In three executive orders signed Thursday, he departs sharply from Bush's policies on Guantanamo, CIA prisons, and harsh interrogation tactics.
His first acts – including an order to close Guantánamo Bay – seek to signal change.
On Thursday he named George Mitchell as a special envoy, and he has already signaled that the US will reengage the region.
It was deft. It was dignified. It also aimed to lower Americans’ expectations for better times soon.