US President Barack Obama was to fly to the American heartland yesterday to mark his first 100 days in office, an opening that has brought comparisons to presidents such as Franklin Roosevelt who ushered in eras of far-reaching change.
Although only a short way into his first term, Obama has already committed trillions to lift the US out of recession, discarded some of the most unpopular policies of the George W. Bush administration, begun to repair the country’s battered reputation abroad and made a start on potentially far-reaching health, education and other social reforms. The changes racked up already suggest a potential to become one of the most liberal presidents in US history.
Michael Kazin, professor of history at Georgetown University, places him in august company.
“I would say there have been five presidents up until now who have tried to do a lot in the first three months or so and they are all presidents who we look back on as transformative figures in office: Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Franklin Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan,” Kazin said.
There are many politicians and analysts in Washington as impressed as Kazin, but they caution that it is too soon to make a judgment. They are waiting to see how long it takes him to turn the economy round and whether he will show courage and good sense when confronted with his first major international crisis, such as an implosion of Pakistan or an Israeli move to strike Iran.
On his first full day as president on Jan. 21, Obama stepped into the Oval office at 8.45pm and spent 10 minutes alone, reading a private note left behind by Bush: “From 43 to 44.” Since then, he has seldom let up, with almost daily announcements of new policy switches, beginning with an order to close Guantanamo, and followed by a US$3.6 trillion budget — the biggest spending bill in US history — and a US$787 billion economic stimulus package.
He has abandoned Bush policies on stem cell research and abortion. In tandem with all this, he has made diplomatic overtures towards Iran, introduced a timetable for partial withdrawal from Iraq, ordered more troops to Afghanistan, eased travel restrictions on Cuba and offered Russia talks on reducing nuclear arsenals.
The Washington-based Foreign Policy magazine asked 35 US foreign affairs specialists around Washington to rate Obama so far. The result? Eleven As, 16 Bs, 7 Cs, and a D.