1. Don’t spend one dime on a gala inauguration. In fact, don’t do anything more than you are legally bound to do, which is placing your hand on a Bible and swearing to uphold the Constitution. Keep it austere. Show the public you’re aware of the challenges ahead and are ready to get to work.
2. Appoint Barney Frank Secretary of the Treasury. Frank is smart, he’s out of a job, he knows finance, he knows Congress, and, refreshingly, he neither fears nor favors Wall Street. Under no circumstances should you appoint another investment banker. Hasn’t this incestuous cronyism done enough damage??
3. Assuming that Hillary Clinton is serious about stepping down, appoint U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice as Secretary of State. In fact, even if Ms. Clinton isn’t serious, she should be gently nudged out. She’s too much of a hawk.
4. Use the bully pulpit to wean the public from the mistaken belief that “free trade” equals “fair trade.” The American worker is getting slaughtered by our one-sided trade agreements. You need to educate the public by going on television and laying out the actual facts. Congress won’t do it; the media won’t do it; the U.S. Chamber of Commerce won’t do it. The president needs to do it.
5. Put aside all this tiresome “they must be worthy of meeting with us” nonsense, and arrange a sit-down with President Ahmadinejad of Iran. Worst case: Nothing comes of it because Ahmadinejad uses the occasion to badger us. So what if he does? Where’s the harm? Best case: We make genuine progress in our relations with Iran. It’s a no-brainer.
6. Prove to organized labor you meant what you said during the 2008 campaign, and put the EFCA (Employee Free Choice Act) back on the table. But this time around, actually roll up your sleeves and fight for it.
7. Plead with Hilda Solis to remain as Secretary of Labor. She’s done a commendable job in the face of unprecedented anti-union sentiment. Simply put, you could scour the entire landscape and not find anyone better than Solis. Keep her.
8. Withdraw from Afghanistan. Everyone knows we can’t “win” (it’s already the longest war in our history), and everyone assumes a civil war will follow our departure no matter when we leave. Here’s the deal: If we leave now, there will be a civil war. If we leave in 5 years, there will be a civil war. The message? Leave now and avoid the additional cost in lives and dollars.
9. Announce that we’re removing our troops from Japan and Germany. Those countries don’t want us there anyway, we can’t afford the expense, and our imperialistic military presence around the world has become an embarrassment.
10. Unless proven to be unfeasible (unless the cupboard is truly bare), insist that every U.S. ambassador speak the native language of the country to which he or she is assigned. Granted, pretty much everyone in the upper echelons of government all over the world now speaks English, but that’s not the point. Indeed, it’s part of the problem.
In this electronic age, ambassadors are largely ceremonial. You don’t need a Ph.D in International Relations to be an ambassador. By showing the host country that we respect them enough to send an emissary who speaks their native tongue, we win friends. As a former Peace Corps volunteer, I can’t overemphasize how much the citizens loved hearing us speak their language…even when we mangled the hell out of it.
David Macaray, an LA playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy: Essays on Modern Labor”), was a former labor union rep. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org