left behind.



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