This is a sometimes 'cheesey' blog about British and American politics and anything else which tickles my fancy!

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Obama's audacious start

Contrary to what everyone has been saying about the drama surrounding Obama's 'second inauguration', I think the President has got off to an audacious start.

In the last few days, he has ordered the closure of Guantanamo Bay within one year and set about dismantling the Bush Administration's network of torture camps, prisons and clandestine detention centres. He has also publicly banned torture and rendition and called for a new approach to detainees.

It is a complete repudiation of the way George Bush prosecuted the war on terror. It should make the possibility of prosecutions against some Bush administration officials, for human rights abuses, all the more likely. Let's hope so. That would lead to proper justice.

The cynic in me might say that Obama's swift action was a clever ploy to change the news agenda after all the fuss about the second inauguration. It is quite clear that this rattled Obama (the constitutional professor) and he wanted it settled quickly, so his actions do help to change the news story.

But more importantly they also help to restore America's standing in the world. He cannot do this overnight, the proof will be in the pudding and what the Obama Administration does in the months ahead. But they do at least draw a line in the sand and dismantle the legal apparatus, which was so self defeating and so damaging to America, that Bush and his cronies put in place.

On a side note, Hillary Clinton's rapturous reception at the State Department is also interesting. I am desperate for her to make a success of this job and the will from her officials certainly seems to be there. Let us not forget, that after Obama, she remains the most powerful political figure in America.

The fact that Obama says he wants to be engaged with the Gaza/Palestine issue from Day One, unlike Bush, and his appointment of George Mitchell as Special Envoy to the Middle East give Clinton the very real chance of helping to broker a peace settlement there. I don't believe she would have taken the job, had she not thought she would have a chance to do this. But I do hope she does not get distracted by the petty politics and the drama that usually surrounds the Clinton roadshow. She has the very real chance of being remembered as a great statesman(woman) so my message to her - don't blow it.

Finally, just this morning Obama has overturned the ban on US funding for international organisations that offer advice or perform abortions. Under the "golden gag rule" as it was known, aid groups could not even discuss abortion. This policy had become another battle line in the cultural wars but the low key way in which Obama overturned it suggests a new approach to polarising issues like this which is less confrontational. Good. I hope his next step will be to lift the restriction on federal funding for stem cell research.

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