1.25.2009

Obama: Executive Orders & the Oops Factor

by Kit-Bacon Gressitt

Media around the world reported for several days last week an anticipated executive order by President Barack Obama, expected on Jan. 22, to lift what’s commonly known as the Global Gag Rule, more formally, as the Mexico City Policy. First imposed by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, the policy bans the use of U.S. international aid funds by organizations that even let the word “abortion” pass their workers’ lips. The policy was rescinded by President Bill Clinton on January 22, 1993, in honor of the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, and reinstated by President George W. Bush on January 22, 2001, presumably to dishonor the decision. So, it is understandable that media — and feminists — around the world anticipated some comparable action from Obama last Thursday.

Instead, an “exclusive” news release from the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) announced that the network “has learned” that the president would not overturn the policy on that day. CBN’s announcement was released Thursday morning amidst other media outlets’ continued projections that Obama’s executive order lifting the ban was due any moment.

By the end of the day, the moment had not come, CBN’s exclusive proved accurate, and pro-choice pundits turned silent or scrambled to suggest the delay was Obama’s effort to make nice with the anti-abortion folks by avoiding taking action on what is for them a day of mourning.

Oh, we did receive a statement from Obama, reiterating his commitment to women’s reproductive rights, but no action.

So, one of Obama’s core support groups was offered a placating statement, while he postponed action anticipated by the world so he could concurrently placate another group (one, by the way, it’s unlikely he will ever woo to his name on the ballot). Is this pandering or graciousness?

Now, he did sign the order Friday, Jan. 23, lifting the ban, as even the CBN release admitted was likely, with “Obama is still expected to overturn the Mexico City Policy early in his administration.” By Friday afternoon the National Abortion Rights Action League and the Planned Parenthood Federation had sent e-mail to constituents asking us to thank the president for doing what we expected him to do.

But I have to note the significance of the January 22 date; it is not lost on any of us involved in this issue — and, I suspect, neither is the significance of Obama’s decision to postpone the expected. I suppose catering to either faction on the Roe v. Wade anniversary de facto dismisses the other, and, ultimately, we are both disappointed to varying degrees.

So, okay, I’m a big girl, I can give up on the specific date, albeit begrudgingly, and I am grateful for the president’s order and its lifesaving ramifications for women throughout the world. What I cannot get my big girl arms around, however, is how is it that the Christian Broadcasting Network learned of the postponement while the rest of the world's media were left prognosticating like a bunch of two-buck carny palm-readers?

That really frosts my ass, as the Colonel Father, Sir used to say. It frosts my derriere because the apparent leak to only CBN of the decision to postpone Obama’s executive order demonstrates a degree of exclusivity and fractional politics that decries Obama’s call for unity, a common vision, and open and ethical government. And, for a little added frosting, consider these additional blunders: moving forward with the nomination for treasury secretary of Timothy Geithner, who paid years-past-due taxes only days before he was nominated, and waiving elements of Obama’s brand-spanking new anti-lobbying executive order for William Lynn, a former lobbyist for Raytheon, who has been nominated as deputy defense secretary.

Not a stellar beginning.

Nonetheless, all but the most dedicated curmudgeons are feeling hopeful about Obama, while those who continue to oppose him will delight in his errors. Seasoned pro-choice activists will hold their tongues and send Obama a thank you note, while a good tongue-lashing is surely on the way from those I love for criticizing our neophyte president. And, anyone who anguished over Bush’s secretive abuses of power is likely to be delighted with the new user-friendly and information-laden White House website. But, less than a week into this administration, it’s a shame Obama’s pooch has already been screwed.

(Editor's Note: This piece is cross-posted from Kit-Bacon Gressitt's personal blog, Excuse Me, I'm Writing.)

(For more on the political battle over abortion please see: "The Abortion War: On the Frontlines." For more on Obama's executive orders please see: "Obama & the Destruction of the Bush Torture Regime." For more on disappointment among progressives and Democrats with Obama, please see: "Obamamania: Expectations Meet Reality.")

(Political graphic © copyright The Heretik, and used with permission.)













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