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Thirsting for change Obama’s First 100 Days IP S -DC.O RG


I PS-DC.O RG

About the Authors Chester Hartman is an associate fellow at IPS and the founding Executive Director of the Poverty & Race Research Action Council. John Feffer is the codirector of the Foreign Policy In Focus project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

Acknowledgments Erik Leaver for editing and coordinating the report. Nate Kerksick for design and layout. Devin West, Mary Tharin, and Alex LaBue for assistance. Financial support: Wallace Global Fund Contact:

Institute for Policy Studies

Tel: 202 234 9382 x 227

Email: info@ips-dc.org

1112 16th St. NW, Suite 600

Washington, DC 20036

http://www.ips-dc.org

Institute for Policy Studies (IPS-DC.org) strengthens social movements with independent research, visionary thinking, and links to the grassroots, scholars and elected officials. Since 1963 it has empowered people to build healthy and democratic societies in communities, the United States, and the world.

Mandate for Change (mandate4change.org) aims to strengthen the Obama administration at a time when the need for progressive policies — and appointing progressive people to lead such efforts — is most urgent.


Contents

I. Introduction................................................................................................. 3 Inaugural Address.........................................................................................5 Climate.................................................................................................................5 Health Care.....................................................................................................8 Education........................................................................................................10 II. Domestic Policy Report........................................................................ 13 Poverty.................................................................................................................... 18 Homelessness....................................................................................................20 Drugs......................................................................................................................... 22 Inequality............................................................................................................. 24 Tax Policy............................................................................................................. 26 Race............................................................................................................................ 28 Women’s Rights................................................................................................30 Agriculture........................................................................................................ 32 Labor.........................................................................................................................34 Open Government......................................................................................... 36 Local Democracy.......................................................................................... 38 III. Foreign Policy Report.........................................................................41 Afghanistan.......................................................................................................46 Iraq..............................................................................................................................48 Counterterrorism.......................................................................................50 Nuclear................................................................................................................... 52 Military Spending..........................................................................................54 Trade and Globalization...................................................................... 56 Human Rights..................................................................................................... 58 Global Environment..................................................................................60 Africa........................................................................................................................ 62 Asia..............................................................................................................................64 Middle East..........................................................................................................66 Latin America.....................................................................................................68 IV. Author Bios................................................................................................ 71


-


Introduction

Mandate for Change GRADING The First 100 Days Introduction by John Feffer

OVERALL The United States is facing the largest economic

7

crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Unemployment rates are soaring, people are losing their houses, and the social safety net is too weak to catch

Obama scores high on rhetoric; on action, the

everyone from slipping into poverty. Meanwhile, on

review is mixed.

the global front, the United States faces the threat of climate change, nuclear proliferation, and diminishing sources of energy to fuel the economy. We are bogged down in wars abroad and losing the war on

the world cheered his victory. The new president

poverty at home.

takes office with a mandate for change. But has the Anyone who wants to lead the United States at such

new U.S. president offered the change necessary to

a time must be either crazy or very, very confident.

confront the multiple new threats that assail America

Barack Obama, who comes into office at this peril-

and the globe? Or has he only addressed the tip of

ous moment for his country and for the world,

the iceberg?

certainly falls into the second category. During the presidential campaign, he promised sweeping

It is difficult to evaluate an administration after only

changes. Since taking office in January, he has

100 days. George W. Bush, who ended his two terms

quickly assembled his administrative team, given

with one of the lowest grades of any U.S. president,

several authoritative addresses to the nation, and

received quite positive evaluations after his first three

acted very decisively on several fronts. Rolling back

months in office. The Obama team is still bringing

many of the policies of the Bush administration,

people on board and identifying its priorities. Still,

the new president has embraced a nuclear abolition

the crises facing the United States and the world

agenda, changed U.S. approach to counterterror-

require immediate and comprehensive action. And,

ism, announced the withdrawal of troops from Iraq,

as no less an authority as Aristotle once put it, well

introduced several large domestic spending packages,

begun is half done.

and promised a great deal more. In our book Mandate for Change, we lay out a deMany U.S. progressives worked hard to get Barack

tailed, progressive agenda for repairing the damage

Obama elected. And many progressives around

of the last decade and rebuilding America’s capabili3


THIRSTING FOR CHANGE: OBAMA’S FIRST 100 DAYS

ties at home and reputation abroad. Beginning with

The president scored high marks for his rhetoric.

this report on the first 100 days, we will track the

At the level of action, however, the record so far

administration’s progress in meeting this ambitious

is mixed. In general, the Obama administration

agenda.

has acted cautiously in its foreign policy even as it has moved quickly to institute some far-reaching

This report will inaugurate our Change Index. Every

changes at home.

administration promises great change and must deal with the messes created by its predecessor. Our

In our overall evaluation of the first 100 days, we

Change Index represents the administration’s record

gave the administration a score of 7. In other words,

as a glass of water. It starts out with the water level at

President Obama has certainly raised the level of

halfway. Whether the glass is half full or half empty

U.S. foreign and domestic policy. But honestly it

depends on your perspective. We have asked 35 con-

wouldn’t have taken much to improve on the legacy

tributors to evaluate the administration on several

left by the previous administration. We’re still a long

dozen issues according to a variety of indicators in-

way off from reaching the top and earning a whole-

cluding appointments, executive orders, legislation,

hearted “cheers” from our Change Index contributors.

budgetary actions, and so forth. They scored the administration’s policies on a scale of 1 to 10, with 5 representing no change.

4


Introduction

Inaugural Highlights

Climate

OVERALL

By Betsy Taylor, 1Sky

9

The Bush White House placed its blind faith and

Dramatic change in direction and strong

taxpayer subsidies in big oil, gas, and nuclear com-

commitment to green

panies. The Obama administration, in contrast,

energy in the stimulus

enthusiastically communicated a vision of a clean-

package.

energy revolution that will create five million green jobs, increase energy independence, and protect the climate. In his first 100 days, the president took a series of

This White House has done more to advance the

extraordinary actions:

cause of energy efficiency, renewable energy, green jobs, and action on climate change in its first 100

• He appointed a dream team of energy and

days than all the combined actions by local and

environmental scientists, regulators, and politi-

state governments over the past 20 years. President

cal operatives, most notably Stephen Chu at the

Obama has done this in the context of a global

Department of Energy, Lisa Jackson at the Envi-

economic meltdown and despite intense opposition

ronmental Protection Agency, Jane Lubchenco,

from fossil fuel companies. He deserves our gratitude

Administrator of NOAA, John Holdren as sci-

and support.

ence adviser, Ken Salazar at the Department of Interior, and Carol Browner as the White House

And yet, despite this exceptional performance, the

energy and climate czar.

president must do more. This isn't an ideological demand; it's a geologic imperative. When it comes

• He passed the American Recovery and Rein-

to climate change, any hint of gradualism (and there

vestment Act, which contains an estimated $43

are some recent worrisome signals coming from the

billion for direct energy and efficiency programs,

administration) must be challenged. But first the

energy-related tax provisions of more than $20

good news.

billion supporting renewable energy, and $500

5


THIRSTING FOR CHANGE: OBAMA’S FIRST 100 DAYS

million for green job training. This package also includes funds for low-income home weatherization programs. The bill contains $11 billion for smart-grid technology, including $4.5 billion for a federal matching grant program to invest in smart-technology projects. Notably, the bill didn't include a loan guarantee package backed by fossil fuel companies that would have handed $50 billion to the coal and nuclear industries.

Flickr photo by rasmithuk, under a Creative Commons license.

• He strongly supported California’s tough

• On January 30, 2009, a group of prominent

fuel efficiency standards and also directed the

marine biologists from around the world issued

Environmental Protection Agency to issue a

a statement indicating that ocean acidification

finding on whether the EPA should regulate

may result in the death of most coral reefs by

greenhouse gases. That finding was released in

2050 if atmospheric CO2 levels continue to

mid-April, when the EPA unequivocally asserted

increase. This could lead to the collapse of global

that greenhouse gases endanger public health

commercial fish stocks, threaten food security

and welfare, and must be regulated. This enables

for hundreds of millions of people, and kill off a

stronger EPA regulation, possible shutdown of

multibillion-dollar fishing industry.

coal-fired power plants, and a regulatory stick for pushing reluctant lawmakers and industries

• On February 16, Chris Field, director of

toward support of climate legislation.

the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology and a prominent leader of the Nobel

• He traveled to Europe, Mexico, and Trini-

Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on

dad for meetings with leaders from around the

Climate Change, reported that global warming

world, and in each venue called for a global

gases in the atmosphere are rising more rapidly

commitment to clean energy, green jobs, and

than expected. He warned that Arctic warming

action on climate change.

is expected to speed up the decay of plant matter and that melting permafrost could release vast

This administration has arrived just in time. As we

amounts of new climate altering gases. “There

celebrate this magnificent momentum, we must

are about 1,000 billion tons of carbon in these

also consider what has happened in these past 100

soils,” says Field. “When you consider that the

days, not in the political domain but in the geologic

total amount of carbon released from fossil fuels

world:

6


Introduction

since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution

cap-and-trade program. His senior advisers have

is around 350 billion tons, the implications for

tempered their calls for climate action, seeming

global climate are staggering.”

intent on early compromises on critical issues, such as whether to auction or give away pollution permits

• On February 25, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-

to heavy industry. They have set modest rather than

CA) gathered some of the world’s preeminent

aggressive targets for short-term CO2 reductions,

climate scientists, and they warned of droughts

potentially jeopardizing successful climate negotia-

that could reduce the American Southwest to a

tions in Copenhagen later this year. And the United

wasteland, and heat waves that could make life

States has not yet sufficiently stepped up to help

impossible even in northern cities — potentially

with critical financing for clean-tech transfer, global

in our lifetimes.

forest protection, and adaptation in the developing world.

• On April 3, a new study was released by the Joint Institute for the Study of Atmosphere and

These early compromises may ultimately help move

the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Admin-

a bill through Congress, but, ominously, one with

istration predicting that Arctic sea ice is melting

so many loopholes that it may not do much in the

so fast that most of it could be gone in 30 years.

short term to reduce carbon emissions or spark

Summer ice in the Arctic may be gone as soon

action by China, India, and other nations. The presi-

as 2013.

dent must keep his eye on the ball. We must reduce carbon emissions deeply and quickly. Period.

• On April, 5, 2009, an ice-bridge linking a shelf of ice the size of Jamaica to two islands in

We are extraordinarily fortunate to have a president

Antarctica unexpectedly collapsed. Scientists say

with the vision, courage, and obvious intellectual

this could mean the Wilkins Ice Shelf (which is

brilliance to lead us toward the promise of a global

the size of Scotland) is on the brink of breaking

green deal with development that lifts people out of

away, and provides further evidence of rapid

poverty while sustaining our natural world. He must

change in the region.

resist the Beltway-insider calls for moderation, as well as those who say a price on carbon is too costly

The president needs an “all hands on deck” approach

to the economy. This is physics versus politics, and

to our energy future. In his April 14 keynote ad-

since we can’t change the physics, it's time to change

dress on the economy, Obama called for a “gradual”

the politics. Obama campaigned on "change;" so far, he's coming through on climate.

