Tuesday, May 31, 2005

What I Would Do As President?

This is the most egotistical of posts. I was fantasizing the other day that it was January 20, 2009, and that I had just been elected president. "Whaddaya gonna do?" is the big question. The answer is not "I'm goin' to Disneyland!"

If I were president, this is what I'd do.

  • Close Guantanamo. Close it completely. Level the entire complex and give the whole parcel of land back to the Cubans. Bring all prisoners there back onto US Territory, place them under the jurisdiction of the US military and issue an Executive Order ensuring complete and regularly scheduled access to those prisoners by the International Red Cross. I would run all of those prisoners through real hearings to determine whether or not they are credible threats, offering them legal representation if they needed it. I would release all those who were not. I would also explore making public as much of the records at Gitmo as I reasonably could to air out the laundry once and for all regarding whether or not personnel were detained illegally.
  • Close Abu Ghraib. See "Close Guantanamo," above.
  • End Rendition. There is no good, moral, justifiable reason why we should outsource our interrogations to other regimes that practice torture, 'assurances' notwithstanding. I would attempt to get those prisoners back who were rendered to other countries and give them the same treatment as I outlined above for the Gitmo detainees.
  • Promise to Completely Leave Iraq. I would make it clear to the world that when we leave Iraq, we leave completely. No massive bases, radar/listening posts, advisors, nothing. When we give Iraq back to the Iraqis we'll give it all back. We have to back up our altruism, so to speak, with actions.
  • Submit Honest Budgets. No more yearly 'supplemental requests' to fund the war; I'd roll it all into the real budget. The American people deserve an honest accounting of the national spending plan.
  • Ensure Unconditional Media Access to the President. I would lobby for legislation that ensures media have free and fair access to all major brokers of power, especially the president and all congressional leaders. I would ask for legislation that requires a sitting president to hold at least one press conference a month and to meet with an audience of unscreened, randomly-selected citizens, on national television, at least twice a year. I would also ask for legislation that makes it illegal for any party or organization to screen or filter attendees of any public event where the president is speaking, unless valid, security concerns have been documented for the individual(s) being denied access. He's everyone's president -- every citizen deserves to see him when he shows up at taxpayer expense.
  • Cancel the Tax Cuts and Close Tax Loopholes. Returning taxes to their 1999 levels will add billions of dollars to the treasury, helping to cut the deficit. I'd also make it harder for major US corporations to hide their operations and their revenues overseas. Corporations have a moral responsibility to pay back into the system that allowed them to thrive, just as ordinary taxpayers do.
  • Adjust Social Security. Perhaps a modest hike in the cap on taxable wages, in combination with the rolled-back tax cuts described above. The basic premise of Social Security is sound; it just needs some adjustments for a few decades to accommodate the baby boomers.
  • Lift the Veils of Secrecy. At the beginning of the Bush administration, well before 9/11, a new veil of secrecy was dropped over many government operations. The ostensible reason was for national security but the real result was to hide what the government was doing, or planned to do, to a number of regulatory and enforcement agencies and public resources. I would lift those restrictions to pre-Bush administration levels and institute a review of those areas that might require rethinking in light of the post 9/11 world. Nothing cleans like sunshine.
  • Anonymize Political Donations. I would set up a Political Donation Authority, run by a consortium of government, industry, legal and media watchdogs. This authority would receive donations to political candidates and causes and anonymously pass them on to the intended recipients. This would limit no one's right to free speech -- everyone could still support the candidate(s) of their choice -- but it would take the stink of bribery off of political donations. I would make it a federal crime for any political donor to communicate the amount of their donation to the recipient of that donation.
  • Reaffirm Both The Separation of Church and State and The Importance of Religious Tolerance. The government should only invest money and support in policies that work, that provide the most advantage and help to the most citizens at the best rate of return. Only those agencies that practice an unbiased, objective form of charity should be subsidized. No agency with any religious affiliation should receive government money. If a religious organization wants to conduct charitable work with help from the government then it should spin off a separate, secular organization to do that work. As part of this effort I'd reaffirm religious freedom and tolerance for all Americans. I'd use the bully pulpit, along with more aggressive enforcement of hate crimes, to make it clear to America and the world that religious tolerance is part of the law of the land.
  • Reaffirm Commitment To A Clean Environment. The interests of big business should be balanced with the health and safety needs of common citizens, with the balance weighted toward the citizens. All the economic benefits of industry are meaningless if there's no clean air or water. I would also work to strengthen the EPA, the EEOC and the Department of Labor to better protect the common citizen.
  • Make Legal Immigration Easier, and Illegal Immigration Harder. I'd make it easier for legal immigrants to obtain responsible corporate sponsorship, permanent residency, work permits, green cards, drivers licenses and, eventually, citizenship. At the same time I would crack down hard on those companies or persons who knowingly hire illegal or undocumented immigrants. These illicit jobs are what bring illegal immigrants here in the first place; reducing the supply of illicit jobs reduces illegal immigration and eases the burden these non taxpaying people impose on our public institutions.
  • Affirm a Commitment to Strong Communities At All Levels. This is a framing-type statement that can be applied to just about every issue. Ensure fair wages, accessible health care, social protections and a safe environment and the local and national community is stronger. Promote respectful international cooperation and the world community is safer.
  • Announce Manhattan Project II - Nuclear Fusion In Our Lifetime. Maybe it's pie-in-the-sky, but I would make this an urgent national priority. The economic benefits of the research alone would boost the economy, not to mention our high-tech sector immeasurably. What if we even succeeded? If we could figure out how to make nuclear fusion work we'd make a huge leap forward to the future, transforming our economy and society, along with that of the rest of the planet. Now that's global leadership.

Okay, that last one was a little nutty -- but who knows? It woke me up, at least.

Naive? I prefer Idealistic. Practical? Heck, if I knew that maybe I'd really have a chance at being president.

The underlying theme here is openness. fairness and idealism. They will make us stronger, more free, more successful and powerful and more respected in the world.

It's the opposite of what's happening now.


Ship Creak said...

Sounds like you got it all planned out? Have to say, joking apart, that I like a lot of your ideas. Communication is the key.

Maybe it should be mandatory for all high-level goverment officials (including the President himself) to maintain an "Honest Blog" to recount their days activities?

bimplebean said...

One of my ideas was inspired by a report on the Daily Show of Tony Blair, on a TV show, facing an audience of hundreds of Britons, many young, passionate, and pissed off. I suspect Dubya would disintegrate if faced with that! Whatever one thinks of Blair, one has to admire his courage. The British media is to be commended for keeping democracy alive!