Both John McCain and George Bush sounded unusually presidential in acknowledging the election of Barack Obama, urging Americans not just to accept Obama but to rally behind him. Adversity can bring out the best in people. And Obama surely needs all the good will he can get; every president does. (Bush has pretty much used up his supply, his popularity ratings now spectacularly low. Some say Bush, like Harry Truman, will be esteemed after he's been out of office a few years. We suspect it'll take more than a few.)
Advice is another thing altogether. Bad advice is worse than no advice, but there are always people trying to force it on a president-elect. Barely elected, two months from taking office, Obama already is besieged by pundits shouting that he mustn't try to change things quickly. This comes after an election that was all about change. Even McCain, Bush's fellow Republican, cried “Change!” though he was weak on specifics.
“Go slow” and “move to the center” are what the corporate media say to new presidents suspected of liberal inclinations. Bushes and Reagans aren't advised to go slow and move to the center, and they don't. Reagan is much praised by commentators for moving quickly away from the center. Bush II began pushing his Religious Right agenda the day he took office, and hasn't stopped since. Even as the clock runs out on his administration, he's trying to put more of his harmful policies into effect by executive order — facilitating the private exploitation of national resources, reducing Medicaid funding, blocking stem-cell research that could save millions of lives.
President Obama is honor-bound to use his own executive authority, quickly, to undo Bush errors such as these. To do otherwise would be to betray his supporters, an inauspicious way to begin an administration.
And if America can't get entirely out of Iraq in short order — the Bush administration's machinations have pretty well ensured that — we can at least take steps to show the world we're headed in the right direction. Which would be real movement toward the center, incidentally. Though the media claim that the war is popular with Americans, the polls and the election show that it's not.
Only pundits and the super-rich dare argue that a new president should take his time in confronting the current economic crisis — Americans are losing their jobs and their savings simultaneously — and to further tolerate Bush's violations of civil rights in the name of national security would be contrary to what this freedom-loving country professes to stand for. We say, step on it, President Obama. Speed in defense of liberty is no vice.