7


THIRSTING FOR CHANGE: OBAMA’S FIRST 100 DAYS

Health Care

OVERALL

10

Jeff Blum, USAction

The year 2009 should go down in history as the year that the United States finally joins the rest of the

Building a plan for comprehensive health care, providing funding,

industrialized world and guarantees every American

and building political

high quality, affordable health care. Although much

capital to make it real.

work remains to be done for health care legislation to be enacted later this year, three key advances already are taking us down the road of comprehensive

coverage, whereas the version that passed the House

health care reform, even as President Obama marks

overwhelmingly in 2007 did not. Third, he did it

his 100th day in office.

with lightning speed, being clear that SCHIP was essentially unfinished congressional business, not systematic health reform.

That health care is such a priority should surprise no one; in October, two-thirds of Obama’s campaign advertising dollars were spent on the issue of health

Then, in his jobs and economic recovery legisla-

care — an issue that was prominent in the collective

tion, he committed $140 billion to health care,

mind of the country even before economic crisis

including $87 billion to help states pay the cost of

added millions of people to the rolls of the under-

Medicaid, which provides medical care for the poor

and uninsured.

and disabled; and billions more to help unemployed Americans pay for private insurance and put medi-

One of the first bills he pushed through Congress

cal records online, a move that down the road will

was for a $32.8 billion expansion of the State

improve patient care and save considerable sums.

Children’s Health Insurance Program, SCHIP,

The jobs and economic recovery package was the

extending the program for 7 million children whose

second step toward quality, affordable health care for

benefits were set to expire and expanding it to

all Americans.

cover 4 million children currently without coverage. Three things stand out about this bill’s speedy

Then, and most importantly, he turned the tables on

passage, signed into law on just the 15th day of his

the health care debate by proposing a $634 billion

presidency. First, he raised taxes to pay for services

“health care reserve fund” in his 2010 budget. For

whose primary beneficiaries are low-income work-

the first time, a president said to Congress, “I’ll take

ing families. Second, he included all citizens in the

the heat for the money, now you give me a program

8


Introduction

and support the funding to pay for it.” Equally impressive, he proposed two roughly equal progressive sources of funding — raising revenues on wealthy Americans, and squeezing waste out of the health insurance system itself. Finally, he has put forward the essential building blocks of a national system that can do all the things we need: • Bring affordable care to all, under-insured and uninsured alike; Flickr photo by bright strangely, under a Creative Commons license.

• Expand quality initiatives that will move our system in the direction of promoting and protecting health, not just treating disease; • Bring down the overall cost of health care in ways that will promote American economic growth and security in a globalized world, while reducing the differential burden of health care felt by unionized vs. non-union companies. One of the main ways to do this is to make a highquality public health care plan an option for every American individual and business. This is the critical building-block for a more simplified, efficient, accountable system over the long run. As important as Obama’s leadership has been in taking these first steps, it’s worth recalling what Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said to a group of people urging him to take action: “I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it.”

9


THIRSTING FOR CHANGE: OBAMA’S FIRST 100 DAYS

Education

OVERALL

Gloria Ladson-Billings University of Wisconsin-Madison

8

Now that the glow of the election and inauguration

Education funding in the stimulus suggests

has faded, the hard work of governing reminds us

forward thinking about

that no administration, no matter how popular,

education.

can avoid obstacles to its policymaking and implementation. The fact that the Obama administration continues to identify education among its priorities is encouraging. However, those good intentions may

• A proposal to offer $55,000 to first-time

not turn into reality in the short term. The lingering

parents to have regular visits from trained

economic downturn that has resulted in the deepest

nurses, to make sure their children are healthy

recession since the 1940s is more than cyclical; it's

and able to benefit from schooling;

structural. Thus, rather than merely trying to jumpstart the economy, this administration must remake

• Plans to increase federal support in the form

a number of systems to create greater transparency

of “Early Learning Challenge” grants to states

and regulatory responses.

that develop plans to strengthen early education programs;

In addition to the dismal economic situation, the United States remains embroiled in two wars in Iraq

• A call for higher and clearer state standards

and Afghanistan. These events reduce optimism

for teaching and learning;

about education finding a place on the administration’s docket. However, President Barack Obama has

• A pledge to fund investment in innovation

pleasantly surprised education professionals with a

as a part of the “No Child Left Behind” initia-

series of proposals to improve education.

tive of the previous administration;

On March 10, 2009, just 50 days after taking office,

• Federal money in the stimulus package to

Obama addressed the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of

prevent teacher layoffs;

Commerce to urge a revamping of the U.S. public education system from “cradle to career.” The specif-

• A promise to support merit pay, as well as

ics of these changes include the following:

extra pay for mathematics and science teachers, in order to end shortages in those subject areas;

• An additional $5 billion for Head Start in the $787 billion stimulus package;

10


Introduction

• A call for “innovation and excellence” through increasing the number of charter schools; • A promise to increase college access by raising the maximum Pell Grant award to $5,500 a year (and indexing it above inflation); • A push to provide $2,500 a year tuition tax

Flickr photo by barnabywasson, under a Creative Commons license.

credit for students from working families. This is an ambitious agenda, and the biggest fly in

by administrators and test scores, or could there be a

the education policy and implementation ointment

more robust assessment of teachers that includes peer

is that the Department of Education continues to

review? And is pay the only possible incentive? Of

be unstaffed in a number of key positions. Thus,

course teachers want to be adequately compensated,

the actual work of changing these policies will take

but there are additional perks that could be given,

considerable time. Some educators see the selection

such as university credit, time, leadership opportuni-

of Arne Duncan as a nod toward a more corporate

ties, and teacher exchanges.

model of education rather than a respect for the increasing body of knowledge on teaching, learning,

Second, the issue of charter schools is a concern be-

and school leadership that is emerging from learning

cause they vary so widely in emphasis and effective-

theory, policy, and administrative literatures. Howev-

ness. Just calling a school a charter does not make

er, the Duncan selection could be a good public rela-

it excellent. In some cases, the creation of charter

tions move, wherein the general public appreciates

schools has created the same school segregation gen-

the appointment of a big-city school superintendent

erations of people fought to dismantle. Thus, while

who is a close friend to the president as a signal that

charter schools can bring innovation we would ex-

education will indeed receive a fair hearing.

pect that school districts, states, and the Department of Education place them under increased scrutiny

The greatest concerns with the priorities laid out

to ensure that students are receiving a higher quality

in the March address are about merit pay, charter

of education than they could at their local public

schools, and alternative teacher certification. In

school.

general, the idea to provide more incentives to good teachers is an excellent one. However, the

Finally, the issue of teacher certification (which was

complications of the enterprise are such that we have

not specifically called for in the March address but

to consider who in the current system is capable of

has been mentioned by Secretary Duncan and For-

truly judging merit. Should this be a judgment made

mer House Speaker Newt Gingrich) is worrisome.

11


THIRSTING FOR CHANGE: OBAMA’S FIRST 100 DAYS

The wholesale embrace of a specific alternative— Teach for America — is puzzling because the evidence doesn't support its claims of effectiveness. The data suggest that Teach for America program teachers are performing (in terms of student outcomes) at the same level as unqualified teachers. In no other profession would this be a mandate to expand. We must raise the public regard for teachers and their professionalism. Yes, we need to find multiple paths for helping knowledgeable and willing people to enter teaching, but this doesn't mean the only thing poor children, particularly poor children of color, are entitled to are well-intentioned missionaries. They need expert teachers who are committed to their success. At this juncture in the administration the air of optimism and hope remain, and we want to give President Obama a fair chance to make good on his promises. We also want to remind the electorate that its role didn't evaporate with the counting of the votes. This may be one of the more participatory administrations we have seen in some time, and we must do our part at every level — local, state, national, and international.

12


Domestic Policy

Domestic Policy Introduction by chester hartman

DOMESTIC AVG. At various points over the first 100 days of the

7.4

Obama administration, domestic media and political attention focused heavily on the economic stimulus package and the budget.

Cautious optimism through troubled waters

Specifically there has been a lot of attention paid to the mortgage meltdown and consequent foreclosures, which caused displacement of thousands of both homeowners and renters. Of course it will

Domestic Policy

be awhile until we can ascertain the longer-range impacts of measures taken to deal with this wide

Topic

Score

Topic

Score

range of issues. And many of these domestic issues are linked: job loss leads to foreclosures and loss of health care; sudden forced displacement damages

Climate

9

Tax Policy

7

Health Care

10

Racial Equality

6

Education

8

Women’s Rights

7

Poverty

9

Agriculture

7

Homelessness

8

Labor Rights

7

Drug Policy

8

Open Government

7

Inequality

6

Local Democracy

6

children’s education; joblessness can produce criminal behavior, etc. Obama started his presidency with great success, as he worked with Congress to craft and pass the huge (close to $800 billion) Recovery Act within four weeks of his inauguration. The bill provides critical relief to people in distress (through more money for food stamps, food banks, unemployment insurance,

Average

7.4

and Medicare) and it will create a lot of new jobs, many of them "green jobs." The big tension to watch is how the administration tempers the pressure to get the money out quickly, which will favor

In the wake of the Recovery Act, Obama put for-

traditional funding routes that favor white commu-

ward his budget request, which has many positives

nities, with the need to target a lot of the money to

and many negatives. On the plus side, the budget

people of color and those who are most vulnerable.

finally opens the door to higher taxes on the very 13


THIRSTING FOR CHANGE: OBAMA’S FIRST 100 DAYS

wealthy and it suggests cutting a number of obsolete

Gilded Age. The president supports passage of the

weapons programs. On the negative side, it actually

Employee Free Choice Act but hasn't spoken out

would increase defense spending, and the tax code it

against recent serious attempts to undermine its

recommends is still far from fair.

effects through damaging amendments. Passage of this act, unweakened, can bring about higher wages

As is inevitable, appointments to high places pro-

and needed medical, retirement, and other benefits

duce mixed reactions. It's disturbing that so many

for millions of workers as a product of strong

key economic advisors and appointees derive from

unionization.

the very actors that created the present economic miasma. In other domestic areas — housing/urban

Reinstituting a truly progressive income tax system

development, labor, interior, environment, justice,

can both provide additional government revenue to

energy, education, to name some — appointments

support a range of anti-poverty programs and reduce

have been imaginative and progressive. At least

current levels of inequality.

on the promise level, access and accountability are in the offing. We sincerely hope that the destruc-

The administration needs to do more to acknowledge

tive policies of the former administration will be

the importance of these steps.

reversed. The three areas the president stressed in his February 24 message to Congress were education, health, and climate change. Beyond these, there are three other key domestic issues. Our evaluation is as follows:

Reducing poverty and ending current levels of extreme inequality Here, job creation is essential, and our hope is that the economic stimulus package — particularly the president's emphasis on green jobs — will begin the process of lowering the nation's totally unacceptable level of poverty and begin to close the equally unacceptable vast inequality gap — the largest since the Photo Credit: Mandate for Change 14


Domestic Policy

funds for food, medical care, transportation, child

Housing

care, and other necessities. A high proportion of those families have more than one of these problems.

