Part of me would like to avoid the issue completely, but I won't. However, instead of embracing this date, I will shake hands with it and try to address the progress Obama has made since his inauguration last January 20th.
Before I share my perspective, I encourage you to check out a marvelous, Pulitzer-awarded website - the Saint Petersburg Times-created Politifact. It keeps track of how well Obama is doing, especially regarding holding to his campaign promises. At this point, the President is doing quite well, even though Politifact points out some important areas where he has fallen short.
So, how do I feel about Obama at this 100-day mark?
THE DOMESTIC FRONT
- S-CHIP: As under Bush, this bill providing health care to children passed both houses of Congress. Obama signed it, though.
- Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009: the first act of congress signed by President Obama, which moved us in the right direction regarding equal pay for women in the workplace
- Economic Stimulus: Obama's first big test in Congress. It passed, but only along party lines. Many of Obama's campaign promises for domestic change are financed here. The jury is still out on the major impact of this package, but reports have been drifting in that they are making a difference in staunching the bleeding of the recession.
- Budget: The three legs of the stool - health care, education, energy - for progress into the future. Republicans said no, blue dog dems negociated modifications. It passed today, along party lines (again).
- Justice Department: Eric Holder was noble and smart to drop the Ted Stevens case. The CIA torture documents were released. Nothing concrete regarding the prosecution of responsible parties. Obama is leaving it to Justice - Congress may move forward on their own. I wouldn't be surprised to see a special "9/11-type" committee designated to investigate the torture done under Bush's watch. If nothing comes of it, progressives will become a burr under Obama's saddle. Obama has promised to close Guantanamo, but he has made no move to close Bagram, where torture also occurred.
- Veteran Affairs: After years of negligence, wounded soldiers will be given appropriate care when and where they need it.
- Stem Cell Research: After Bush put down the breaks, Obama has given the green light for using embryonic stem cells to seek cures for many serious health problems.
- Swine Flu: Obama is correct in communicating "concern" and not "alarm" at this time. The MSM are almost pushing the alarm button, unfortunately. Let's hope this outbreak dissipates as the weather invites more people outdoors, making the spread of the virus more difficult.
Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan: Obama's move out of Iraq is an extremely positive development. Unfortunately, soldiers are being re-deployed to Afghanistan, which is the region Obama promised to focus on. I believe that "AfPak" has the potential for becoming a quagmire, not dissimilar to Vietnam. We've been there eight years already and have now upped the ante, without defining an endgame. I find it interesting that many progressives do not confronted Obama here, or on anything else. I have questioned this military mission before on this website and a cross-posting on Daily Kos, and I have been flamed for it.
Other than "Af-Pak" I believe that Obama has done amazingly well in rebuilding America's relationship with the world:
- Discussions with Syria and projected with Iran
- Shifts in relations with Cuba
- Showing real cojones, along with smarts, in taking out Somalian pirates
- North Korea is still an area of concern. I'm sure backdoor discussion are going on, but Obama may be pushed into a direct confrontation at some point.
- The G-20 Summit: Obama showed poise and wisdom during his first international exposure.
- Mexico: As the American President, Obama will do his best to stem the violence along the border and deal with the flu that has predominantly come from there.
- Some people, especially Republicans, were concerned that Obama did not stand up to Chavez and Ortega during the Latin America Summit. Obama's approach will, ultimately, pay dividends for the U.S. Just watch...
To check how Obama has done in following through with his 500+ campaign promises, I encourage you to visit Politifact. One hundred days are simply not enough to get more than a taste of how things are going, but over all Obama's doing quite well. Except in one area where Politifact nails him: lobbyists. He campaigned against having them enter his administration, but so far he's been more than welcoming to former lobbyists and they've become central members in his administration.
