Obama and change

Barack Obama campaigned for president promising change, and now Americans are beginning to see just how serious he was about that promise.

We know about the economic-stimulus package, of course, and the continuing bailout of the constipated financial system, but that isn’t the change Obama sought. There, he’s just doing what’s needed to keep the economy afloat during perilous times. The work of making the kinds of long-term changes he promised has been going on largely in the background.

He’s closing the black-hole prison at Guantanamo Bay, for example, and has pronounced that henceforth America doesn’t torture people, both huge steps toward restoring America’s moral credibility in the world. He signed the bill expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, bringing health care to 7 million more low-income children. He signed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Play Act, leveling the field for workers experiencing discrimination. He issued a memorandum to increase the fuel efficiency of cars.

On other fronts, he’s included nearly $10 billion in funding for high-speed rail in the stimulus package. He’s refocused former President George W. Bush’s faith-based initiatives entity, widening the scope of groups eligible for funding and refusing to direct federal dollars to groups that advocate for conversion therapy for gays and lesbians.

In the so-called drug war, Obama has appointed a reform-minded drug czar, Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske, who has been notably tolerant of med-pot laws. In addition, Attorney General Eric Holder has announced that the Justice Department will no longer go after med-pot dispensaries and sales collectives in states that have medical-marijuana laws.

Obama campaigned on a pledge to drastically reduce nuclear stockpiles, stop nuclear proliferation and initiate a new era of arms control, and he’s doing just that. Even before he was sworn in, he sent Henry Kissinger to Moscow to explore the possibility of agreeing to slash Russian and U.S. nuclear arsenals to 1,000 each. He has signaled that his administration intends to reduce spending on missile defense, reconsider missile defense in Europe and reduce spending on new nuclear weapons. He’s also appointed committed nonproliferation experts to senior positions in the State Department.

Just last week he restored provisions of the Endangered Species Act, stripped by the Bush administration, requiring scientific review of projects. Then he announced a crackdown on wasteful government spending, especially in the defense industry. A few days ago, Obama put an end to federal restrictions on stem-cell research.

All of these changes have been initiated in less than two months, and there will be many more. Americans voted for change, and they’re getting it.