Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Obama's First 100 Days Rated B+

I'll cut to the chase. My grade for President Barack Obama's first 100 days in office is B+.

Now, I'm writing this off the top of my head without referring to notes because this type of grading is always subjective. The kind of images embedded in our minds.

The charisma factor: A+

This is a no brainer. Obama gets a break here. All one does is compare Obama with the last eight years of George W. Bush. No contest. Obama's job approval ratings hold steady around 60%. Polls strongly reflect his administration has turned the nation in the right direction. The man is everywhere. He communicates through every media known to mankind. People flat out like the man as honest, sincere and trustworthy. It doesn't hurt that Michelle Obama and their two daughters resonate the perfect family.

Leadership qualities: A+

The best thing about Obama is he makes you think he is listening to you. That is a terrific skill and strokes the ego of friends and foes alike. It is disarming. A great leader admits his mistakes and Obama is at the top of the class, much to the dismay of conservatives who go as far as saying he is unpatriotic as when he shook Hugo Chavez's hand and bowed to the king of Saudi Arabia. He is tough. He listened to his car advisers and agreed with them to fire the General Motors Corp. chief executive. We haven't seen that bold action since Reagan fired the air controllers and Truman fired MacArthur.

Domestic agenda: C

Yes, a mediocre grade because no one really knows how the Obama administrations decisions will affect the economy in the long term. Early signs are that the downside of the recession is slowing down. But unemployment continues to rise. It is too early to grade the stimulus package and the bank TARP infusions. The banking and housing markets may take years to unravel because of those dreaded toxic assets. The government is printing money and critics complain it will burden future generations with debt. Obama plans to cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term but at this time looks like a hail Mary pass play. An impatient nation will demand results by the end of the year even if Obama retains his personal popularity. The window is closing fast.

Foreign policy: B-

The upside is cosmetic. Obama enjoys worldwide acclaim as a fresh new leader of a Super Power state. Substance fell short in his flurry of talks with scores of country presidents and prime ministers. North Korea tweaked his nose by testing a ballistic missle. Closing Guantanamo Bay prison is proving more difficult than expected. His Afghanistan/Pakistan policy is fraught with perils since the Pakistanis have shown little willingness or effectiveness to crush the Taliban and al-quada in their own country. Iran remains a nuclear time bomb ready to ignite. No progress is seen in the Israeli/Palestine stand-off. The president embellished his commander-in-chief credentials by his behind-the-scene decisions to enable the navy to do its job and kill the pirates that highjacked the U.S. merchant ship. So far even this early in his adminstration we have seen little results from his diplomatic staff under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Time will tell.

Most defining moment: C-

There are many but the one which will come back and bite him on the butt is his decision to allow the Attorney General to release the torture memos from the Bush administration and not to prosecute the offenders. The president waffled, trying to appease the politics on the left and keep in good graces with the Central Intelligence Agency. In my opinion, it was a just decision. But he lost control as Congress continued its push to get to the bottom of this hornet's nest. The lion is out of the cage and where the fact finding commissions, the congressional investigations and the Justice Department inquiries takes us is out of the hands of Obama. He may want to look forward but the national focus on the audacity of Americans torturing prisoners will not go away.

1 comment:

Steven Casey said...

I would give him a strong B+, with this caveat: His economic plans are still way to early to call.

The trillions in debt we’re running up scares the shit out of me. If you get five economists in a room, you’ll get 7 different answers, so I have no clue as to whether Obama’s course is right or wrong. But it could lead to printing money by the gazillion dollars, and thus devaluing our currency, which ought to really worry our creditors (like China and people who have US Savings Bonds and treasuries and such.) I’d like to think we won’t see the day when it takes a wheelbarrow full of money to buy lunch. It may be that this is the only cure for a sick economy, but I think that unless we stop basing our economy on the spending habits of 14-year-olds with daddy’s credit card and actually return to producing hard goods, we’re toast.

I’m more charitable than you on the “defining moment.” Assuming the torture memos ARE the defining moment, I’d give him a higher grade. Like you, I think it was a just decision. The Congress isn’t trying to “get to the bottom” of any hornets’ nest, it’s trying to make a Cecil B. deMille blockbuster political thriller out of this they can ride for the next few years. How in God’s name do you prosecute people who are following the legal advice they are provided? And how do you prosecute — try to make CRIMINALS out of — people who offered that advice? Every time a lawyer gives you advice he can be prosecuted if it’s wrong? Even assuming, arguendo, that the upper echelon of the Justice Department all got together and cooked the facts and the law to arrive at the result they wanted, how do you prosecute that when it’s what lawyers do?

Theater, pure and simple. And not Obama’s fault.

My only other quibble with your well reasoned and well written piece is the reference to Obama being the new leader of “a Super Power state.” In my humble opinion, although we are a strong nation, we are no longer a super power — we just don’t know that yet. I think Obama does, and that may account for his “there are no senior partners and junior partners; we’re all partners” comment in Latin America. And his refusal (yeah!) to act — like Shrub did — as if he thought America was and always would be King of the Hill. So, I’d give him a B+ there, too.