The very first thing he can do is make sure that every person the United States has confined around the world is transferred to a prison within the United States and brought to trial. If they are being held without charge or evidence, they must be released immediately. He can make this move entirely through executive order. Through this gesture, he will be showing the world that his administration will be a change from that of George W. Bush (and I'm sure we'll see many more examples!).
Some Republicans will see this maneuver as "giving civil rights to terrorists". However, holding people without charge or trial not only denies the American people closure regarding the terrorist attacks that took place on 9/11/2001, but also makes the United States look as though we've taken people prisoner to make it look like we're doing something about terrorism. Furthermore, it makes people suspicious that we have taken innocent people into custody. If we have potentially dangerous people imprisoned, they must be brought to trial and sentenced. If we have innocent people in prison, they must be released. It's that simple.
Besides, giving all incarcerated people the right to a fair and speedy trial is in the Constitution, and the President's duty is to uphold it.
Next, President Obama should work with Congress on infrastructure projects, starting with the construction of a new levy system in New Orleans. Infrastructure projects--not done with contracted, cheap labor, but with people given a living wage for the work--will provide the seed money necessary to get the economy moving again in areas where the infrastructure has deteriorated. New Orleans is a port city, and port cities are vital for trade and national security. It's not the only city we should rebuild, but the victims of Hurricane Katrina, who soon after became the victims of a derelict President and the FEMA people under his direction, need to get the hand up they needed three years ago.
The third thing President Obama should do is work out the redeployment plan for the troops in Iraq. Whether they are transferred to Afghanistan or put on a base in an allied country, they should be out of Iraq as soon as possible.
Finally, the new President's Cabinet members, after they are approved, must each be given a top priority issue to work on immediately:
- Secretary of State: The new Secretary of State should meet immediately with our allies and formulate diplomatic strategies with countries who are not.
- Secretary of the Treasury: The newly appointed head of the Department of the Treasury should meet with the nation's--if not the world's--top economists to figure out the best way out of our financial crisis.
- Secretary of Defense: The first task of the new Secretary of Defense should be to enumerate programs that are obsolete and cut them out of the budget.
- Attorney General: The Attorney General should immediately identify any Bush appointees who have litigated based on partisanship and replace them promptly. The next order of business should be to investigate whether war crimes have been committed and prosecute those who have committed them.
- Secretary of the Interior: The first order of business for this department is to get industry lobbyists out of the department and undo any damage that has been done to our public land.
- Secretary of Agriculture: Restore the export of food from the United States and end the import of it from China, in light of all of the harmful substances that have been found in that food. We have historically produced more food than we could possibly consume here; we should not be importing anything from anywhere unless it is not native to this country. It raises my hackles every time I see apple juice with "PRODUCT OF CHINA" stamped on it.
- Secretary of Commerce: This department head should focus on identifying markets where the United States could fill gaps in the world's supply chains with new manufacturing jobs.
- Secretary of Labor: The Secretary of Labor should identify the real numbers of unemployed and under-employed people in the United States, then make recommendations regarding the community service for education program. This program should be implemented in areas of the country where the most people are unemployed or not making a living wage.
- Secretary of Health and Human Services: This Secretary should identify ways to cut the costs of Medicare (renegotiating pharmaceutical prices, for a start) and how to bring the uninsured and underinsured into the program economically.
- Secretary of Housing and Urban Development: The immediate act that should be addressed by this appointee should be to put an end to HUD funds being routed to church remodeling and reconstruction. The intent of this money and this department is to make sure that people who need low-income housing get their needs served, not serving the needs of churches with empty pew syndrome.
- Secretary of Transportation: The Secretary of Transportation should identify areas where our highway infrastructure needs the most work and develop projects to rebuild that infrastructure, beginning with any major bridges that need report (we don't need another incident like the one in Minnesota).
- Secretary of Energy: Under Spencer Abraham (now it is Bodman, but Abraham was first), the energy infrastructure of the United States was tied together far too closely, causing more energy waste and the possibility of shutting down power for entire regions of the United States (remember the power outage that affected the Great Lakes region a few years back?). The first act of this department should be to come up with a plan to localize energy, preferably through a new infrastructure of green technologies. It's not just a matter of energy savings; it's a matter of national security. One accident or attack at one power plant should not be able to deprive an entire region of electricity.
- Secretary of Education: The head of this department should work out a four-year plan to get our students competitive with students around the world in areas where we're lagging behind (as in math, science, geography--and, well, everything else).
- Secretary of Veterans' Affairs: This Cabinet member should immediate work on de-privatizing the veteran hospitals system and make certain that every veteran who needs care is getting it.
- Secretary of Homeland Security: This department is the biggest bureaucracy in the Cabinet. As such, the new Secretary should work on how best to keep from duplicating efforts across intelligence agencies. Either that, or the department should be abolished altogether. I would also like the DEA rolled into some other department. We need to begin treating drugs as a health issue, rather than a criminal issue. We spend ridiculous amounts of money--billions of dollars--on drug law enforcement. If drugs were legal and we treated abuse as a health issue, rather than a criminal issue, and if we stopped treating all use as abuse, we could save billions a year in enforcement costs and in prisoner maintenance.
These are just my suggestions, based on my own observations. I could be missing some important issues. I would love to hear other people's opinions.