Wednesday, April 29, 2009

100 Days

As I write this President Obama is holding a news conference to discuss his first 100 days in office. I think it’s significant that on his 100th day Arlen Specter switched parties and congress passed a budget blueprint. That we measure the president on what he does in the first 100 days is kind of silly. What makes this day, other than it being a power of ten, more important than the 93rd day, or the 117th? Some people (on the West Wing, for instance) say that it is in the first 100 days that an administration gets the most done, that the honeymoon is the best time to push your agenda. But Obama, in spite of 69% approval ratings, hasn’t had a honeymoon. He’s had to face three huge crisis—the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the conflicts in Pakistan, a swine flu pandemic, and the worst economic crisis since the great depression. The economic crisis has really defined the Obama presidency so far, as well it should. He has had to react. He hasn’t had the luxury of b being able to force an agenda.

So far, like it or not, it seems obvious that President Obama has brought significant change to Washington. We are opening dialogue with Venezuela and Cuba—can there be a more profound change than backing away from a corner stone of our foreign policy that has been in place for forty years? We are engaging in diplomatic, multi party approaches to international issues in Iran and North Korea. He has been eager to tackle big issues with big ideas, but through cooperation and inquiry, not through belligerence. There are wholesale changes going on in the economy, which will indeed move us to more state influence on the economy and a wider safety net, which can indeed be termed “socialism” if you really wanted to. Those are big changes.

I had no illusions when Obama was elected. I knew that he was not going to be everything I wanted in a president. I knew that I would strongly disagree with a lot of his policies. He does not support gay marriage. He does support an assault weapons ban. His health care policy is exactly the one I didn’t want to see, essentially a give away to the insurance companies that will not solve most of the big problems with healthcare. But on the big issues, on the direction he wants to take America, on the ways that he has approached the job, he is exactly what this country needed.


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