Let's Kiss and Make Up, or Old is the New "New"

12/13/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Election night was the place in the story where the Prince walked into the palace and kissed Sleeping Beauty. We awoke from our spell of at least the last eight years, cast by the Bad Fairy Godmother. On November 4th, we arose from our uneasy slumber and rejoined our family and the world.

Oddly, that night was more tearful and redemptive than full of dancing in the streets and razzle-dazzle. The revels were for later. Our wonderful, beloved country had revived itself from the comatose and for the moment, we were simply grateful to be alive. So we are back on our feet, still shaky, but with a hell of a financial virus on the loose that threatens to flatten us again. We know we will recover; we just don't know when and at what cost. Here is what happened in our kingdom while we slept.

The Bad Fairy started a war; gutted environmental protection laws; tortured prisoners and held them without access to counsel or habeas corpus; squandered our energy independence; built a mind numbing deficit; and blew global good will to smithereens. Do the Prince and the Beauty have a piece of work ahead of them to rebuild their kingdom? You betcha, as the governor of our most northern state would say.

One of the things we need to remember is that in reversing some of President Bush's executive orders, we are simply returning to normal. When drilling for oil is opened up to previously protected lands such as Canyon Lands in Utah and Colorado, this is radical. Protecting them again is normal. Stem cell research on embryonic tissue that has no other use is the norm. To reverse that prohibition is a return to standard. Access to birth control abroad provided by the United States has been policy for many years. Returning to that policy is the norm.

As we try to repair our fissured fiscal dam by overseeing loan policies and clarifying banking regulations, we will be returning to normal responsible behavior. Even if it has hardly been the normal practice, we all know that it should have been.

Untangling the relationships between companies into which the government has bought means we need to establish standards for oversight, of AIG or Fannie or Freddie, and possibly the auto companies. Here we are, however, in new territory: Damned if we do (Joe the Plumber's socialism) and damned if we don't (irresponsible with tax payer money). Freezing mortgage foreclosures is new but certainly needed to keep people in their homes and warm. Perhaps, we should rename the Treasury the Department of Better Late Than Never.

For the most part in foreign relations, we will return to a more normal, less imperious tone. As the bumper stickers says: "Yee Haw is not a foreign policy." The challenges that face us, with an intransigent Iran, a testy Russia, a burgeoning China and India, a drug infested Mexico, a hostile Middle East, and ....did I forget Iraq?, are complex but not completely intractable if handled with skill and patience.

Education will return to science-based teaching, centered more around learning and less on testing.

The EPA will obey Supreme Court rulings on regulating carbon emissions and put the "protection" back in Environmental Protection Agency.

The Interior Department really will guard our Federal lands rather than exploit them.

The Defense Department will focus on the welfare of our troops and rebuilding our depleted forces.

At the Department of Energy, there will be a policy to achieve energy independence in 10 years. That will be new since we have not had one lately.

In the transition, both Rahm Emanuel and John Podesta served in the Clinton administration. They are oldies but goodies.

Advisors on the financial front are Paul Volker, Warren Buffet, Robert Rubin, Robert Reich, all ghosts of administrations past when markets were stable and investors jollier.

Yes, it is a new day, but in many ways we are going back to the future and that, after the radical years that we have just slept through, is not a bad thing at all.