Friday, April 10, 2009

Obama's First 80 Days: A Lot of Hits, Some Misses & How About That Missus!

The Obama administration will reach its 100th day in office late this month, which means that the rush to judgment will be at full throttle. But being a gun jumper from way back, here are a few judgments of my own as his presidency reaches its 80th day:

* Obama's gamble that lavish spending, as opposed to lavish tax cuts, is the way out of the economic wilderness is showing some signs of paying off as stimulus money begins tricking down from the state to local level. On the other hand, the Republican's "Just Say No" policy has been a public-relations disaster.

* Obama understands that volcano monitoring is important.

* Missus Obama -- you know, Stokely Carmichael in a sleeveless designer dress -- has been a breath of fresh air as First Lady after frumpy Laura Bush and control freak Hillary Clinton.

* Neither Obama's opaque Treasury secretary nor his opaquer bank-rescue plan inspire confidence.

* We tend to define presidents by who came before them, and by that measure alone Obama's honeymoon will last longer than might be expected.

* Obama's foreign policy plan is very much a work in progress and he has yet to be confronted by a serious international crisis save for one of North Korea's periodic hissy fits. But reaching out instead of rattling sabers, treating European leaders as partners and not ranch hands and warning Pakistan that its status as an ally is in jeopardyis a good start.

* Obama promised changed and has delivered loads of it, but the Washington press corps remains determinedly frozen in time. No kerfuffle is too small to let pass, no complex issue can be explained without making a reader's head explode, and no question is too silly to ask at a press conference.

Fears that Obama has killed hip-hop are premature.

* Adjusting for 150 years, which is to say very different times, there are indeed some compelling similarities between Presidents Obama and Lincoln, but they faced very different challenges. Lincoln tried to literally hold the Union together; Obama is trying to bring the Union back from the brink of financial disaster.

* The Bush administration did not govern. It ruled. The Obama administration governs. It works.

* It is obvious that Obama is far more interested in looking ahead than looking back, but claims of executive privilege to keep secret the full extent of George Bush's illegal warrantless domestic surveillance program as well as a reluctance to come clean on unreleased torture memos and other documents stink to high heaven.

* Obama has been more accessible in three months than his predecessor was in eight years.

* Widely flogged during the presidential campaign for being a cut-and-run coward, Obama's determination to have all American boots back home from Iraq by August 2011 hits the right note, but it has been the flexing of Iraq's national sovereignty muscle and not he that closed the deal.

* Obama brings out the worst in the right-wing lunatic fringe.

* Populist outrage is the flavor of the moment, but look closely at the polls and it is apparent that while this feeling of being terribly wronged is pervasive it is not directed at Obama, who while showing an occasional propensity for having a tin ear remains enormously popular among most voters.

* Obama is a seriously bad bowler. He needs to stick to basketball.

* For those of us of a certain age, television images of Southern blacks being beaten by white mobs and racist sheriffs remain fresh. The racial divide has not closed and equality has not been achieved, but Obama is a daily reminder that America is still one helluva great country.

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