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A Coming Restoration
February 20, 2003
By Andrew Sarchus

On January 20, 2005, a new administration will take power in the United States. It appears increasingly likely that the new presidency, and probably both houses of Congress, will no longer be controlled by Neoconservatives of the Republican Party. As of early 2003, Neoconservative foreign policy has positioned the United States for spectacular diplomatic failures in Iraq and North Korea. First NATO, then the UN will likely repudiate US demands for war. By the end of this year, America may well be an international pariah. Meanwhile, the US economy continues to deteriorate, our civil liberties are being diminished daily by neocons and religious right wingers in the Justice Department, and the rest of the Bush Cabinet wages perpetual war on every part of society save the super-rich and the military.

By 2005, the neocons will have failed both as managers of the economy and as promoters of a greater American reich. Yet Neoconservative ideas are pernicious, and civil liberties, international cooperation, and world peace are threatened so long as these ideas catch the attention of Western leaders. Progressives must unite on a platform that will consign these ideas to history's dustbin, along with colonialism and Stalinism. Here is how the coming restoration of tested and true progressive policies might be accomplished.

Restore people's trust in their elected representatives. Start with small steps first. The 109th Congress will convene two weeks before the president is inaugurated. This Congress must immediately reinstate the strict guidelines concerning gifts and meals supplied by lobbyists to congressional staffs, which were lifted by the Republican majority in January 2003. Next, the Democratic leaders of House and Senate should work with progressive GOP members to jointly chair key committees such as Foreign Relations and Ways and Means - while stripping rightists and former Bush administration gophers of their influential committee assignments. Democrats and progressive Republicans should unite behind a program that includes restoration of the Freedom of Information Act, abolition of all Patriot Act provisions, and rescinding of all legislation granting the president power to use military force against another country without a declaration of war. This will be a new, true Contract with America, not the Gingrich-concocted scam perpetrated by the GOP 11 years previously.

Bring forth all the facts about the economic meltdown and corporate misdeeds. After the new Democratic president is inaugurated, the first act will be to appoint a new Attorney General and Treasury Secretary. These cabinet members must set to work immediately to enforce corporate accounting reforms passed by Congress in 2002 to the hilt. Outlaw CEOs must be indicted, tried, and punished for looting Enron, WorldCom, and other imploded companies. Additionally, the Securities and Exchange Commission should reopen investigations of insider trading by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney's mideast deals at Halliburton. Both men have never been required to explain under oath their questionable business behavior. They must be given this opportunity, and the investigation must be scrupulously bipartisan. Honest Republicans such as Warren Rudman and William Cohen should be asked to lead the investigations. This time, there should be no presidential pardons in advance of open hearings.

Restore the image of the United States as a world peacemaker and a trusted international partner. The new president must immediately replace the Bush regime's Secretaries of State and Defense. By 2005, both these individuals will be credible only as liars, bullies, Bush toadies, or all three by the rest of the world, allies and enemies alike. The world of 2005 may well be dark, fatalistic, and exhausted by four years of unrelenting US brinksmanship, if not by several nasty and unnecessary American-instigated wars. The replacement Secretaries must be persons with broad international backgrounds, persons respected by leaders in Europe and Asia. They must also be political realists, not think-tank ideologues. They must ratchet down the fear and loathing that neocon policies have inspired throughout the world. The new administration's first foreign policy statement should be to change its focus back to using international law enforcement, not the military, to root out non-state sponsored Terrorism. The United States must also forever renounce preemptive use of its nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons for any reason. Even nations such as North Korea should receive assurances that unless they directly attack United States forces without provocation, they are safe from American attack. In addition, America must become a signatory to dozens of international agreements that the Bush administration withdrew from or ignored. For example, our merely rejoining the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty will markedly reduce tensions around the world. Another positive step would be for the United States to subscribe to the International Criminal Court. This step might prove dicey, however, because several of our current leaders may be under indictment by the Court in 2005. (More about this in a later column.)

Recommit to a responsible system of taxation, and do not shrink from asking for financial sacrifice. The fiscal irresponsibility and irrationality of neocon rule must be stemmed. The new Congress must act to halt further tax cuts exclusively for the rich. If the Bush administration has succeeded in abolishing estate taxes and taxes on stock dividends, new laws must be passed to restore these revenues. The new Congress and president will have to make good on George W. Bush's pledge of 2003 not to pass the bill for tax cuts on to the next generation. This task will be difficult. Unlike Bush, our new leadership must call on all Americans to make small financial sacrifices in order to avoid a second Great Depression and a possible national bankruptcy along the lines of Argentina. Some progressives may fear a conservative electoral backlash from "tax increases", but by 2005 the dynamics will have changed. The Baby Boomers will be just a few years from retirement, and will want both Social Security and Medicare on sound financial footing. Few will believe in private alternatives such as investing in the stock market after its collapse of 2001-03. False stories about "market magic" circulated by neocon holdouts will find few adherents.

Restore the Wall of Separation between government and organized religion. Our nation's leaders in 2005 will need to drive the moneychangers of the Religious Right from the Temple of Government. The new Attorney General will likely find that funneling billions of federal dollars into Bush's so-called "Faith-Based Initiatives" has resulted in gross financial abuse of unregulated funding. Faith-based programs must be vigorously scrutinized by Congress. When abuse surfaces (and it will, trust me) the programs should be shut down in favor of a return to regulated governmental assistance. Thomas Jefferson's "wall of separation" between Church and State must be patched up. The new Democratic president can use the "Bully Pulpit" to emphatically repeat that the United States is a country where religious favoritism will not be a factor in government policy, and vice-versa. Progressives of all faiths should publicly join in applauding this return to true First Amendment freedom.

Reinstitute the "equal time" provisions for broadcast media. The new administration should propose, and the new Congress pass, a law restoring the FCC Fairness Doctrine. By requiring talk media to air opposing views, this will help end the neocon/religious right hammerlock on the nation's radio and cable television networks. The days when right-wing disinformation goes unchallenged over the airwaves must end. There are many sound, sober, responsible progressive arguments that Americans are eager to hear. Remember: By 2005, Neoconservative politics will have alienated a great majority of the citizenry.

With our nation headed back towards sound financing and respect for civil rights, and with Terrorism a manageable concern, our new leaders can focus their attention where it was needed back when Bush II took office: to maintain and preserve a judiciary free of crippling neocon ideologies, to save the environment (and the planet), to wean ourselves from the dependence on oil that makes mideast war so appealing to the neocons, and to finally face the absolute necessity of enacting universal health care for our citizens. We will have wasted four precious years shortchanging ourselves in these areas. With the fears and follies of Bushism behind, Americans may restore their political infrastructure. Ably led by a new, Bush-free government, we can recapture national greatness and international respect in a world at relative peace.

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