The housing issue has obviously been prominent,

For some, their plight is outright homelessness — a

almost exclusively as a result of the mortgage crisis

situation nothing short of obscene in 21st-century

and extraordinarily high rates of foreclosure. The

America. The administration has said and done all

administration must do more to ensure that renters

too little about this basic social problem.

as well as homeowners are not forced to move, with all the damage that does to families. Moving all too

We need the administration to come up with pro-

often means moving to substandard quarters and

grams to meet the National Housing Goal — passed

even homelessness.

by Congress in 1949 — of "a decent home and suitable living environment for every American family."

But the nation's housing problems extend well beyond the recent mortgage/foreclosure issues. Some one-third of the nation still is ill-housed — echoing FDR's lament in his second inaugural address in 1937. Tens of millions of American families are living in housing that is physically substandard, overcrowded, or in derelict neighborhoods. And many families are forced to pay half or more of their income for their housing — leaving insufficient

Achievements &

Disappointments

1) Pushing through a sizable stimulus package

1) Financial bailout has put taxpayers on the line for mega-billions while failing to jump start lending.

2) Signing into law a bill on health care for children that the Bush administration twice vetoed

2) Waiving the stricter rules on the appointment of corporate lobbyists (such as the appointment

3) Significant investments into green jobs and

of Raytheon’s William Lynn at the Pentagon)

clean technologies 3) Reluctance to confront structural racism, exemplified by refusal to participate in United Nations conference on racism in Geneva.

15


THIRSTING FOR CHANGE: OBAMA’S FIRST 100 DAYS

Racism We understand President Obama's dilemma: He wants and needs to be president for all Americans. But we will never achieve true democracy until we acknowledge the ways in which racial hierarchies and racism are structured into every important facet of our lives, individually and collectively: our health system, our job structure, our criminal justice system, our housing and consequently school patterns. Obama did bring out this essential truth in his great Philadelphia speech. But now that he is president, he must follow up as the nation's teacher and put forward ideas, policies and programs — not only at the federal level, but for states, cities, and the private sector — to tear down these structural barriers and bring to fruition a truly egalitarian, democratic America. Finally, we would like to see the president add more of the USA to his travels, taking with him key members of Congress from both parties and relevant cabinet members. His international trips have been extraordinarily successful, and his (and his family’s) presence around his home city is a real turn-on for those living in Washington, DC. Adding visits to New Orleans, Sacramento’s tent city for the homeless, Detroit’s sagging auto plants, the comeback borough of The Bronx, Texas’ border colonias, and Baltimore’s failing schools would go a long way to focus needed public and political attention on all that needs to be done at home. These visits could re-stimulate Barack Obama’s past as a community organizer, so that we get the kind of specific policies and programs detailed in each of the 47 chapters in Mandate for Change that deals with major domestic issues. 16


Domestic Policy

Domestic Policy REPORT CARDS Domestic Report Poverty.................................................................................................................... 18 Homelessness....................................................................................................20 Drugs......................................................................................................................... 22 Inequality............................................................................................................. 24 Tax Policy............................................................................................................. 26 Race............................................................................................................................ 28 Women’s Rights................................................................................................30 Agriculture........................................................................................................ 32 Labor.........................................................................................................................34 Open Government......................................................................................... 36 Local Democracy.......................................................................................... 38

17


THIRSTING FOR CHANGE: OBAMA’S FIRST 100 DAYS

MEASURING poverty BY PETER EDElMAN

OVERALL

Appointments

9

10

The people appointed to significant positions in Obama’s cabinet and the White House whose

responsibilities include issues regarding lowincome people are extremely impressive. These appointments include people such as Arne Duncan and Melody Barnes.

Legislation

10

Executive Orders

-

The stimulus package has created immense investment funds, as well as an expansion of programs

and assistance to vulnerable people. This includes a significant increase from reforming the unemployment compensation system. The stimulus package and the budget include items that will be beneficial for low-income people.

Spending

Communications

10

7

This is covered above in the legislation section.

The Obama administration hasn’t publicized in detail the extent of the steps it has taken or proposed that are

helpful for low-income people.

18


Domestic Policy

Green / environment

human dignity / human rights

6

9

The administration’s proposals for green jobs appear to have positive implication for low-income people,

The administration’s achievements and proposals thus far contribute extensively to human dignity and hu-

but the extent of this isn’t entirely clear.

man rights in the United States.

economic equity

cost / regulation

9

9

The Recovery Act and budget contain significant items that will have the effect of raising income at the bottom

The administration’s achievements and proposals with regard to lowincome people will be cost-effective.

and causing the wealthiest people to contribute

These include programs such as the Earned

a fairer portion of their responsibility to our

Income Tax Credit, the child credit, and unem-

society.

ployment reform.

democracy / transparency

8

Strengthening the economic position of low-income people will enable them to participate more fully in our

democracy, but the administration has been less communicative than it might have been in calling attention to his achievements and proposals in this area.

19


THIRSTING FOR CHANGE: OBAMA’S FIRST 100 DAYS

MEASURING homelessness BY Maria Foscarinis

OVERALL

Appointments

8

8

Shaun Donovan was a very good choice for HUD secretary: He has knowledge of and commitment to

low-income housing and homelessness. But an Interagency Council appointment is still outstanding, whether it’s the current director or a new appointee.

Legislation

8

Executive Orders

-

The stimulus provides $1.5 billion in funding for new homeless re-housing programs. Smaller amounts were al-

located for ameliorating homelessness. But this will only provide, at most, 18 months of rental support; longer term assistance is needed, with greater levels of funding.

Spending

Communications

8

9

See above comments regarding the stimulus — still waiting to see details of the budget request.

During a prime-time press conference Obama responded to a question about homeless children by saying

he’d like to see a changed national attitude, recognizing that homelessness is unacceptable, a presidential first in over 20 years. This is pretty close to change we can believe in.

20


Domestic Policy

human dignity / human rights

Green / environment

-

6

economic equity

7

Obama hasn’t yet framed homelessness as a human-rights issue.

cost / regulation

-

Stimulus funding for homeless prevention was an important step, showing receptiveness to some of the

recommendations of a national homelessness advocacy coalition. But with new increases in homelessness, it’s not enough. And HUD’s oversight of housing provisions in the 2006 Violence Against Women Act is lax.

democracy / transparency

-

21


THIRSTING FOR CHANGE: OBAMA’S FIRST 100 DAYS

MEASURING drug policy BY Sanho Tree

OVERALL

Appointments

8

8

Obama’s pick of Gil Kerlikowske as drug czar was inspired. As police chief in Seattle, Kerlikowske was on

the cutting edge of drug reform in the United States.

Legislation

Executive Orders

-

8

Obama has come through on his promise to support needle-exchange programs and has taken steps to ban

medical marijuana raids. However, his commitment to harm reduction policy isn’t at the same level as most leaders of the European Union.

Spending

Communications

-

7

Most of Obama’s drug policy changes have been done under the radar, which is smart considering

their highly controversial nature. However, in the incident with the online poll and public press conference, when marijuana policy was brought up as a top issue by the American public, Obama was rather dismissive.

22


Domestic Policy

Green / environment

human dignity / human rights

7

8

The administration has indicated a desire to shift away from the failed aerial fumigation policy which has

Obama had blocked the Colombia FTA because of human rights violations, and has indicated that he cares

scorched millions of acres of both legal and

deeply about these issues, however, negotiations

illicit crops in Colombia.

have recently resumed.

economic equity

cost / regulation

6

7

Obama has emphasized alternative development policies in Colombia to replace strict eradication, but hasn’t

Obama has moved to cut back on costly, ineffective drug initiatives. However, he has not yet made any

changes to the drug war bureaucracy, which

submitted any concrete proposals as of yet.

costs the federal government approximately $23 billion per year.

democracy / transparency

-

23


THIRSTING FOR CHANGE: OBAMA’S FIRST 100 DAYS

MEASURING inequality BY Sam Pizzigati

OVERALL

Appointments

6

5

Only one of the key economic positions in the administration has gone to a veteran advocate of policies that

can counter America’s growing concentration of income and wealth, Jared Bernstein. Most of the other picks, most notably Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, have long histories carrying Wall Street’s water.

Legislation

Executive Orders

6

4

The economic stimulus package includes a series of meaningful limits on bailout-related executive pay.

Obama announced a $500,000 cap on executive pay but it didn’t apply to most enterprises getting bailout

But the best pay-limit provisions came from

dollars. And even “capped” bankers could still

lawmakers, not the administration, and Trea-

eventually pocket millions in stock awards. The

sury Secretary Geithner, in negotiations with

Washington Post revealed that Treasury was cir-

Capitol Hill, pressed to weaken the pay-limit

cumventing the pay restrictions that had passed

legislative language.

in Congress.

Spending

Communications

7

10

The White House budget actually calls for stiffer taxes on the nation’s rich than the Obama campaign tax

Obama and his administration have consistently linked the concentration of income and wealth

plan. The welcome new addition to the Obama

to our nation’s economic ill-health, most nota-

tax agenda: a new limit on the deductions the

bly in the budget narrative. The budget holds

rich can claim off their taxes.

the rich and powerful responsible for making the “ladder into the middle class and beyond” ever “harder and harder to climb.”

24


Domestic Policy

Green / environment

human dignity / human rights

-

-

economic equity

7

cost / regulation

-

The administration has championed greater equity as a core American value. In the inaugural address

Obama stated “a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous.” But actual proposals and behaviors have not caught up with the spirit of equity the administration has radiated.

democracy / transparency

2

The Treasury Department’s ongoing, behind-the-scenes attempts to weaken and end-run bailout limits on

executive pay have not been consistent with the administration’s overall commitment to open and transparent government.

25


THIRSTING FOR CHANGE: OBAMA’S FIRST 100 DAYS

MEASURING tax policy BY Chuck collins

OVERALL

Appointments

7

5

Few appointments have been made for those in charge of tax policy. Obama loses points as many of his cabinet-

level appointments, most notably Tom Daschle but also Timothy Geithner, Kathleen Sebelius, and Hilda Solis all had problems with failure to pay their taxes.

Legislation

7

Executive Orders

-

Obama campaigned on significant changes, many of which are included in his budget. For example, President

Obama and his wife earned $2.73 million last year and paid $855,323 in federal taxes, an amount that would be higher by about $102,000 if his budget plan were in effect, as reported by Bloomberg News.

Spending

Communications

7

8

The administration is talking about real tax increases and has sent good proposals to Congress.

Instead of shying away from discussion about taxes, Obama has used the presidential bully pulpit to talk about

the rationale for taxes.

26


Domestic Policy

Green / environment

human dignity / human rights

7

8

The new cap-and-dividend plan in the budget sets the stage for a greener tax policy.

Over the last 30 years, the tax burden has shifted off wealth and onto wages, off the federal tax system and

onto the regressive tax systems of states and localities. Obama’s budget and tax plan seeks to address this growing gap.

economic equity

cost / regulation

7

5

Communications around economic inequality have been backed up by proposals to shift the disparities

Given the immense deficits and neglect of social structure spending, much more can be done to raise

between rich and poor. Implementing the tax-

government revenues. According to a new Tax

haven abuse act and the progressive estate tax

Day report by IPS, if the top 400 taxpayers of

are important contributions to shrinking the

2006 had paid taxes at 1955 rates, the Federal

income gap. Yet, a more progressive estate tax

Treasury would have collected an additional

is needed.

