The First 75 Days Before The First 100 Days

by dday

Obama's transition team is trying to manage expectations on what they will be able to attack immediately upon being sworn in. Rahm Emanuel makes it sound like the first order of business will be to un-veto the vetoes:

Asked what Barack Obama was elected to do, and what legislation he's likely to find on his Oval Office desk soonest, Mr. Emanuel didn't hesitate. "Bucket one would have children's health care, Schip," he said. "It has bipartisan agreement in the House and Senate. It's something President-elect Obama expects to see. Second would be [ending current restrictions on federally funded] stem-cell research. And third would be an economic recovery package focused on the two principles of job creation and tax relief for middle-class families."

SCHIP and stem cell research are leftover legislative priorities, and they won't cause much of a stir, but I wouldn't say they are anything Obama campaigned on. But it's good to rack up a couple quick victories. I imagine the Congress could pass those by January 20 and Obama could sign them January 21. Obviously the stimulus package was a major element of the campaign, so that will come next.

As for the inevitable center-left/center-right question, this isn't a horrible way of putting it:

So I asked Mr. Emanuel if the election of an unabashed liberal like Mr. Obama has made the New Democrat strategy obsolete. Perhaps what we witnessed on Tuesday means that liberalism is ascendant and the U.S. is no longer a center-right nation. "I think the country is incredibly pragmatic," he responded. "Pragmatic and progressive. But you still have to mix and match different approaches to reach your objectives. You have to be flexible."

He said the similarities between Barack Obama and the last Democratic president matter more than the differences. "Both Barack and Bill Clinton have an incredible connection to the public," he said. "Both ran on a message of hope. Both ran against failed policies that let the country down prior to them being elected. I don't think the country is yearning for an ideological answer. If anything it's the opposite. They want real solutions to real problems. And if we do an ideological test, we will fail. Our challenge is to work to solve the actual problems that the country is facing, not work to satisfy any constituency or ideological wing of the party."

I know a lot of people want to hear "progressive mandate" in there, but there is some work to be done with the public in proving that what is pragmatic is progressive, so I'm actually fairly OK with it. It's pretty close to the Wellstonian "politics is about improving people's lives."

If progressives want a dog whistle, here it is:

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 kind of regulations they are looking at" are those imposed by Bush for "overtly political" reasons, in pursuit of what Democrats say was a partisan Republican agenda, said Dan Mendelson, a former associate administrator for health in the Clinton administration's Office of Management and Budget. The list of executive orders targeted by Obama's team could well get longer in the coming days, as Bush's appointees rush to enact a number of last-minute policies in an effort to extend his legacy.

One of these is the "global gag rule."

The new president is also expected to lift a so-called global gag rule barring international family planning groups that receive U.S. aid from counseling women about the availability of abortion, even in countries where the procedure is legal, said Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. When Bill Clinton took office in 1993, he rescinded the Reagan-era regulation, known as the Mexico City policy, but Bush reimposed it.

"We have been communicating with his transition staff" almost daily, Richards said. "We expect to see a real change."

And another would allow California to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

The president-elect has said, for example, that he intends to quickly reverse the Bush administration's decision last December to deny California the authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles. "Effectively tackling global warming demands bold and innovative solutions, and given the failure of this administration to act, California should be allowed to pioneer," Obama said in January.

California had sought permission from the Environmental Protection Agency to require that greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles be cut by 30 percent between 2009 and 2016, effectively mandating that cars achieve a fuel economy standard of at least 36 miles per gallon within eight years. Seventeen other states had promised to adopt California's rules, representing in total 45 percent of the nation's automobile market. Environmentalists cheered the California initiative because it would stoke innovation that would potentially benefit the entire country.

In a separate AP article, John Podesta basically confirms this imminent use of executive orders, in particular stopping the Bureau of Land Management from opening 360,000 of public land near Arches National Park in Utah for oil and gas drilling. Podesta noted, "They want to have oil and gas drilling in some of the most sensitive, fragile lands in Utah ... I think that's a mistake."

Well, it's hard not to smile at all of this. I believe the applicable term is "the adults are back in charge."

I understand that the new Administration is debating whether or not to go big and take on a variety of issues right away, but the above would reflect a pretty good deal of positive change. It's not enough, of course, and we're going to have to be there on the left flank pushing the Administration to keep moving forward and ignore the neo-Hooverists and the guardians of the status quo.