Wednesday was Barack Obama’s 100th day in office. Everyone else has been talking about it. Why not me?
A hundred days is a pretty arbitrary number, of course. But ever since FDR used it as a marker in 1933 for taking quick action against the Depression, it’s been a convenient hook on which to hang stories about new presidents. Few of them compare to FDR, of course. Then again, few are up against the kind of problems he was.
These days, though, the times make the comparison seem a bit more apropos.
There’s only so much anyone can accomplish in three-and-a-third months, but it’s long enough to get a sense of the direction things are moving. By that point George W. Bush had already made it clear he didn’t give a damn about anyone or anything other than his donors and corporate cronies, and that certainly paved the way for the rest of his time in office.
Obama himself saw it as a suitable occasion for his third prime-time press conference in as many months, but his attitude toward open communication with the public is the least of the many contrasts with his predecessor. (Of course, the ability to speak coherent English helps.)
Of course, nobody’s perfect, and there’s room for criticism of Obama. Most of the credible criticism has come from the left, however, while the right wails about nutso things like teleprompter usage and puts up budget “alternatives” with no numbers in them and generally accelerates its own dissolution as a credible political force.
I don’t want to write a book here, though, so I’ll do something I usually avoid and offer up a list of bullet points, in no particular order beyond stream-of-consciousness. I’d love it if this could prompt some actual discussion in the comments section. I’m sure there are things I’ve neglected, or that people think should count differently. Anyone?
Mostly good stuff about Obama’s first hundred days:
- Closing Guantanamo Bay
- Drawing down in Iraq
- Depoliticizing the Department of Justice
- Emphasizing credible science in matters of family planning, research funding, and more
- Making priorities of alternative energy and climate change
- Letting the EPA regulate CO2
- Letting the FDA regulate tobacco
- Proposing a practical economic stimulus package (and getting it through Congress!)
- Proposing a budget with honest numbers and serious policy priorities (and getting it through Congress!)
- Re-establishing our credibility with other world leaders (and populations!) and opening new diplomatic avenues
- Releasing the declassified torture memos
- Proposing tougher (re)regulation of financial markets
- Nationalizing student loans
Some bad stuff about Obama’s first hundred days:
- Putting too many Clinton-era centrists in the Cabinet
- Escalating our presence in Afghanistan
- Mirroring Bush administration arguments about the “State Secrets” privilege in multiple lawsuits
- Backing the Summers/Geithner approach to patching up the Wall Street status quo
So, all told, things are off to a good start, and it’s no surprise that Obama’s approval numbers are up in the high 60s. You can never please everybody, but fortunately (unlike Bill Clinton) he isn’t trying. He has a sensible, long-term vision of where the country needs to go, and he’s working hard to get it there.
…Of course, for real behind-the-scenes coverage of the first hundred days, you can’t beat The Onion. My personal favorites:
Tags: Afghanistan, climate, diplomacy, DOJ, energy, EPA, FDR, George W. Bush, Obama, Timothy Geithner
DAY 22: President Obama asks aides to alert him immediately if the Mutant Registration Act is introduced in Congress.
DAY 51: Reaching a milestone common for new presidents, Obama spends the afternoon seeing who is the most important person he can get on the phone in under five minutes.
DAY 100: Everything all fixed.