$35.9 billion in revenue.

democracy / transparency

9

Recovery.gov and other oversight mechanisms are raising oversight to a whole new level.

27


THIRSTING FOR CHANGE: OBAMA’S FIRST 100 DAYS

MEASURING racial equality BY Bill Fletcher and Dedrick Muhammad

OVERALL

Appointments

6

6

Cabinet appointments have been average, not a substantial improvement from the Clinton era. However Erik

Holder’s appointment and comments on race have been very good.

Legislation

Executive Orders

6

6

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act provides an opportunity for those who have faced pay discrimination. The

Establishing the White House Office of Urban Affairs is a positive step in the long run, but the appointment of

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is

Adolfo Carrion as director is a weak offering

a good example of legislation that is more fo-

to inner city communities that have been dis-

cused on making political rather than practical

enfranchised for generations. Continuing the

progress in dealing with an economic crisis that

faith-based initiatives offer the same band-aid

is devastating to the middle and working class.

solutions to critical injuries.

Spending

Communications

6

6

There haven’t been any administration initiatives specifically targeting race, except for the stimulus package.

President Obama has more effectively embodied the symbolism of change than any presidential candidate

The fact that about $8 trillion dollars has gone

since Rev. Jesse Jackson’s run in 1988 and has

to bail out the financial sector – compared to

utilized modern technology very effectively.

$700 billion going to the real economy with

Holder has been very powerful rhetorically;

half going to tax cuts of little practical signifi-

however there has not been a lot of substance.

cance – brings down the score.

28


Domestic Policy

Green / environment

human dignity / human rights

6

6

Obama has put in environmentally friendly aspects to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as well

Signing an order to close GuantĂĄnamo Bay detention center was an important symbolic first action.

as in the outline of his first budget.

economic equity

6

cost / regulation

7

Obama’s rhetoric around spreading the wealth and strengthening an economy from the bottom up is a

major departure from Bush. Obama has also promised to allow the Bush tax cuts, which disproportionately benefited the rich, to end in 2010 or 2011.

democracy / transparency

7

Obama’s budget is more transparent than past budgets and is utilizing the web well to highlight what has been

done. During the campaign, there was also a large increase in non-traditional voters.

29

There have been positive outlines of stronger financial regulations but little concrete action.


THIRSTING FOR CHANGE: OBAMA’S FIRST 100 DAYS

MEASURING Women’s rights BY Kim Gandy

OVERALL

Appointments

6

7

Appointments of women have been high-quality, but far short of gender parity. Of the 16 cabinet positions,

only four were filled by women — although all are top choices. If you count all high-level presidential positions, appointments so far are about 32 percent are women.

Legislation

Executive Orders

8

8

Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the reauthorization of the State Children’s Health Insur-

Obama repealed the Global Gag Rule, restored international family planning aid, acted to rescind Bush’s health care

ance Program, including important provisions

refusal rule, and created the Council on Women

for lawfully present immigrant children and

and Girls. His Middle Class Task Force takes on

pregnant women. Stimulus programs targeting

important work and family issues. But only the

education and healthcare jobs will help balance

Faith-Based Initiative is publicly charged with

mostly-male oriented “shovel-ready” projects.

addressing abortion and family planning.

Spending

Communications

7

7

Affordable birth control for campus and low-income health clinics was restored. The Medicaid Family Planning

President Obama has been vocal about the importance of women’s rights, although the new White House Council

State Option is now in the 2010 budget, but

on Women and Girls has yet to begin its work.

only after pressure from advocates. The budget

Economic Justice, violence against women, and

also funds comprehensive, age-appropriate and

exploitation of women in the media are areas

medically-accurate sex education, but doesn’t cut

where communicating his commitment would

much from discredited abstinence-only programs.

have an impact and set an example.

30


Domestic Policy

Green / environment

human dignity / human rights

8

7

The administration has made a commitment to millions of “green jobs” and has consulted with a variety of

The administration has taken action to fund family planning here and abroad, the availability of which is a

women’s organizations to identify ways of mak-

major factor contributing to women’s dignity

ing sure that women are fairly included. Com-

and human rights. The choice of Secretary of

munity and outreach efforts in low-income

State Hillary Clinton was an important indica-

communities will be a key element.

tion of the president’s commitment to this issue.

economic equity

cost / regulation

8

6

The first piece of legislation President Obama signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. He has

There has been enormous focus on the recovery plan, as there should be, but the administration must quickly

indicated that he will champion and sign ad-

halt all funding for misleading and ineffective

ditional legislation necessary to ensure equal

abstinence-only education, as well as so-called

pay for women. Welfare reform is up next, and

Faith-Based Initiatives that lack meaningful

much more. We have a long way to go, but the

restrictions against discrimination and prosely-

president is off to a great start.

tizing.

democracy / transparency

8

So far, decisions have been publicly available, and many advocates are included in regular meetings and con-

ference calls. But the process for actually reaching those decisions, and who is included in the decision-making, has been less transparent.

31


THIRSTING FOR CHANGE: OBAMA’S FIRST 100 DAYS

MEASURING agriculture BY Ben Lilliston and Jim Harkness

OVERALL

Appointments

7

7

New Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack seems eager for change, despite his previous support for agribusiness and

biotechnology. Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan is a supporter of sustainable agriculture. Appointing National Farmers Union economist Jim Miller as foreign food and agriculture service undersecretary was also positive.

Legislation

Executive Orders

-

-

Spending

Communications

8

7

The president’s budget supports some positive changes for agriculture, including funding for child nutrition,

Vilsack is much more open to meeting with family farm and sustainable agriculture organizations. The White

renewable energy, organic farming, conserva-

House garden and the USDA’s community

tion programs, food safety, and local food

garden project show commitment to a better

systems. It also includes greater enforcement

food system. But there is still a push for geneti-

of the Packers and Stockyards Act, legislation

cally engineered seeds, both domestically and

essential for restoring competitive markets.

internationally.

32


Domestic Policy

Green / environment

5

human dignity / human rights

8

Obama supports sustainable practices and renewable energy. But the potential inclusion of agriculture as a pol-

Vilsack and Obama pledged to address decades-long racism towards African-American farmers in admin-

luter-offset source is troubling. Also disturbing

istering USDA programs. Hillary Clinton’s

is strong administration support for genetically

decision to seek a Human Rights Council seat

engineered crops, which are resource intensive,

is a strong statement on the importance of

environmentally risky, and don’t work well for

human rights. Attention to the treatment of

local food systems.

farm-workers should come next.

economic equity

cost / regulation

5

8

Support for child nutrition, food stamps, and the WIC program are all positive steps. However, the adminis-

The administration’s budget includes increased support for competition in agriculture. This is a good start. Coor-

tration has yet to support or propose strategies

dinating with the Justice Department on stron-

to ensure fair prices for farmers, essential to

ger antitrust enforcement in agriculture would

strengthening the U.S. food system.

help. Greater enforcement of environmental and public health regulations on confined animal feeding operations is a next step.

democracy / transparency

8

Thus far, the administration has been very open in discussing and getting feedback on its proposals and budget.

This is a good start.

33


THIRSTING FOR CHANGE: OBAMA’S FIRST 100 DAYS

MEASURING labor rights BY Kate Bronfenbrenner

OVERALL

Appointments

7

7

The Labor Department is now led by Hilda Solis, who is committed to making the department fulfill its

mission of protecting the rights and interests of workers. But the dominant role played by freetraders such as Ron Kirk on Obama’s economic team will stand in the way of the real reform needed for labor rights and economic reform.

Legislation

Executive Orders

6

7

Obama and Congress have already shown their commitment to helping American workers by passing the Lilly

Obama reversed four Bush executive orders on federal contracts. Highlights include: federal contractors cannot

Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fair-

get reimbursed for expenses used in anti-union

ness Act. Obama is supporting the Employee

campaigns, and federal contractors are now

Free Choice Act, but isn’t expending any politi-

required to offer jobs to current workers when

cal capital for its prompt passage.

contracts expire.

Spending

Communications

8

7

The Labor Department was one of the few agencies with a significantly increased budget of 4.7%. Increased

funding will help restore labor standards and

Labor feels warmth from the president after decades of being out in the cold. But a seat at the table hasn’t resulted

in enough action.

reverse the problems created by the gutting of staff allocated to labor law enforcement agencies during the Bush administration.

34


Domestic Policy

Green / environment

8

human dignity / human rights

5

Obama is working on legislation to create 5 million “green jobs.” The administration plans to invest $150

Since the 1935 National Labor Relations Act passed, the right to organize, the right to collective

billion over 10 years to deploy clean technolo-

bargaining, and the right to strike have been

gies, protect our existing manufacturing base,

under attack and severely curtailed by capital-

and create millions of new jobs.

ism and the political right. By failing to step out in front on the Employee Free Choice Act, Obama is sending the wrong signal to workers.

economic equity

cost / regulation

6

6

While the nation’s gross domestic product has tripled in the last two decades, workers have witnessed the

The stimulus package could have been built to offer stronger worker rights. It could have provided much stronger

steady erosion of their economic security and

economic support to the working class, creat-

workplace rights. We have yet to see if Attorney

ing the foundation for a stronger economy.

General Eric Holder will take action against

An opportunity was lost to provide a greater

the employment law violators, including wage

stimulus to the economy at a cheaper price.

and hour laws, civil law, and child labor laws.

democracy / transparency

5

While Obama’s labor team looks like a significant improvement, his entire trade team supports free trade. Many

of the decisions that will likely be made at international agencies such as the WTO, World Bank, and IMF will likely favor big business over workers. Labor must be included in these decisions if this score is to rise.

35


THIRSTING FOR CHANGE: OBAMA’S FIRST 100 DAYS

MEASURING open government BY Patrice McDermott

OVERALL

Appointments

7

7

Many key positions such as the chief of information policy at OMB have not yet been filled, but Barack

Obama’s appointments so far show promise. Vivek Kundra will energize the executive branch to get its data up and out to the public.

Legislation

Executive Orders

5

9

With the stimulus package, Obama didn’t fulfill his pledge to allow five days of public comment before sign-

Obama called for new guidelines to be issued governing the Freedom of Information Act. He also released

ing bills. During the campaign, he pledged he

a broad statement directing key agencies to

“will not sign any non-emergency bill without

develop recommendations for an “Open Gov-

giving the American public an opportunity

ernment Directive” that moves government

to review and comment on the White House

toward being “transparent,” “participatory,” and

website for five days.”

collaborative.”

Spending

Communications

-

7

36

The administration has focused on moving forward on social media projects, but the process is slow-going.


Domestic Policy

Green / environment

9

human dignity / human rights

-

The administration has taken important steps to restore the position of science and create openness on

environmental topics.

economic equity

cost / regulation

-

6

Open government will lower overall costs in numerous ways: making information and records easily available

online cuts FOIA requests and processing; letting the public help put information to creative uses allows agencies to learn from them, and use their ideas and products; open-source software will decrease government costs.

democracy / transparency

6

The lobbyist disclosure policy is on the wrong track and will encourage less transparency; those who don’t

have to register will not do so. On whistleblowers, the White House has not yet taken a position, and this is troubling.

