washingtonpost.com
99 and Counting

By Dan Froomkin
1:05 PM ET, 04/28/2009

Get ready for a veritable explosion of assessment tomorrow, as President Obama reaches a milestone.

Howard Kurtz writes in The Washington Post: "The wave crests tomorrow -- the actual Day 100 -- with a full day of cable chatter and, among other observances, a special section in The Washington Post. The notion that a presidential term can be reasonably assessed in just more than three months seems a stretch, especially in light of recent history.

"But the strong public interest in all things Obama has combined with a journalistic love of anniversaries to forge a prime media marketing opportunity."

There's already a pretty clear consensus that Obama has dramatically recast the nation's foreign policy. (See, for background, my April 7 and April 16 posts.)

Steven R. Hurst writes for the Associated Press: "In just 100 days, President Barack Obama has broken the American foreign policy mold.

"He's turned the focus of the anti-terror war away from Iraq and toward Afghanistan, lifted decades-old restrictions on Cuban-Americans' visiting and sending money to their homeland, moved to reverse a slide in relations with Russia and reached out to tell Muslims worldwide that the U.S. is not their enemy. He's declared repeatedly he knows the United States isn't immune to mistakes.

"The scope, sweep and breadth of the new president's engagement abroad -- two major trips, significant policy directives -- are dizzying, and all the more so given he took office in the midst of the country's worst economic and financial crises in decades."

Hans Nichols and Indira A.R. Lakshmanan write for Bloomberg: "Barack Obama has used the first 100 days of his presidency to repudiate the go-it-alone tone of George W. Bush's foreign policy, announcing to friends and foes alike that America will lead the world by listening to it."

Of course, not everyone is impressed. Foreign Policy magazine asks "some of the best foreign-policy minds in Washington and beyond to rate the U.S. president's first 100 days in office. The result? 11 As, 16 Bs, 7 Cs, and a D."

The "D" is from Elliot Abrams, the former Bush administration official and Iran-contra conspirator. He writes: "The 'apology tours' are not the administration's worst offense, and would only merit a C. The D reflects the abandonment of brave men and women throughout the world fighting for human rights and civil liberties."

But foreign policy arguably is not the real measure of this administration.

Charles Babington writes for the Associated Press: "The economy will determine whether Barack Obama achieves what few presidents have: a far-reaching change in American politics that might even earn its own title and legacy.

"Will there be an Obama version of the New Deal, the Great Society or the Reagan Revolution?

"Afghanistan, North Korea and other foreign hot spots certainly will test Obama. But the deeply troubled economy is his signature challenge and the focus of his greatest efforts, attention and gambles in his first 100 days in office."

Amanda Ruggeri writes for U.S. News: "When he launched his campaign for president, Barack Obama could not have foreseen that the signature accomplishment of his first 100 days in office would likely involve spending $787 billion on an economic stimulus package. But the effects of that piece of legislation — one heavy with both expenditures and expectations of economic recovery — may well determine Obama's success as president. Two and a half months after its passage, it's still early to evaluate the full ramifications of the Recovery and Reinvestment Act for the economy. But there are some promising signs."

Susan Page and Mimi Hall write in USA Today that's is the next 100 days that will really be key: "Since his inauguration 14 weeks ago, Obama has thrown a remarkable number of balls into the air — committing trillions of dollars in spending and dramatically extending the reach of the federal government in the economy. He has launched rescue plans for automakers and beleaguered banks, outlined timelines to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq and send them to Afghanistan, and reversed his predecessor's policies on everything from stem-cell research to the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"Now those balls are coming down."

Arianna Huffington blogs on her Web site that "any list of the most impressive achievements of Obama's first 100 days should start with the intangible qualities of transformational leadership --- from the president's personal equanimity (which Robert Reich described as 'the serene center of the cyclone -- exuding calm when most Americans are petrified') to his masterful use of the bully pulpit." She also gives a thumbs up on the stimulus package, the national service bill and a progressive budget, among other achievements -- and a thumbs down on the bank bailout, Afghanistan and torture accountability.

Jonah Goldberg writes in his Los Angeles Times opinion column that Obama's liberal arrogance may yet fuel a conservative comeback: "American politics didn't come to an end with Obama's election, and nothing in politics breeds corrective antibodies more quickly than overreaching arrogance. And by that measure, Obama's first 100 days have been a huge down payment on the inevitable correction to come."

Meanwhile, opinion polls continue to show that Obama has great public support.

CBS News reports that "Obama's 68 percent approval rating at the 100 day mark is better than the ratings of his two immediate predecessors, George W. Bush (whose approval at this point was 56 percent) and Bill Clinton (whose approval was 49 percent). Going back to 1953, only two presidents - John F. Kennedy (83 percent) and Dwight Eisenhower (72 percent) - had a higher approval rating at this point in their terms.

"The president has the overwhelming support of Democrats, nine in ten of whom approve of the president. Just 31 percent of Republicans agree, however. The party divisions are similar to those seen under President's George W. Bush and Clinton - Mr. Bush had the support of just 35 percent of Democrats at the 100 days mark, while Mr. Clinton was backed by just 26 percent of Republicans at this point.

"Mr. Obama enjoys the approval of Americans overall on every major issue: Iraq (63 percent approval), the economy (61 percent), foreign policy (59 percent), Afghanistan (56 percent) and terrorism (55 percent). He is widely seen as a different kind of politician, one who Americans say cares about them and can unite different groups. Most say he has already made progress on critical issues and that he is tough enough to make the hard decisions required of a president."

Dalia Sussman blogs for the New York Times: "Obama entered the presidency promising a new kind of leadership in Washington, and after observing him for nearly 100 days in the White House, most Americans do say he is not your typical politician, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll."

Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Marjorie Connelly write for the New York Times: "Barack Obama's presidency seems to be altering the public perception of race relations in the United States. Two-thirds of Americans now say race relations are generally good, and the percentage of blacks who say so has doubled since last July, according to the latest New York Times/ CBS News poll."

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