Democrats: The Blue Dogs have become a thorn in Obama's side, but it seems they have moved forward since he has had talks with them directly. Arlen Specter's shift back to the Democratic Party is huge, since once Al Franken finally becomes Minnesota's second senator, the Dems will have sixty members in the Senate, eliminating the potential for a Republican filibuster. It is yet to be seen if Democrats can become as united as the Republicans have.
Republicans: The party of "No," pure and simple. They have no message that's caught on (including the 'tea parties'). The American people are tired of the GOP's negativity and lack of leadership. Fewer than 20% of Americans self-identify as Republican. For a while, Rush Limbaugh's voice was central, but his hot air has dissipated. Eric Cantor has shown himself to be but a whiner. He complains and cries but no one is listening to him any more. As an intellectual, Newt Gingrich is potentially a leader, but his recent comments have shown him to be anything but thoughtful in foreign policy. He's like McCain, he's a knee-jerk reactionary and a blowhard who would only harm us abroad. Along the way the names Bobby Jindal and Sarah Palin popped up. Who are they?
Bipartisanship: Obama learned early on that if he offered his hand to the Republicans they would bite it. So, he's abandoned those efforts. Expect this trend to continue, since the large majorities in both houses of Congress mean he needs to rely less and less on Republican support. Should he try to reach out again? No, there's a new game in town, and they don't have a chance of controlling it. If they move in Obama's direction, true bipartisanship is possible. I think hell will freeze over first, though.
President Obama gets high poll ratings for his policies. His personal popularity is even higher. He's riding a huge wave right now, which is why he's pushing so quickly to get as much of his platform passed now, before the inevitable slide downward arrives.
First Family Mystique: The Obama family holds the attention of the American people to the greatest extent since the Kennedy family in the early 60's. Michelle's popularity is in the stratosphere, and everyone follows the lives of the girls (and the dog, Bo). America can't get enough photos and articles about the First Family. Indeed, they are fun, energetic, young, smart and - importantly - nice. All of them. Until and unless some scandal hits, we are in for tons of daily news feeding the Obama Family Frenzy we are all eagerly a part of.
Barack Obama, Teacher in Chief: I couldn't cover all the issues here, but one thing is for sure: Obama is in charge and guiding our country to a more optimistic mindset. He has done this by communicating clearly and firmly what the issues are and how he will address them. His teaching and community organizing backgrounds regularly poke through whenever he addresses the nation or works with a group of individuals.
Barack Obama, The Personality: His popularity has only grown since the election. His powerful speaking abilities have not yet hit a boring note here at home. He even raised interest in NCAA bracket competitions by completing his own on television. In this way, he portrays himself as an ordinary American, not the policy wonk he becomes during the day. Over seas, millions wait and watch whenever he speaks to them. It is simply incredible that he is able to criticize and yet still be loved. He has become, finally!, the new face of America abroad. He is new, fresh, thoughtful and respectful. Time will tell if world opinion of Americans as individuals changes as well. Obama the Leader is firm, yet calm and steady. He brings confidence to us all, something we lacked for too long.
How long can Obama's popularity last? He has done an amazing job, but he could fall fast with one surprising, devastating event. From where might such a tragedy come?
For different reasons: North Korea, Iran, Mexico.
Or, Obama could die a political death by a thousand cuts. Either a continuing withering economy or an unending, bloody military mission in "Af-Pak" could bring it about.
Obama has said that one hundred days is too short a time to judge him. He says that 1000 days would give a better reflection of the job he's done.
Nonetheless, Americans are obsessed with the number 100, which is why today is so significant. So, how has Obama done in his first 100 days?
Have there been mistakes? Yes. But he has admitted them (a novel concept to Dubya). Do I love every one of his policies? No. But I knew that would be the case. He is steady and thoughtful in guiding America toward the change we wanted.
So, how has he done? I will not give him a traditional grade, which diminishes the enormity of the presidency. Suffice it to say that in these rough and treacherous seas we are currently traveling, I would not want anyone else than President Barack Hussein Obama at the helm of our ship.