37


THIRSTING FOR CHANGE: OBAMA’S FIRST 100 DAYS

MEASURING democracy BY Karen Dolan and Ben Manski

OVERALL

Appointments

6

7

The new Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, Cecelia Muñoz, is progressive. She has great potential for

forward movement in Intergovernmental Affairs. The creation of the Office of Urban Policy is a step in the right direction. Former Bronx Borrough President Adolfo Carrión is a moderate appointment.

Legislation

Executive Orders

5

6

The administration has continued the unlawful Bush-era policy federalizing state National Guard units for

There is potential for strengthening democratic federalism, with a movement for Obama to pass an executive

deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan. Fur-

order acknowledging the positive role of state

thermore, the new administration, along with

and local governments. The OMB has made

congressional leaders, hasn’t yet signaled any

a positive move forward by soliciting public

move toward preemption reform.

comments on regulation reform to be contained in upcoming executive orders.

Spending

Communications

7

6

The stimulus bill puts forward muchneeded funds for state and local governments, but fails to mandate

Obama took a positive step forward in meeting with state and local elected officials early on. And the creation of

local citizen participation regarding the use of

the Office of Urban Policy is also a move in the

those funds, or to provide significant additional

right direction.

support for cooperatives or other forms of democratic economic development.

38


Domestic Policy

Green / environment

human dignity / human rights

-

-

economic equity

cost / regulation

-

5

On questions of war and peace, the administration is continuing the Bush-Clinton policy of state National

Guard federalization without authorization.

democracy / transparency

6

There are signs of limited movement toward greater federal support for democratic federalism. The adminis-

tration is moving to review implied preemption and regulatory preemption of local and state laws. But Obama has failed to end the misuse of the National Guard overseas. Overall, there has been less progress in this arena than in others.

39


THIRSTING FOR CHANGE: OBAMA’S FIRST 100 DAYS

40


Foreign Policy

Foreign Policy Introduction by John Feffer

FOREIGN POLICY AVG. The Bush administration transformed the way the

5.8

United States dealt with the world. It invaded two countries, began a war on terror that had no geographic or time limits, boosted military spending,

You might call the glass “half full.”

acted unilaterally, and ignored international law. Although his second term was more pragmatic than his first — with an important reversal on North Korea policy and rapprochement with Libya — George W. Bush generally emphasized military force over dip-

Foreign Policy

lomatic negotiations and acted more like a cowboy than a statesman.

Topic

Barack Obama promised a different foreign policy: more diplomatic, more modest, more in keeping

Score

Topic

Score

Afghanistan

4

Human Rights

7

Iraq

6

Global Environment

6

Counterterrorism

6

Africa

6

Nuclear Policy

6

Asia

5

Military Spending

6

Middle East

6

Trade & Globalization

5

Latin America

7

with international institutions and international law. On some issues, such as torture, nuclear weapons policy, and climate change, he has made an early down-payment on his promises. But whether he's adding to an already gargantuan Pentagon budget or sending more troops to Afghanistan, the president has also maintained some disturbing continuities

Average

with Bush-era policies.

5.8

Perhaps the most important change the Obama ad-

cated a more cooperative relationship with Iran and

ministration brought to the White House has been

indicated, in general, a willingness to use diplomacy

its new tone. The president has reached out to the

over force.

Muslim world, giving his first press interview to alArabiya and telling Turkish audiences in his first trip

This change in tone extends to a more positive at-

to a Muslim country that the United States "is not

titude toward multilateral treaties and institutions.

and never will be at war with Islam." He has indi-

While visiting Prague in early April, Obama pledged 41


THIRSTING FOR CHANGE: OBAMA’S FIRST 100 DAYS

to seek the abolition of nuclear weapons, a break

In another promising change towards multilateral-

with several decades of U.S. foreign policy. This

ism, the United States is poised to reverse the Bush

commitment, if followed up with vigorous negotia-

administration policies on climate change. The U.S.

tions with Moscow and support for multilateral

Congress, both houses of which are controlled by

agreements like the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty,

the Democratic Party, is likely to introduce a cap on

would go a long way toward making the United

U.S. carbon emissions for the first time. Obama is

States a responsible global actor. At the same time,

leaning toward a cap-and-trade system, by which the

however, the president renewed his conditional

government auctions off carbon emission permits

support for missile defense, a still largely hypotheti-

and raises an estimated $650 billion that would

cal system that has undercut past efforts to reduce

offset the higher energy costs to consumers. While

nuclear arsenals.

a straightforward carbon tax would avoid the many problems associated with cap-and-trade, the admin-

On his first European trip, Vice President Joe Biden

istration at least wants to bring the United States

made a speech at the Munich conference on security

into compliance with the Kyoto Protocol and, more

promising European allies a "new era of coopera-

importantly, advance efforts to replace Kyoto with a

tion." But he also warned that the United States

stricter treaty.

would "work in a partnership whenever we can, and alone only when we must." This phrase echoed the Clinton administration's commitment to "multilateralism when we can, unilateralism when we must." In other words, the Obama administration will continue to act unilaterally in situations where it can't get international support.

Achievements &

Disappointments

1) Executive orders on closing the GuantĂĄnamo Bay

1) Increase in troops sent to Afghanistan

detention center and ending torture 2) Increase in military budget by 4% 2) Declared commitment to nuclear abolition 3) Falling back on the International Monetary Fund 3) More respectful tone and more diplomatic ap-

to bail out the global economy

proach coming from the White House

42


Foreign Policy

On other multilateral issues, the administration

Yet, when the new administration released its first

lifted a ban on U.S. funding for international groups

budget figures, the Pentagon still got a raise. For

that perform abortions. It has supported the Six

2010, the Obama administration is requesting $20

Party Talks in Northeast Asia. And although U.S.

billion more in military spending than Congress

ratification of the Rome Treaty isn't in the offing,

allocated for 2009. Pentagon chief Robert Gates

Obama has pledged to work more closely with the

was overjoyed. He had expected the budget to grow

International Criminal Court.

"only at the pace of inflation," and instead he did better than that.

Military Spending

In early April, Gates did take aim at a couple weapons systems — such as the F-22 Raptor and the

The U.S. military budget increased more than 70%

DDG-1000 Destroyer — which is an important

under the Bush administration. At a time when the

step toward ending the Cold War force posture. But

federal government is scrambling to locate enough

the overall Pentagon budget will, for the time being,

money to bail out banks, stimulate the economy,

remain high.

and maintain current social services, the Pentagon budget would seem to be a perfect target for reduc-

Global War on Terror

tion. The United States is currently spending more than $700 billion a year on the military, which is roughly equal to the economic stimulus package.

In his first decisions as president, Obama fulfilled his election pledge by recasting counterterrorism policy. In a series of executive orders, the new president mandated the closure of the GuantĂĄnamo detention facility in Cuba within a year, outlawed the use of torture in interrogations, and put the CIA out of the secret prisons business. Obama announced that he wanted to "send an unmistakable signal that our actions in defense of liberty will be as just as our cause."

Flickr photo by Rick Galvan, under a Creative Commons license. 43


THIRSTING FOR CHANGE: OBAMA’S FIRST 100 DAYS

These immediate changes were part of an overall

nates extraordinary rendition, the larger framework

effort to signal a change in U.S. image in the world.

of the war on terrorism remains. The Obama ad-

During the eight years of the Bush administration,

ministration has maintained the policy of airstrikes

U.S. popularity in the world plummeted to new

within Pakistan that have killed numerous civilians

lows. U.S. reputation suffered tremendously because

and enraged Pakistanis for the violations of their sov-

of the violations of international law committed

ereignty. Then there's Afghanistan, which will be the

at Guantánamo, the revelations of torture at Abu

new epicenter of U.S. counterterrorism strategy. The

Ghraib, and the extraordinary renditions by which

Obama administration has backed a "surge" in U.S.

the CIA secretly abducted suspects and transferred

troops in Afghanistan and is trying hard to persuade

them to third countries without trial. The Obama

its NATO allies to also increase troop levels. In Iraq,

administration restored a good deal of confidence

although the administration announced the with-

by bringing U.S. policy in line with the norms of

drawal of soldiers, as many as 50,000 "non-combat"

international law.

troops will remain in the country. We're still selling arms to Indonesia, Israel, and Colombia as part of an

Although the Obama administration acted cou-

overall counterterrorism approach. The Pentagon's

rageously with these executive orders and retired

new Africa Command (AFRICOM) still looks at

the aggressive phrase "global war on terrorism" in

counterterrorism through a military lens.

favor of "overseas contingency operations," it didn't fundamentally change U.S. counterterrorism policy.

In short, the United States is still using terrorism as

On the civil liberties front, for instance, the admin-

a justification for the maintenance of a worldwide

istration retains the right to use renditions, a policy

network of military bases, a set of alliances sustained

introduced by the Clinton administration. Also,

by a high level of military assistance, and a set of

the inmates at the Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan,

strategic relationships with often unsavory regimes

which holds more prisoners than Guantánamo, and

around the world.

the thousands held in Iraq won't get the case-bycase review accorded to their counterparts in Cuba.

After 100 days, the Obama administration has right-

Although the administration courageously released

ed the most egregious of the Bush administration's

Bush-era memos on torture techniques and the

wrongs in the realm of foreign policy. But whether

complicity of high-level officials, the new president

it's the surge in Afghanistan, the ever-rising tide of

has been cool to the idea of prosecuting those

military spending, or the continued commitment to

responsible or even holding an independent inquiry

missile defense, the new president hasn't yet escaped

into these violations of international law.

the long shadow of his predecessor.

Even if Obama holds to his word on torture, closes Guantánamo within the year, applies the same yardstick to detainees at Bagram and in Iraq, and elimi44


Foreign Policy

FOREIGN Policy REPORT CARDS Foreign policy Report Afghanistan.......................................................................................................46 Iraq..............................................................................................................................48 Counterterrorism.......................................................................................50 Nuclear................................................................................................................... 52 Military Spending..........................................................................................54 Trade and Globalization...................................................................... 56 Human Rights..................................................................................................... 58 Global Environment..................................................................................60 Africa........................................................................................................................ 62 Asia..............................................................................................................................64 Middle East..........................................................................................................66 Latin America.....................................................................................................68

45


THIRSTING FOR CHANGE: OBAMA’S FIRST 100 DAYS

MEASURING afghanistan BY Erik Leaver

OVERALL

Appointments

4

4

Led by Lieutenant General Karl Eikenberry as ambassador, Obama’s Afghanistan team is dominated by

the military: Gen. Petraeus, head of Central Command; Gen. McKiernan, top commander in Afghanistan; and Gen. Jones, national security adviser. Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke recycles a long-time friend of dictators.

Legislation

-

Executive Orders

4

No major legislation has been passed.

While Obama was swift to act on closing the prison at Guantánamo Bay and has asked for policies and

funds to close it, he hasn’t said a word about the 550 or more prisoners in the Bagram Prison held without any legal recourse, many of whom have been subjected to similar torture.

