Over the last few days, I have read several reviews of President Obama’s first 100 days in office (that mile marker was reached yesterday). Most of the reviews were positive, and those that were not were predictably from the right wing. In thinking about doing my own review, I have struggled. The reason why is that if we were to honestly to give President Obama a grade on his first 100 days, it would have to be an I for incomplete, which is why I think that the process of grading the President (or any other president) is so ridiculous.
Think about it: the President has been in office 100 days out of a total of 1,461 days of his whole 4 year term. That is just under 7 percent of his entire term. In fact, I would argue that the only possible grade you can give a president this early in a term is either and I or an F. If the President has had some legislative accomplishments, then it will take some time to judge whether that will be a success or not. The only way to say a president has been a failure is if they cannot get their message out and are completely unable to accomplish anything. That clearly has not happened with President Obama.
All that being said, I can at least look at some of the reasons I voted for him and see how his progress is coming on those issues. For those of you who read my essay back in August of 2008, you know that I provided three main reasons why I was voting for Barack Obama. In summary, these were:
- Barack Obama can better bring this country together and change the way politics works in order to tackle the challenging problems we face as a nation.
- Barack Obama has a better plan to fix our ailing economy and address our long term economic issues, namely a balanced budget.
- Most importantly, Barack Obama was right to oppose the Iraq War and has a better plan for the broader War on Terror.
So let’s review his progress on these three areas.
Bi-partisanship: Unfortunately, the political climate has not changed much when it comes to the partisan rancor in Washington. However, I would not blame the President for this. Early in his presidency, he tried to reach out to Congressional Republicans on the passage of the stimulus package. When all the House Republicans voted against the plan, you may recall that I placed the bulk of the blame for the lack of Republican support on Speaker Pelosi for pushing the bill through. Since then, I think it has been more of a function of the Republicans just trying to be an obstructionist party. Right now, it does not appear that the Republican Leadership has any clear plan. For the first 100 days, it seems like their whole strategy has been to wait for President Obama to propose something and then they say, “NO!”
I have said repeatedly on this blog that this is a recipe for disaster, especially with a President who has approval ratings in the 60’s. I’m not saying that the Republicans should just roll over, play dead and let Obama have whatever he wants, but they should try and engage him in the process. With the passage of the stimulus and his budget, a lot of President Obama’s early focus has been on the economy. The focus will now shift to areas where the action required will not be as immediate. These areas include health care, energy and education. The Republican Leadership should challenge President Obama to fulfill his campaign promise and allow them a seat at the table to try and craft solutions that have broader support. If the Republicans continue to simply sit back and criticize the President and Congressional Democrats, they actually make it easier for the Democrats to simply ignore them and do what they want.
Economy: This is one of the main reasons that I feel President Obama has to get an incomplete on his first 100 days. It will take probably a few years to see if his economic stimulus plan works and revives the economy. I was having lunch with a friend yesterday, and when we discussed this, we recalled how President Reagan’s economic recovery plan, which he passed at the beginning of his first term, took at least until 1983 before the economy started to turn around.
There is one point that I have made on this blog before, which I will reiterate again. As a deficit hawk, I thought that candidate Obama had a better prescription for balancing the budget than Senator McCain did. Ultimately, for long term economic growth and security, we need to reduce the massive deficit. Unfortunately, through the fall campaign and even after the election, the economic crisis only got worse which depressed tax revenues and made the deficit even worse. I am willing to give President Obama a pass on the deficit for now, but as the economy begins to recover, I think it is imperative for him to look at how the federal budget can be brought more into balance.
Foreign Policy: President Obama has not had any real foreign policy crisis to face yet, unless you count some pesky Somali pirates. I do like the direction he is taking us on the War on Terror. Refocusing us on Afghanistan and Pakistan is the only way we will have long term success against Al Qaeda. As for conservatives trying to make some hay out of the fact that he shook Hugo Chavez’s hand a the Summit of the America’s, I just wonder if those conservatives realize how small that makes them seem that they get that worked up over a hand shake.
As for Guantanamo Bay, this is another position that I part ways with conservatives on. I don’t wish to get into all my reasoning, but I was glad to see President Obama move to close the base down. As for the torture memos, there are Democrats who are calling for criminal charges to be brought against Bush Administration officials who approved the torture. Thus far, President Obama has refused to go that far, although he has yet to completely rule it out. I think it would be a big mistake to bring such charges and President Obama should come out and say that such charges should not be pursued. We need to turn the page and put it in the past. I don’t think the torture was right, but I think it would be best for us to close this page on American history. Let’s not make this black eye any blacker than it already is.
Well, there are my thoughts on President Obama’s first hundred days. For those of you who didn’t vote for him and think he is going to be the end of the republic, look at it this way, there are only 1,360 days left – of his first term.