Obama: 'Rigid Ideology Has Overruled Sound Science'

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Just two months after the Big 3 automakers came to Washington, D.C., requesting a bailout and promising more fuel-efficient vehicles, the state of automakers remains weak. General Motors said today that it will cut 2,000 jobs at plants in Michigan and Ohio because of slow sales. Changing its strategy so it falls in line with the government may not be as easy as in a better financial climate.

Job cut announcements -- some of which Obama addressed -- also flowed in today. Home Depot Inc. said it plans to eliminate 7,000 jobs while closing four dozen of its smaller home improvement stores. Sprint Nextel Corp. said it is eliminating about 8,000 positions as it seeks to cut annual costs by $1.2 billion.

Changing Directions

Obama has swiftly moved to reverse several other Bush-era policies.

Last week, he signed an executive order to shut down the controversial detainee center at Guantanamo Bay within a year's time.

He also overturned the "Mexico City policy" and opened the way for federal funding to flow to international organizations that provide abortion-related services, a Reagan-era law that was overturned by President Clinton and then reimposed by Bush.

Obama, who is also in the process of pushing his stimulus plan, met with Republican leaders last week to discuss the economic package. But despite the bipartisan approach, Obama showed there were clear limits.

And Monday, in another symbolic turn from the Bush administration, Obama appointed as his special envoy for climate change Todd Stern, the U.S. negotiator on the Kyoto Protocol agreement that the Bush administration withdrew from in 2001.

In a subtle criticism of presidents past, Obama stated in his remarks today that alarms about energy dependency have been sounded, but that no concrete measures have been taken.

"Year after year, decade after decade, we've chosen delay over decisive action. Rigid ideology has overruled sound science. Special interests have overshadowed common sense. Rhetoric has not led to the hard work needed to achieve results," he said. "Our leaders raise their voices each time there is a spike in gas prices, only to grow quiet when the price falls at the pump."

But despite his early steps, going beyond rhetoric may be a challenge for the new administration as well.

"I'll be looking to see whether the president can use his ability to communicate in order to build the political support that's necessary to do what we've known for long that are important," Levi said. "Ultimately, big steps to change the way we use energy are going to require tough decisions from congressmen, and those are not going to happen without presidential leadership."

With a myriad of issues -- from the economy to two wars abroad -- facing the newly minted president, it remains to be seen how Obama's energy and environmental agenda will unfold in the coming years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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