Open Letter to President-Elect Obama

Dear President-Elect Obama:

You have been receiving a great deal of advice since November 4, 2008
from people and groups who either want you to advance policies not
covered in your campaign or who want you to be more specific about
initiatives you emphasized.

There are two suggestions which may not be among your store of
recommendations that need to be considered before you take office on
January 20, 2009.

First, the public would benefit from a concise recounting of the state
of the union and where the Bush Administration has left our country. As
is your style, you can render such a bright line of serious problems
inside and outside the government in a matter-of-fact manner.
Otherwise, a blurring of who was responsible for what can taint your

Second, you need to make a clean break from the Bush regime's law of
rule to our declared commitment to the rule of law as in the firm
adherence to constitutional requirements and statutory and treaty
compliance. There is a Bush-Cheney stream of criminal and
unconstitutional actions which are on auto-pilot day after day. You
have pointed out some of these abominations such as a policy and
practice of torture and violations of due process and probable cause.
The task before you is to break these daily patterns just as soon as
you ascend to the Presidency or be held increasingly responsible for
them. This can be significantly accomplished by executive orders,
agency or departmental directives, whistle-blower protections,
enforcement actions and explicit legislative proposals.

With Americans wishing you well in this most portentous of times, the
last thing they want to see is you tarnished by the preceding rogue
regime and its ruthless monarchical forays. To avoid this contagion of
power over law and its contiguous accountabilities at a time when you
are striving for a "clean slate" administration, you must be decisive
and eschew any excessive harmony ideology which has seemed to be your
nature vis-a-vis those who are powerful but are opposed to your views.

One possible impediment to your making a comprehensive clean break for
restoring the rule of law is that you have too easy an act to follow.
There are a long list of violated civil liberties that need to be
restored (the American Civil Liberties Union has compiled a list of
immediate actions for you to take), and resolute commitments must be
made so that it is clear the United States, for example, will not
engage in, or countenance, torture. Only a few restorations, however,
would produce a sense of relief and flurry of accolades -- but they are
hardly sufficient.

There are also regulations and interpretations of statutes that
scholars believe to have been erroneous as a matter of law. As one
guide for your new era of overdue regulation or reregulation--given the
corporate wrongdoing these days--you may wish to refer to the Center for
Progressive Reform's report By the Stroke of the Pen.

The Bush lawlessness and state terrorism are like a contagious disease.
If you do not remove their sprawling incidence, you will become their
carrier. This means you must move fast to eject the mantle of war
criminality and repeated unconstitutional outrages committed in the
name of the American people here and abroad.


Ralph Nader

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