Redefining the Presidency: Obama’s first 100 Days


Ever since FDR, new presidents face the scrutiny of how well they begin their mandate. While a good or a bad start is hardly indicative of how the presidency will turn out, it does set a tone. FDR is considered the standard. He took office amid an economic depression with deflation, about 25 per cent unemployment, banks going bankrupt, families losing their homes. President Roosevelt didn’t instantly transform the economy. But he created a sense of hope. He conversed with his electorate, he educated his voters, and he listened to them. There was a flurry of policy initiatives and while many were later declared unconstitutional, he was a leader.

Other notable first 100 days include JFK, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Kennedy started strong but capped off the first 100 days with the Bay of Pigs disaster. Reagan was able to liberate the hostages in Iran soon after the Inauguration but was also the victim of an assassination attempt. Clinton had a shaky start with the divisive issue of gays in the military and low-approval numbers by the end of the first 100 days. Bush started slow, prompting many to predict he would be a one-term president like his father, but then 9/11 happened.

Obama’s start is more in line with that of FDR. He inherited an economic mess, two wars that are far from over and America’s standing in the world has never been lower. After a shaky start, Obama rebounded and has set a pace of political activity that surpasses that of the FDR days–the largest ever stimulus package, bailout plans, restructuring of the auto industry, mortgage relief, healthcare proposals, executive orders closing Gitmo, ending torture and funding stem-cell research. As well, he attended four summits (NATO, G20, Prague, Americas), visited Canada, Mexico and Turkey.

What seems to be emerging, however, after the first 100 days is how Obama is redefining the Presidency. We know the constitution makes him the commander-in-chief and we acknowledge that his rhetorical ability makes him the communicator-in–chief. And we see more and more the teacher-in-chief as he explains through various media his policies. This is a President who connects the dots. When was the last time we heard a President captivate audiences with his oratorical skills? When did we hear a President say he “screwed up”? When did we hear a President say he would do “what he believes is right and not worry about politics at home” to justify shaking the hand of Hugo Chavez? When did we have a President so accessible to the hard questions from media, voters and youth? When was the last time a President would conduct a news conference to explain once again his policies to a midday TV audience? He does all this with grace and never demeans his opponents. When was the last time a President seemed to like Washington, the city, and be an active part of it? He has changed America’s views on the environment, energy dependence, multilateralism from that of the Bush–Cheney years. It is too early to predict the success of this presidency but one thing is certain–after 100 days, he’s redefining the Presidency, which was vital after eight years of George W.


Redefining the Presidency: Obama’s first 100 Days

  1. An adoring media should have been added to your piece .Obama has got a free pass.
    I challenge jwl to give his usual excellent analysis .

    • I should add that the econmy is still not improving and unemployment is rising .

      • “the economy is still not improving and unemployment is rising “

        Much like FDR’s first 100 days. And much like FDR’s entire 12 years, unless you count drafting millions of people and sending them to the war as “employment”.

        But FDR’s policies were watered-down imitations of the Italian and German fascists, so it stands to reason that America would experience a watered-down version of those countries’ catastrophes.

        A brief passage from “The Roosevelt Myth” by John T. Flynn (free online) illustrates the problem …

        “It would seem that the most unthinking admirer would concede [that FDR knew nothing about economics] in the presence of the fact that after six years of extravagance, deficits and debt, of so many wild schemes which had to be abandoned as failures, Roosevelt should find himself in 1938 with 11,800,000 unemployed on his hands, business still showing no spark of recovery and his whole cabinet split, angry and surly. “

        Sounds a lot like where Obama is headed. If that’s what you call leadership, then good luck to you.

        • That was a useful analysis. Thanks.

  2. Obama oratorical skills? Are you kidding me? The guy stutters through everything he says. He can’t tell you what he ate for breakfast without halting stuttering speech that turns a couple of sentences into an eternity.

    What a load of malarkey. Most things Obama have done so far will turn out to be disastrous, and this post was just one more in a long line of hopeychanging articles that have no bearing on reality.

    • “Most things Obama have done so far will turn out to be disastrous”….

      Sorry, chances (and results so far) are that Obama is not going to carbon copy your idol GWB

      • Spends the country into bankruptcy like a drunken sailor, expects China to pay for it, aggressive foreign policy, bails out crooked businesses with trillions of dollars of other people’s money, supports domestic spying and violating habeus corpus, spews contradictory gibberish in every speech, and sounds like a stammering idiot whenever he gets off his teleprompter.

        He’s a lot like “my idol” GWB (a carbon copy, LOL, no pun intended I’m sure). But Obama could be a lot worse because … the USA is now flat busted broke, the USD is toast, and everyone knows it (except the Presidunce) … he’s a committed socialist … he consciously imitates the disastrous Franklin Depression Roosevelt … he worships the mass murderer Abe Lincoln … and his apostles are even bigger zombies than the naïve Christian fundies who propped up Bush for 8 years.

    • “Obama oratorical skills? Are you kidding me?”

      Dude, check your fax machine – you’re six cycles of Republican talking points behind.

      Honestly, the lack of professionalism in today’s right-wing shills…

      • Geez, anyone who can’t admit an Obama press conference is a stuttering, stultifying, boring and sleep-inspiring humdrum is completely out to lunch. You sir, are dishonest.

        He was ridiculed when he traveled to Europe, mostly because the press over there are willing to show a little honesty rather than let their partisanship rule the day.

  3. I love Obama. Here’s our generations (Gen Y) own JFK.

  4. Parisella’s weekly paeans to Obama are getting rather tedious.

    • Number six shows his ignorance . Republicans are just out of rational talking points . he says “tedious“because number six is just mentally lazy .
      Obama has done so much to have us forget the moron , Bush . I voted Bush but it was my biggest mistake . Obama is an inspiration . I don`t know if he will be a great president but the Republicans are hypocrits . And race baiters !!!!!!!!

  5. I know many Dems think FDR was great president but they are not really paying attention to what actually happened and are focused more on the hagiography that sprung up after he died. FDR and Hoover oversaw a recession/depression that lasted 12 years, surely the longest in who knows how long, and we are supposed to think that’s wonderful, something to celebrate. And now we have commentators who want more of the same and are likely to get it with Obama’s recent policy initiatives.

    I don’t know if Obama is re-defining the presidency or not. Seems like a combo FDR and LBJ so he is actually behaving in ways that have been tried and failed. And I think you get ahead of yourself, John, with all your excitement and questions at the end. Surely the important thing to consider is how Obama’s policies turn out, not that he tried them in the first place.

    • we are talking the first 199 days , not the whole presidency . Lighten up jwl .

Sign in to comment.