Thursday, April 30, 2009

Obama: 100 Days Down, 1361 Days Left

Examining President Obama’s first Hundred Days, I come away with the following insights: 1) he has been far more effective in utilizing his congressional majorities than Bill Clinton or Jimmy Carter or even John F, Kennedy. The latter three Presidents often were at odds with their own party during the early going of their respective Presidencies. Obama has been more adroit in working with congressional leadership although he has failed in gaining the bi-partisan support he called for during his campaign. But even his failure to draw bi-partisan has not derailed his initiatives thus far. Even though he cannot get Republican support at least he has not allowed the G.O.P. to ruthlessly gridlock his programs like they successfully did under Bill Clinton.

2) Obama has thus far deftly replaced the aggressively confrontational (and occasionally bullying) style of the Bush Administration with a governing philosophy of subtle, brisk efficiency. The Obama Administration is using action to make its statement in the American and World landscape. Legislation is being planned; negotiations are being held; and crises are being managed with a modicum of wrangling or fuss or consternation. Obama has created an image of movement. Now whether we are moving in the right direction remains to be determined but there is movement. One must contrast this with George W. Bush’s first few months in office. From January 20, 2001 to September 10, 2001, the Bush Administration’s style was one of drift and lassitude. People forget that Bush’s poll numbers were poor before 9/11 and his only significant achievement was the 2001 tax cut. By contrast, Obama’s approval ratings remain good despite the fact that the economy is still in the throes of a major recession.

3) Obama has toned down the volume of partisan wrangling. Obama has not rubbed his triumphs in the faces of his opponents. The political atmosphere in America has quieted down and that is a good thing. Since 1993 the decibel levels of American politics have gone beyond the threshold of pain. The ideological vehemence shown by both sides has numbed the American electorate and has resulted in massive cynicism and disillusionment with the political process and faith in the government. Obama’s quieting down of the governing process has allowed, I believe, the American people to gain a little peace and solace amidst the silence. Sometimes silence can be the most effective statement of them all.

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