Spending

Communications

4

6

Obama has requested $83 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan between now and October. The request

Unlike domestic policy, where Obama has included large groupings of civil society in discussions at the White

includes billions for building additional bases, a

House, little input has been sought on military

new mega-embassy in Pakistan, and unneeded

policy and Afghanistan specifically. Obama gets

weapon systems such as the F-22.

a bump over Bush, as he has properly put the issue of Afghanistan front and center on the U.S. policy landscape.

46


Foreign Policy

Green / environment

War / Peace

3

5

Before many of the policy reviews were complete or a strategy was developed, Obama ordered 17,000

Ambassador Holbrooke noted that the counter-narcotics program has been “wasteful and ineffective.” Un-

more troops into Afghanistan. When his review

der Bush, a key element included aerial fumiga-

was completed and policy was announced, it

tion, which can cause environmental damage.

lacked timelines, deadlines, costs, or exit strate-

Obama’s funding request includes $129 million

gies. Worse, the plan outlined follows the same

for counternarcotics, but doesn’t indicate if

prescriptions of a failed Iraq policy.

aerial fumigation will continue.

International Diplomacy

Economic equity

6

5

The international meeting marking NATO’s 60th anniversary presented a good opportunity to refocus Afghani-

In the nine months the oversight agency, SIGAR, has been in place, they’ve only managed to grow their

stan policy. However, by announcing a new

staff to 21. They’ve issued two reports but have

U.S. policy just days before the meeting, he

not completed any audits or investigations.

lost the chance of getting greater buy-in from

Obama has requested additional funding but

the alliance. As a result, there are few commit-

hasn’t used the bully pulpit to try to get better

ments of increased troops or resources.

results.

Human Rights / Democracy

4

Troop increases are supposed to bolster the chances for peaceful elections this summer. But the upcoming

elections don’t seem to be a key element in the administration’s plans. Keeping Bagram open while closing Guantánamo keeps the United States outside the bounds of international law.

47


THIRSTING FOR CHANGE: OBAMA’S FIRST 100 DAYS

MEASURING iraq BY Erik Leaver and Phyllis Bennis

OVERALL

Appointments

6

7

Choosing Christopher Hill over Gen. Anthony Zinni (ret.) as the U.S. ambassador to Iraq was a wise decision.

Long-term stability can only come from the political negotiations needed on the way out. Hill has the experience to do this. And George Mitchell is an important choice for envoy to the Middle East.

Legislation

Executive Orders

-

8

Ordering the closure of the Guantánamo Bay facility and banning the use of torture are the first steps to re-

storing U.S. adherence to international law and respecting human rights. Other facilities across the globe, including Bagram in Afghanistan, should also be shuttered.

Spending

5

Communications

8

Calling for the end of war spending in supplementals is fiscally responsible. But the final Iraq supplemental

Obama’s first interview was with the Arabic station al-Arabiya. Allowing photography of returning fallen

tops $85 billion, includes unneeded weapon

soldiers at Dover illustrates the human price of

systems, and doesn’t include funding for

war. But Obama’s trip to Iraq was only for four

withdrawal planning. Most importantly, it con-

hours, during which he didn’t leave the U.S.

tinues the funding for the war and occupation

military base. He hasn’t communicated well to

of Iraq.

the people that matter most — the Iraqis.

48


Foreign Policy

War / Peace

Green / environment

7

3

Obama’s withdrawal plans call for a gradual withdrawal of troops, allowing the war to continue for three

No plans have been detailed for the environmental cleanup for the bases being left behind. Historically, U.S.

more years. General Ray Odierno, has ques-

military bases are highly toxic and the U.S. has

tioned the terms of withdrawal since the SOFA

a poor record of environmental cleanup.

was signed. However, his April statement saying it was certain that the U.S. would be out by the end of 2011 provides room for optimism.

International Diplomacy

5

Economic equity

3

Middle East Envoy Mitchell has visited key regional countries Jordan and Saudi Arabia, as well as Egypt,

Levels of economic assistance to Iraq have been very low, and the supplemental continues this trend. With a

Israel and the West Bank, but it’s unclear what

planned withdrawal, a long-term commitment

the plan is for engaging regional partners into

for aid is needed. What aid is given is chan-

a long-term solution. More importantly, the

neled through U.S. institutions primarily to

United Nations has not been consulted.

U.S.-based contractors and war profiteers, and the U.S. continues to pressure Iraq to pass laws friendly to privatization.

Human Rights / Democracy

6

Calling for the closure of the Guantánamo Bay detention facility is a great step forward. No statements

have been made concerning the Iraqi referendum on the status of the upcoming SOFA agreement. The size of the embassy and the large military footprint reinforce the notion that the U.S. is calling the shots on the ground.

49


THIRSTING FOR CHANGE: OBAMA’S FIRST 100 DAYS

MEASURING counterterrorism BY john feffer

OVERALL

Appointments

7

6

Eric Holder as Attorney General was an excellent choice, and Leon Panetta at the CIA isn’t bad; but keeping

Robert Gates on at the head of the Pentagon brings down the score.

Legislation

Executive Orders

8

-

Obama fulfilled his promise to close Guantánamo within a year and ban the use of torture. But he hasn’t

conclusively ended extraordinary rendition, the status of prisons like Bagram remains unclear, and Gates is in charge of the Gitmo review.

Spending

Communications

8

-

Obama dropped references to the “Global War on Terror,” reached out to Muslim communities in his inau-

gural address, gave his first interview to Arab newspaper al-Arabiya, and made his first phone call to a foreign leader, the head of the Palestinian Authority. But he has still retained some of the warlike language (“We will defeat you”).

50


Foreign Policy

Green / environment

War / Peace

2

-

Obama followed through on his pledge to set in motion the plan to withdraw troops from Iraq within 16

months, but has backed the surge in Afghanistan and airstrikes in Pakistan. These actions will likely encourage more terrorist recruitment and potentially acts of terrorism.

International Diplomacy

5

Economic equity

-

At Munich, Biden stressed the importance of diplomacy, development, and democracy over military inter-

vention. The administration has reached out to Iran and there is talk of negotiating with moderate elements of the Taliban. Adding troops in Afghanistan and escalating the conflict with the Somali pirates bring down the score.

Human Rights / Democracy

4

The appointment of George Mitchell as Middle East envoy was a good choice, but the administration is still

isolating Hamas, a democratically elected party.

51


THIRSTING FOR CHANGE: OBAMA’S FIRST 100 DAYS

MEASURING nuclear policy BY Bob Alvarez and Marcus Raskin

OVERALL

Appointments

6

6

The president’s science adviser, Dr. John Holdren, recommended reducing U.S. and Russian nuclear forces

to 1,000 warheads and exploring going lower, taking nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert, and adopting a no-first use policy. Energy Secretary Steven Chu has the right stuff but will be challenged to reform the Energy Department.

Legislation

Executive Orders

-

-

Spending

5

Communications

8

The president has set forth the elements of a positive energy plan, but no action has been taken yet.

Obama’s call for the elimination of nuclear weapons is a much needed shift in favor of comprehensive arms

Dangerous funds for the nuclear weapons

control agreements and international coopera-

infrastructure were stripped out of the stimulus

tion. His speech and meeting with Russian

bill. Despite Obama’s campaign pledge to cut

President Dmitry Medvedev set a new course

nuclear arms, spending for bombs won’t come

of cooperation for nuclear reductions.

down that much.

52


Foreign Policy

War / Peace

Green / environment

7

6

Secretary of Defense Gates announced a plan to cut 15% of the missile defense budget. Yet the

Obama’s proposed budget all but kills the Yucca Mountain project, a planned nuclear waste storage facility.

administration has waffled on the construc-

Killing the project is a good move, but a long-

tion of a missile defense base in Poland. The

term plan for dealing with the nuclear waste is

administration should be commended for not

still needed.

overreacting to North Korea’s missile launch.

International Diplomacy

8

Economic equity

5

Obama has ordered the administration to “immediately and aggressively pursue U.S. ratification of the Com-

For most of its existence, two-thirds of Energy’s annual spending has gone to maintaining the U.S. nuclear weap-

prehensive Test Ban Treaty.” He also called for

ons complex. Until the complex is cleaned up

strengthening the nuclear Non-Proliferation

and seriously downsized, the poor communities

Treaty. Both these steps move in the right di-

nearest to the plants will continue to be nega-

rection toward international arms control and

tively impacted.

reductions, rather than unilateral agreements.

Human Rights / Democracy

5

By calling for greater support for international regulation and oversight of global nukes, the administration

is taking a much-needed step toward democratizing arms control and disarmament — a critical step in stemming the dangers of nuclear proliferation.

53


THIRSTING FOR CHANGE: OBAMA’S FIRST 100 DAYS

MEASURING military spending BY Miriam Pemberton

OVERALL

Appointments

6

3

The appointment of William Lynn, a former vice president of Raytheon, as deputy defense secretary takes the

wrong direction for rethinking military spending. The appointment of a climate change czar who actually cares about climate change, however, signals that the new administration may be prioritizing alternative kinds of job creation.

Legislation

Executive Orders

9

5

The recovery package is strong on civilian job creators and largely rejects a “military stimulus.”

The administration is sending mixed signals on whether the “Global War on Terror” is inoperative. Obama

should issue an order calling an official end to the Global War on Terror, which could lay the groundwork for a security policy that puts more emphasis on non-military approaches.

Spending

Communications

6

6

The administration gains points for presenting the most ambitious proposed cuts in Cold-War weapons sys-

tems since the early 90s, but they are couched

The administration is reaching out much more to NGOs — a recognition that they’re needed to push a

change agenda.

in a military budget that’s larger than any from the Bush administration. The overall budget includes a strong investment in domestic needs but without a clear plan to pay for them.

54


Foreign Policy

War / Peace

Green / environment

6

5

Spending requests for the wars we are actually fighting have begun to decline, and “emergency” requests to

The military — still the largest institutional producer of greenhouse gases in the world--is taking steps to reduce

pay for them are being phased out.

its emissions.

International Diplomacy

Economic equity

6

7

While the U.S. still spends more on the military than the next 25 countries put together, the first Obama

The administration’s intent to reform the defense contracting process holds considerable promise to reduce Penta-

gon waste.

budget does invest more security resources in engaging the world through non-military means.

Human Rights / Democracy

-

55


THIRSTING FOR CHANGE: OBAMA’S FIRST 100 DAYS

MEASURING trade and globalization BY Sarah Anderson and John cavanagh

OVERALL

Appointments

5

4

The appointments of Timothy Geithner, a former IMF official, at Treasury and a NAFTA promoter, Ron Kirk,

as Office of the United States Trade Representative, were not encouraging. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis may have a chance to bring her progressive internationalist vision to bear on the globalization debate.

Legislation

6

Executive Orders

-

The USTR has not yet pushed Congress to approve pending free-trade agreements. As a senator, Obama was

a strong supporter of legislation to cancel impoverished country debts. But with Geithner and former World Bank economist Larry Summers in key positions, Obama will not likely try to overhaul the international financial institutions.

Spending

Communications

6

-

In light of the global crisis, Obama decided to postpone decisions on NAFTA renegotiation. Obama has

spoken powerfully about the need to “put an end to the bubble-and-bust economy.” The steps taken so far are insufficient, but at least he’s recognized the need for stronger financial regulation.

