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Multitask, Mr. President

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During last year's presidential campaign, one of the many reasons why I supported Barack Obama so strongly was because I believed that he could multitask. A U.S. President has a lot on his plate.

I think back to when Republican rival John McCain canceled an appearance on the David Letterman show at the last minute last fall, alleging that he was hurrying back to Washington to save the economy, when in reality he chose instead to appear on air with Katie Couric. McCain clearly does not know how to multitask. If he is unable to juggle Letterman, Couric, and the economy -- two of which are relatively easy and straightforward -- then he most likely would have trouble dealing day-to-day with the multitude of issues that currently face the nation.

On the other hand, right off the bat, President Obama proved that he could multitask.

In his first not-quite-100 days in office, Obama has accomplished all this:

• He ordered the closure of the prison at Guantanamo Bay and an immediate review of all Guantanamo detentions, along with a requirement that intelligence gathering by U.S. agents comply with the Geneva Conventions.

• He lifted the Bush administration's restrictions on federal funds for embryonic stem cell research.

• He repealed the Global Gag Rule.

• He established a White House Office of Health Reform.

• He lifted a bunch of grudge-sanctions against Cuba.

• He wowed the world at the G-20 summit.

• And much more.

And all while putting together a cabinet and other appointments, and working on fixing the economic crisis.

But when it comes to the torture issue, and the prosecution of those responsible for it, Obama says he wants to look forward, not backward. He suggests that using time and resources to pursue justice against the torturers might impede his administration's ambitious agenda.

To that I say: Multitask, Mr. President.

Work with Congress to launch an independent investigation into the Bush administration's torture policy and to bring those responsible to justice.

Court Senator McCain for bipartisan support on this issue, since he himself is a torture survivor. Torture isn't supposed to be a partisan issue. Work with the other Republican moderates as you did in passing the economic stimulus plan.

You can handle it. And you must.

Do it because this will set a precedent for future presidencies with regard to the rule of law.

And do it because you promised to work to repair this nation's reputation in the world. You cannot do that by excusing our home-grown torturers.
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Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)
 

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