Playing fantasy politics — as opposed to fantasy football — is a mug’s game. However, for what it’s worth (not much), and speaking for those of us who aren’t Americans, here’s my top ten list of things I’d like see from the Obama administration in the first 100 days, and consider to be not-totally-impossible:
1. Shut down Gitmo. Try any of the inmates who face outstanding changes in front of a civilian court. Release (and if necessary, pay compensation to) those who are categorically not guilty of anything and who were swept up by mistake. Grant political asylum to the Chinese muslims and any others who are (a) not accused of anything and (b) can’t return to their homes for fear of persecution.
2. The whole torture thing? You know what needs to be done, and there’s a lot of it — from reverting US interrogation practices to pre-2000 norms, to identifying those who ordered harsh measures and determining whether grounds exist for prosecution, to seeking and compensating the victims of torture. Oh, and end extraordinary rendition and wiretapping without warrants.
3. Dismantle the DHS — it is an out of control bureaucratic Frankenstein’s monster. Separate divisions can go back to doing what they did before they were stitched together. Leave in place communications channels between such divisions so they can share data, but destroy the unitary chain of command. You don’t need a Gestapo.
4. Ratify the Kyoto Treaty, and/or put the wheels in motion to participate in international talks aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions.
5. Start a public Congressional enquiry into the systematic injection of politically partisan appointees in the civil service and judiciary over the past 8 years, with specific reference to politically biased prosecutors and judges, administrators in scientific agencies (NASA, NIH, Environment, and others), and election officers.
6. Find three young, energetic, liberal supreme court justices to replace the elderly, terminally ill supreme court justices who are going to retire as soon as they can do so without handing the supreme court to Scalia on a plate.
7. Start a public Congressional enquiry into election practices, with the objective of moving towards a bill (or if necessary draft constitutional amendment) setting out acceptable standards for the conduct of elections.
8. Start a public enquiry into the misuse of intelligence agency resources in the run-up to 9/11 and the conduct of the war on terrorism since 9/11. Remit to include the allegations of collusion between Saddam’s regime and Al Qaida, and the embarrassing question of why the USA has been unable to find Osama bin Laden for the past seven years.
9. Start talking to the Russians about (a) gas and oil security (this includes South Ossetia), (b) Ballistic Missile Defense (and their allergy to it), (c) NATO expansion, and (d) any other grievances that must be aired in order to stop Cold War 2.0 from escalating. One cold war was quite enough, thank you (I still remember the nightmares).
10. Start talking to the whole of the G11 — no, leaving Spain (the world’s 8th largest economy) out in the cold because Dubya is having a snit at the socialist PM is not acceptable — about a global plan for rebooting the planetary economy without overheating the money markets or triggering further energy spikes. An exercise in multilateralism and soft power that will (a) achieve something useful and (b) start to convince the rest of the world that sanity has resumed.
This is just the top of the list, and reflects stuff I would hope to see in the first hundred days of a new administration. Other jobs (healthcare reform, for example) will take years, so I’ve left them out. Frankly, if Obama does all ten of these things I will be overjoyed. If he does just three or four of them, I’ll be nodding along and satisfied. But they all need doing, and they’re merely the start of an awfully big job.
PS: This is, I hope, my last posting on the topic of American politics for a long while, unless something extraordinary (good or bad) happens in the next couple of months. Just blowing off steam here after several years of bottling stuff up.
Charles Stross is an award-winning (Hugo, Nebula and Locus) science fiction and horror writer based in Edinburgh, Scotland.