Wednesday, April 29, 2009

100 Days and Counting: Grading the President

The last 100 days in the United States has been one of the single most significant 100 day period in the history of the United States. Significant because for the first time in the two hundred and thirty three year history of this nation, a man of African descent was elected President of this country. President Barack Obama's ascent to the Presidency is interesting because, perhaps for the first time -besides at sporting events- Americans from varied walks of life rallied behind a person of color for the highest office in the land. What inherently began as a rocky and at times tense political campaign season gave way to an albeit eventful first hundred days in office.

The first few days of the Presidency were marked with trivial yet interesting complaints. The first of these complaints came from Inaugural day festivities. The first lady was criticized for snubbing African-American fashion designer and instead using other non-Americans to supply the outfits she wore. Then came the outburst from Etta James who felt insulted because Beyonce rather than she was invited to serenade the first lady and Mr. Presdent to their first dance to just not any song, but one she made popular. Interestingly, I doubt that the White House ever addressed any of these complaints. So, there began the first days of the Obama Presidency.

Over the next few days, the President announced that he would be sending 14,000 more troops to Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden still remained at large, and the war in Iraq still showed no signs of coming to an end. Following closely on the heels of the war decisions came the signing of the Mexico City documents, a key blow to supporters of the pro-life movement. Then, we heard of an interesting character, Bernie Madoff. No surprise there, his last name said it all. Then the questions came rolling in. Would the government step in and if so what role would they play in a recovery effort of some sort?

Speaking of recovery, the first hundred days have seen some natural disasters. From wild fires to the flood scare in the Midwest, the level of readiness by response teams has been challenged. However, Obama has not had to deal with a large scale natural disaster such as Katrina. Facing such would definitely be a test of the new FEMA, a response that would reflect on the President's legacy.

Importantly, the Obama Presidency has had to deal with the issue of bank failures and bail-outs and Timothy Geithner's near demise from office in the wake of the AIG scandal. The AIG scandal raised the interesting issues all presidencies have had to face, of "who knew what and when." Thankfully though, the crisis was managed with recovery of some bonuses from some AIG workers and Geithner remained the Secretary of the Treasury.

The President has also had to handle weightier matters like Guantanamo Bay and the issue of torture as a means of coercion employed during interrogations. Was the President's decision to look into the use of torture fair or was it a politicized move? Definitely heads will roll, but could Obama potentially be preparing his own gallows?

Then there was the successful landing of U.S. Airways flight 1549 on the Hudson river and two other deadly plane crashes that followed. Sure the President is not directly connected to these events but they do bear on his Presidency.

Another hot topic that has not received enough attention is the issue of gun control. When and if it does become an issue, the ensuing debates on both sides of the spectrum will show how much of their freedoms Americans will be willing to surrender or will have to surrender for the hope of a somewhat safer union.

On the international stage, the President has ventured into Europe, initiated talks with Cuba and showed a willingness to bring an end to former hostilities. Then there was the incriminating hand shake with Hugo Chavez for which the President caught much flak. South of the border, Mexico has once again become a hot topic with the issue of drug trafficking and most recently, the swine flu. The Obama presidency also witnessed the capture and release of a U.S. vessel by Somali pirates, albeit with some bloodshed. The ensuing murders of some of the Somali pirates were indicative of vengeance for the Black Hawk incidence of 1993.

Surely, the President has had a busy 100 days in office, more eventful than he perhaps anticipated. However, some issues still remain tabled; immigration reform, healthcare, and more efficient energy solutions. Definitely, Obama has been on his toes but surely, this is not the best he or his administration can give. It's still early to fully access what progress if any the White House has made, but it is safe to say that at least there is a vested interest in serving the common good, and that in itself is a step in the right direction. In all, The Harriet Project gives the President and his administration a grade of B-.

For more information and to track Obama's accomplishments regarding his promises on the campaign trial, visit Politifact.

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