Wednesday, January 28, 2009
"President Barack Obama."
Yet, in many ways, Bush and Cheney still occupy government. It will take a great deal of time to undo eight years of policies that have blocked medical progress, destroyed ecosystems, allowed financial collapse, and perhaps most importantly, damaged our standing and power throughout the globe.
Democrats must be part of the rebirth of Government, but there must also be accountability for those who have abused the Constitution and rejected the legitimate power of Congress during the past eight years. With that in mind, I am very pleased that Chairman John Conyers has again subpoenaed Karl Rove to testify before Congress regarding his role in the firing of U.S. Attorneys by the Bush Administration. Rove's old claims of executive privilege should be rejected and I am hopeful we will finally unearth the truth.
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As I am sure many of you know, President Obama has already started to erase the Bush legacy:
- He ordered a halt to damaging executive orders Bush made in his last days in office, pending the new Administration's review
- He ordered an end to torture (including waterboarding)
- He ordered the closing of Guantanamo within one year
- He ordered an end to rendition - the practice of moving prisoners to countries who's laws allow torture
- He expanded access to government documents through the Freedom of Information Act
- He put the burden on the government to prove why presidential archives should not be made public
For our part, Congress has a responsibility to move quickly - not only to secure our nation's financial institutions - but to pass children's healthcare, new alternative energy incentives, help for public schools, and many other pieces of legislation that were shut down by Bush's opposition.
Many of you have written asking about the likelihood of prosecuting Bush officials. Recently, Chairman Conyers and Speaker Pelosi have indicated support for a serious inquiry, and while Attorney General Designate Eric Holder is being pressured by some Republicans to say he won't investigate the former administration, he has not backed down.
While there seems to be growing support for some kind of action, it's too early to gauge whether there will be true accountability for the crimes of the Bush administration. It's not as if we don't know what has taken place: Cheney has openly acknowledged his role in key decisions.
In the meantime, I am very excited. For the first time in my Congressional career, Democrats have both houses of Congress and the Presidency. We have a short window of time to prove to the American public that our ideas will truly work to improve our lives, both here at home and around the world.
More to come in the next weeks.
Congressman Robert Wexler
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Friday, January 23, 2009
Security Archive are praising President Obama's executive orders to
make the federal government more open. Yesterday, Obama issued two memos
and one executive order instructing government agencies to err on the
side of making information public and not to look for reasons to legally
withhold it. The moves are expected to make it easier for people to file
Freedom of Information Act requests, and should also boost the amount of
information that agencies place on their websites. The general counsel
for the National Security Archive (an NGO that publishes declassified
documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act) even predicts
that agencies will use blogs to share information. Obama's directives
reverse a 2001 memo from former US Attorney General John Ashcroft
instructing federal agencies to generally withhold information from
citizens filing FOIA requests."
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Thanks to you, something remarkable happened this weekend: President-elect Barack Obama answered our question asking if he will appoint a Special Prosecutor to "investigate the gravest crimes of the Bush Administration, including torture and warrantless wiretapping." Watch the video.
Because of your votes, our question was #1 on Change.gov after 4.7 million votes were cast for 76,000 questions. We received 22,779 votes; the next question (on bank bailout accountability) received 19,271.
We shocked the political and media elites who believe ordinary Americans don't care about holding Bush and Cheney accountable for their crimes. Your votes proved them wrong!
But winning the vote didn't guarantee an answer; Obama tried to dodge the question by recycling an evasive answer from Joe Biden.
Obama's strategy backfired. Bloggers like Ari Melber of The Nation objected. Then MSNBC's Keith Olbermann discussed our question with John Dean on Friday. Then on Sunday, ABC's George Stephanopoulos asked Obama our question on This Week. Obama replied:
Obviously we're going to look at past practices. And I don't believe that anybody is above the law. On the other hand, I also have a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards. And part of my job is to make sure that for example at the CIA, you've got extraordinarily talented people who are working very hard to keep Americans safe. I don't want them to suddenly feel like they've got to spend all their time looking over their shoulders and lawyering up.
If nobody is above the law, then Obama must prosecute those who broke it. That's why Obama's very first act is swearing the oath of office to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
But Obama should not spend his time "looking backwards" and neither should his Attorney General. That is exactly why we want a Special Prosecutor who will pay no attention to politics and simply enforce the law.
And the Special Prosecutor should target the highest officials who have admitted on TV they authorized torture: George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and their thoroughly corrupt lawyers. No one else should have to "look over their shoulders" or "lawyer up."
So we need your help again to continue our efforts to persuade President-elect Obama to appoint a Special Prosecutor. Please vote for our question again at a great independent website called change.org (not Obama's change.gov):
You can also vote for 9 other questions. We hope you'll also vote for "Get FISA Right, repeal the PATRIOT Act, and restore our civil liberties."
Voting closes Thursday at 5 pm and the the top 10 finishers will be announced at the National Press Club on Friday - so please vote today.
Thanks for all you do!