56


Foreign Policy

Green / environment

War / Peace

-

5

International Diplomacy

5

See International Diplomacy

Economic equity

5

Obama has called for a global green stimulus and has acknowledged that there should be a North-South

resource transfer to help poorer nations. But he couldn’t deliver on the global green stimulus. And Treasury has taken the lead in pumping in new resources to the IMF, whose fiscal austerity measures have traditionally made matters worse.

Human Rights / Democracy

-

57

See International Diplomacy


THIRSTING FOR CHANGE: OBAMA’S FIRST 100 DAYS

MEASURING human rights BY Catherine Albisa, Martha F. Davis, Cynthia Soohoo

OVERALL

Appointments

7

6

In prior positions, Secretary of State Clinton called repeatedly to “bring human rights home.” Attorney General

Holder has been less outspoken, but previous experience in the Justice Department exposed him to human rights issues. Koh’s nomination to the State Department gets high marks, but Obama must do more to defend the nomination.

Legislation

7

Executive Orders

7

In the healthcare debate, cost control and protecting private insurers appears to have greater weight than human

Executive orders established a White House Office of Health Reform and removed barriers to stem-cell research.

rights. However, a vigorous public plan sup-

A presidential memorandum restored states’

ported by the administration could outweigh

ability to set higher income limits for SCHIP

these troubling factors. On housing and educa-

eligibility. But the administration loses points

tion, the administration has set important goals,

for failing to adopt a rights-based framework or

but a change in policy has not yet occurred.

setting up stronger monitoring mechanisms.

Spending

Communications

8

8

The stimulus package provided real support for education, health care, and jobs — all of which involve funda-

The administration receives high marks for communicating the importance of international human

mental human rights issues. Also commendable

rights and the need for America to live up to its

are the proposed changes in taxation to make the

values. But the administration has so far failed

system more equitable. However, the adminis-

to explicitly communicate the need for the gov-

tration loses points for failing to undertake a hu-

ernment to protect and ensure human rights in

man rights assessment of the stimulus package.

the United States.

58


Foreign Policy

Green / environment

War / Peace

-

-

International Diplomacy

9

Economic equity

7

The new administration has had a stellar start, with great openness to domestic human rights advocates,

Obama’s first official act was to sign the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act restoring the ability of plaintiffs to

gradual release of the notorious “torture

recover for wage discrimination, followed by

memos,” and user-friendly web access to a wide

reauthorization and expansion of the CHIP

range of information. Developments at Guan-

program, providing healthcare coverage to low

tánamo are addressed elsewhere in the 100 Day

income children. But the administration hasn’t

report and are not included in this score.

articulated a broad, human-rights agenda for economic equity that would engage and lift up

Human Rights / Democracy

7

the poorest Americans.

Though the Obama administration’s actions have generally been positive, it has so far failed to affirmatively

articulate a human rights agenda for the nation or take concrete steps to develop the domestic human rights institutions necessary to move that agenda forward.

59


THIRSTING FOR CHANGE: OBAMA’S FIRST 100 DAYS

MEASURING Global Environment BY Daphne Wysham and Janet Redman

OVERALL

Appointments

6

7

Obama’s appointments overall suggest support for a global climate deal and recognition that environmental

justice issues are critical. Obama’s Treasury Department thus far has clung to a naïve belief that the World Bank will be induced to transform its fossil-fuel-heavy portfolio with a small, new climate fund.

Legislation

6

Executive Orders

-

The draft American Clean Energy and Security Act allows for 2 billion tons of carbon offsets a year, meaning U.S.

emissions could continue to rise until 2026. The bill includes technology giveaways to polluters and waivers for the Clean Air Act. But it also establishes funds for low-carbon technology transfer to developing countries.

Spending

5

Communications

8

The FY09 budget included $10 million to finance poor countries’ adaptation to climate change, but at least

The new administration gets high marks for a recent ruling by the EPA that greenhouse gases are harmful to

$2 billion is needed. Treasury officials have

human health, and for urging G-20 leaders to

signaled that Obama will fulfill Bush’s com-

coordinate stimulus spending on a green new

mitment to put $2 billion in the World Bank’s

deal.

Climate Investment Funds, despite opposition.

60


Foreign Policy

Green / environment

War / Peace

-

7

The strong White House environmenal team must focus more attention on eliminating subsidies to fossil fuels

via multilateral development banks and export credit agencies and show global leadership in making deep emissions cuts.”

International Diplomacy

7

Economic equity

5

Special Envoy on Climate Change Todd Stern announced that the U.S. “recognizes our unique responsibil-

The administration is turning a deaf ear to G-77 leaders who want a global climate fund under the authority of

ity…as the largest historic emitter of green-

the more democratic UNFCCC, not the World

house gases.” But the administration claims it

Bank.

can only return U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, when we need cuts of 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020.

Human Rights / Democracy

5

The administration remains silent on implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

61


THIRSTING FOR CHANGE: OBAMA’S FIRST 100 DAYS

MEASURING africa BY Emira Woods

OVERALL

Appointments

6

6

Special Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration’s meeting with the Darfur advocacy community before a trip

to Sudan was welcome. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Johnnie Carson has already reached out to the Africa advocacy community before his confirmation. But many key posts relating to Africa, however, remain unfilled.

Legislation

Executive Orders

6

-

President Obama enacted Deferred Enforced Departure for Liberians, which prevents the forced deportation

of Liberians living in the United States.

Spending

Communications

5

-

Little communication has been forthcoming from the Obama administration on overall Africa policy. Similar

to the Bush administration, there seems to be no comprehensive policy articulated as of the first 100 days.

62


Foreign Policy

War / Peace

Green / environment

6

5

There is no clear position from the Obama administration on AFRICOM. The Obama administration

has done little to address the conflict in the

Obama administration pledges toward a new global green economy make little mention of the African

continent.

Congo. Remarks on Somali piracy didn’t address root causes or recommend positive solutions to the crisis, but the administration recognizes that there can be “no purely military solution.”

International Diplomacy

5

Economic equity

5

The administration has supported the indictment of Sudan’s President, Omar Al Bashir, by the International

The Obama administration joined other wealthy nations in giving additional power, leverage, and resources

Criminal Court for crimes against humanity,

to the International Monetary Fund, the very

war crimes, and possibly genocide. Yet, the

institution that caused the severe economic

United States still hasn’t signed on to the Rome

crisis in Africa and much of the world.

Statute to participate in and strengthen this global tribunal.

Human Rights / Democracy

6

The administration condemned the coup in Madagascar. It has also supported the African Union’s call

for sanctions against the coup leaders in Mauritania. This is a change from the Bush administration, where U.S. interests in oil and other strategic resources often led to deal-making with undemocratic governments.

63


THIRSTING FOR CHANGE: OBAMA’S FIRST 100 DAYS

MEASURING asia BY John Feffer

OVERALL

Appointments

5

7

Stephen Bosworth was a good choice for North Korea envoy but, unbelievably, he’s only part-time. Kurt Camp-

bell as assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs brings a strong environmental concern to his position. Actor Kal Penn as liaison to the Asian-American community was an inspired choice.

Legislation

Executive Orders

-

-

Spending

Communications

5

-

The administration has been careful with its policy toward China and has begun to repair the relationship

with Japan. But it overreacted to North Korea’s rocket launch.

64


Foreign Policy

War / Peace

Green / environment

4

8

The Pentagon fortunately decided not to try to shoot down North Korea’s April rocket launch. But the sub-

Hillary Clinton made environmental concerns a major part of her discussions with China, and Kurt Campbell

sequent overreaction to Pyongyang’s gambit, as

in the State Department will keep this a focus

well as the confrontation with China over the

of administration concern.

USNS Impeccable, drops the score.

International Diplomacy

5

Economic equity

-

Discussions with all sides in the Burma conflict point to a more nuanced diplomatic approach, but the

administration failed to engage North Korea to preempt the rocket launch.

Human Rights / Democracy

4

Hillary Clinton’s underemphasizing of human rights in her discussions with China was a smart geopolitical

move but sends the wrong signal on the priority of human rights for the administration. The same holds true for the failure to bring up West Papua and other human rights concerns on the Indonesia leg of her trip.

65


THIRSTING FOR CHANGE: OBAMA’S FIRST 100 DAYS

MEASURING middle east BY Phyllis Bennis and Farrah Hassen

OVERALL

Appointments

6

7

Senator George Mitchell as special envoy to the Middle East indicates a serious commitment to future diplo-

macy; But Obama’s selection of Dennis Ross as his special adviser for Iran is dangerous. Ross’s hawkish views on Iran contradict Obama’s efforts to seek engagement based on “mutual respect.”

Legislation

Executive Orders

-

-

Spending

5

Communications

7

Obama agreed to continue implementing the $30 billion in U.S. military aid to Israel committed to by

President George W. Bush.

The administration has not appointed or met with serious critics of U.S. military aid to Israel. Obama pledged

to the Muslim world a “new way forward” based on “mutual interest and respect” in his inaugural address. Obama signaled an opening for U.S. dialogue with Tehran in his March video greeting to Iran’s “people and leaders.”

66


Foreign Policy

Green / environment

War / Peace

5

5

Obama didn’t criticize Israel’s war on Gaza and continued full support for Israel’s military. The escalation of war

There is no announcement yet of any plans for taking seriously and providing resources to help resolve

in Afghanistan risks sidelining any potential

the Middle East water crisis, the dependence

effort to press Israel in Palestinian-Israeli and

on oil exports of one-commodity countries

Syrian-Israeli negotiations.

closely tied to the U.S. (like Saudi Arabia), and the environmental catastrophe caused by U.S. military installations across the Middle East.

International Diplomacy

7

Economic equity

6

The administration invited Iran to attend the international conference on Afghanistan, and opened the

Despite the economic embargo on Syria, the Treasury Department in February authorized the transfer of

door to engagement with Syria by sending the

$500,000 raised by Syrians in the U.S. to a

highest-ranking U.S. officials to visit Damascus

Syrian cancer charity, a goodwill gesture from

since 2005. So far, Obama refuses to talk to the

the Obama administration. Obama provided a

elected Hamas leadership (or Hezbollah) and is

large-scale aid package to the Palestinians after

continuing uncritical support for Israel.

the Gaza assault, but two-thirds of the $900 million package is going to the West Bank-

Human Rights / Democracy

5

based Palestinian Authority leadership, with no requirement that it be used for poverty allevia-

Obama missed a major opportunity

tion or rebuilding in Gaza.

to criticize Israel’s violations of U.S. and international law during the

Gaza assault that ended on the eve of his inauguration. He has still failed to acknowledge those violations or hold Israel accountable by cutting U.S. military aid, leading to Israeli assumptions of continued impunity.

67


THIRSTING FOR CHANGE: OBAMA’S FIRST 100 DAYS

MEASURING latin america BY Sarah Anderson and Manuel pérez-Rocha

OVERALL

Appointments

7

6

Obama hasn’t yet named a new assistant secretary of State in charge of Latin America, but the Bush admin-

istration holdover, Thomas Shannon, has made efforts to be even-handed and tamp down, rather than inflame, rhetorical skirmishes that have been a distraction in U.S. relations with some countries.

Legislation

Executive Orders

7

-

Announcing plans to close the Guantánamo detention facility was a big step forward, while Obama’s removal

of Cuban Americans’ travel and remittances restrictions was a baby step toward lifting the embargo, which has only inflicted suffering on the Cuban people.

Spending

Communications

9

-

At the Summit of the Americas, Obama spoke favorably of Cuba’s medical programs, acknowledged the

U.S. role in the drug trade, condemned efforts to overthrow Bolivian President Evo Morales, and deflected criticism of his polite interaction with Hugo Chávez. And in perhaps his most eloquent statement, he spoke for only one minute, explaining that he preferred to listen. 68


Foreign Policy

Green / environment

War / Peace

7

-

At the summit, Obama announced a new clean-energy partnership between nations of the Americas

to fight global warming. The details of this partnership are not yet clear, but this appears to be a positive step toward broadening a U.S. agenda that has been fixated on drugs and free trade.

International Diplomacy

8

Economic equity

5

“There is no senior partner and junior partner in our relations,” Obama told 33 other heads of state from the

Obama’s decision to avoid talking about alternatives to the discredited “free trade” model at the summit was

Americas. Time will tell whether the Obama

a missed opportunity to build on the common

administration will actually function as a more

ground that exists between his own critiques

cooperative partner in the hemisphere, but it

of U.S. trade policy and proposals coming out

was a welcome opening line.

of many Latin American countries. Coming on top of the administration’s support for a big blank check to the IMF to handle the global

Human Rights / Democracy

6

economic crisis, this was a disappointment.

Closing Guantánamo was positive, but a White House announcement on April 17 indicating plans to move

ahead with a U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement was bad news for human rights and labor groups. Obama also called for increased support to the Mexican military, despite evidence of human rights violations.

69


THIRSTING FOR CHANGE: OBAMA’S FIRST 100 DAYS

70


Authors

Authors

Catherine Albisa is the Executive Director of the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative in New York City. Robert Alvarez is a Senior Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, where he is currently focused on nuclear disarmament, environmental and energy policies. His articles have appeared in many publications, including Science Magazine, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Technology Review, and The Washington Post. Flickr photo by Zoriah, under a Creative Commons license.

Sarah Anderson is the Director of the Global Economy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

Kate Bronfenbrenner is Director of Labor Educa-

She is co-author (with John Cavanagh and Thea Lee)

tion Research at Cornell ILR. A former organizer

of The Field Guide to the Global Economy (New Press,

and union representative with the United Woodcut-

2004) and numerous studies and articles on the

ters in Mississippi and SEIU in Massachusetts, her

global economy.

most recent publication is the edited volume, Global Unions: Challenging Transnational Capital through

Phyllis Bennis is a Fellow at the Institute for Policy

Cross-Border Campaigns (ILR Press, 2007).

Studies, where she directs the New Internationalism Project. Her recent books include Understanding the

John Cavanagh is the Director of the Institute for

US-Iran Crisis: A Primer (Olive Branch Press, 2008)

Policy Studies and co-author (with Robin Broad)

and Ending the Iraq War: A Primer (Olive Branch

of Development Redefined: How the Market Mets its

Press, 2008).

Match (Paradigm Publishers, 2009).

Jeff Blum is Executive Director of USAction, a progressive grassroots advocacy organization with affiliates in twenty-four states.

71


THIRSTING FOR CHANGE: OBAMA’S FIRST 100 DAYS

Chuck Collins is a Senior Scholar at the Institute

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the Executive Editor of the Black

for Policy Studies, where he directs the Program on

Commentator and Co-Founder of the Center for La-

Inequality and the Common Good and the Working

bor Renewal. He serves as Director of Field Services

Group on Extreme Inequality. He is a contributor to

& Education for the American Federation of Gov-

Ten Excellent Reasons Not to Hate Taxes (New Press,

ernment Employees in Washington, D.C. His new

2008).

book is Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path Toward Social Justice (Univ. of

Martha F. Davis is a Professor of Law and Co-

California Press, 2008).

Director of the Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy at Northeastern University. She is

Maria Foscarinis is the founder and Executive Di-

co-editor of Bringing Human Rights Home (Praeger,

rector of the National Law Center on Homelessness

2008), a three-volume series chronicling the U.S.

& Poverty in Washington, D.C., the legal arm of the

human rights movement.

national movement to end and prevent homelessness. She is a primary architect of the landmark

Karen Dolan is a Fellow at the Institute for Policy

McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act; has

Studies and Director of its Cities for Peace program,

litigated to enforce critical legal rights of homeless

working with citizens, national peace and human

people; and written widely on homelessness and

needs organizations, locally elected officials and

poverty.

federal lawmakers. Kim Gandy is serving her second term as President Peter Edelman is a Professor of Law at the

of the National Organization for Women in Wash-

Georgetown University Law Center and directs the

ington, D.C., elected by the group’s grassroots mem-

Georgetown Center on Poverty, Inequality and Pub-

bers in 2001 and 2005. An attorney, she oversees

lic Policy. He co-chaired the Center on American

NOW’s multi-issue agenda, which includes: ending

Progress Task Force on Poverty.

sex discrimination, advancing reproductive freedom, promoting diversity and ending racism, stopping

John Feffer is Co-Director of Foreign Policy In

violence against women, winning LGBT rights and

Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies. He is the

ensuring economic justice.

editor of Power Trip: U.S. Foreign Policy After September 11 (Seven Stories Press, 2003) and the author of

Jim Harkness is the President of the Institute for

North Korea/South Korea: U.S. Policy & the Korean

Agriculture and Trade Policy in Minneapolis. Before

Peninsula (Seven Stories Press, 2003).

joining IATP he lived for sixteen years in China, working on rural development and sustainability issues.

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Authors

Chester Hartman is the Director of Research at the

Patrice McDermott is the Director of OpenThe-

Poverty & Race Research Council in Washington,

Goverment.org, a coalition of journalists, consumer

D.C. and an Associate Fellow at the Institute for

and good government groups, environmentalists,

Policy Studies. His recent books include There Is

library groups and others united to make the federal

No Such Thing As a Natural Disaster: Race, Class

government a more open place in order to make us

and Hurricane Katrina (Routledge, 2006), A Right

safer, strengthen public trust in government and sup-

to Housing: Foundation for a New Social Agenda

port democratic principles. She is the author of Who

(Temple Univ. Press, 2006) and City for Sale: The

Needs to Know? The State of Public Access to Federal

Transformation of San Francisco (Univ. of Calif. Press,

Government Information (Bernan Press, 2007).

2002). Dedrick Muhammad is the Senior Organizer and Farrah Hassen is the 2008 Carol Jean and Edward

Research Associate for the Program on Inequality and

F. Newman Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.

the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Stud-

She writes and researches on U.S.-Syrian relations

ies. He formerly was National Field Director for Rev.

and the Middle East.

Al Sharpton’s National Action Network and Coordinator for the Racial Wealth Divide Project of United

Gloria Ladson-Billings is the Kellner Family Chair

For A Fair Economy. He is author of the report “40

in Urban Education at the Univ. of Wisconsin-

Years Later: The Unrealized American Dream”.

Madison. She is the author of The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers for African American Children

Miriam Pemberton is a Research Fellow at the

(Jossey-Bass, 1994).

Institute for Policy Studies, writing and speaking on demilitarization issues for its Foreign Policy In Focus

Erik Leaver is a Research Fellow at the Institute

project. She leads a group that produces the annual

for Policy Studies. He writes about and organizes

“Unified Security Budget for the United States.”

around the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

With William Hartung of the New America Foundation, she is co-editor of Lessons from Iraq: Avoiding

Ben Lilliston is the Communications Director at

the Next War (Paradigm Publishers, 2008).

the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy in Minneapolis and editor of IATP’s Think Forward

Manuel Pérez-Rocha is an Associate Fellow at the

blog.

Institute for Policy Studies, where he directs an advocacy and research project, “The Security and Pros-

Ben Manski is a Wisconsin attorney and Executive

perity Partnership and the NAFTA Plus Agenda.”

Director of the national pro-democracy group, the

He works in coordination with the Alliance for Re-

Liberty Tree Foundation for the Democratic Revolu-

sponsible Trade in the United States and is a member

tion in Madison, WI.

of the Mexican Action Network on Free Trade.

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THIRSTING FOR CHANGE: OBAMA’S FIRST 100 DAYS

Sam Pizzigati, an Associate Fellow at the Institute

Sanho Tree is a Fellow and Director of the Drug

for Policy Studies, edits “Too Much,” an online

Policy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies. The

weekly on excess and inequality. His most recent

project works to end the domestic and international

book, Greed and Good: Understanding and Overcom-

“War on Drugs” and replace it with policies that

ing the Inequality That Limits Our Lives (Apex Press,

promote public health and safety as well as economic

2004), won an “outstanding title” of the year rating

alternatives to the prohibition drug economy.

from the American Library Association. Emira Woods is Co-Director of Foreign Policy In Marcus Raskin is Co-Founder and Distinguished

Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies and serves

Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and cur-

on the Board of Directors of Africa Action, Just

rently directs its Paths for the 21st Century project.

Associates, Global Justice, and the Financial Policy

He was a member of the special staff of the National

Forum. She is also a member of the Network Coun-

Security Council in President Kennedy’s Administra-

cil of Jubilee USA.

tion, as is the author of over a dozen books. Daphne Wysham is a Fellow and Board member Janet Redman is a Research Associate for the

at the Institute for Policy Studies. She is founder

Sustainable Energy and Economy Network at the

and director of its Sustainable Energy and Economy

Institute for Policy Studies. She is the author of the

Network. She serves on the board of Nuclear In-

recent reports “World Bank: Climate Profiteer,” and

formation and Resource Service, is on the advisory

“Dirty is the New Clean”.

board of the Carbon Free Nuclear-Free Alliance, and co-hosts the one-hour weekly broadcast of Earthbeat

Cynthia Soohoo is the Director of the Domestic

Radio, which airs on 50 radio stations in the U.S.

Legal Program at the Center for Reproductive Rights

and Canada.

in New York City. Betsy Taylor is the President of 1Sky, a Takoma Park, MD-based national campaign of over 100 diverse organizations working to ensure that the next President and Congress enact bold policies at the scale of the climate change problem.

74


IPS Reader Grades

Members of the IPS community were invited to share their comments on Obama’s first 100 days. Here are some of the responses: Not sure what to think. Part of me wants justice, right now. On the other side I want the Obama administration to be able to solidify their presence to start tackling strategic issues.

-Gustavo Rearte

Sadly, without accountability from officials to the rule of law, Obama/Holder reaffirm the precedent that deciding whether or not to torture is subject to a policy decision of whomever is president and AG. It is not good enough for a new president to reject a policy that uses torture. It must be enforced under domestic and international law.

-Margaret Swedish

Overall, President Obama has made a good start on handling our country’s and the world’s terrible dilemmas, but I hope he can back away from causing further carnage and suffering in the Middle East.

-Kathleen Conway


THIRSTING FOR CHANGE: OBAMA’S FIRST 100 DAYS

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Thirsting for Change: Obama’s First 100 Days