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Not a Mixed Verdict

Opinion polls being released as we get closer to President Obama's 100th day in office suggest the public neither shares his critics' negative view of his tenure -- nor the balanced view that pundits tend to take on occasions like this. Indeed, the public isn't taking a balanced view at all.

The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll finds Obama's approval rating at 69 percent. Despite the extraordinarily high hopes that accompanied his inauguration, 54 percent say he is doing a better job than they expected. Almost two out of three say he has accomplished a great deal or a good amount. Over 70 percent say he is a strong leader, is honest and trustworthy, can be trusted in a crisis, and understands the problems of "people like you." Fully 90 percent credit him with being willing to listen to different points of view.

(For yet more, see my Thursday post.)

So the most compelling caveat pundits may have in their 100-day assessments is that it's early days still.

Jonathan Alter writes for Newsweek: "With the help of the economic crisis, Barack Obama has put more points on the board than any president since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933, and his public investment greatly exceeds Roosevelt's in constant dollars. The only president he falls short of is Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965. Even if you think he's wrong, Obama deserves high marks for articulating a new vision and getting Congress to act. But he still gets an 'incomplete' for the term. That's because his ethos is to do 'what works.' Problem is, we don't know yet what will."

The 100-day mark is, however, a good excuse to remind ourselves of just how much has changed.

David Jackson writes for USA Today: "In his first 100 days in office, President Obama has not hesitated to chart a different course than his predecessor, George W. Bush.

"Bush focused on the Iraq war; Obama has placed more of an emphasis on Afghanistan. Obama wants the government to have a role in reshaping the nation's health care system; Bush preferred to take smaller steps so individuals could buy private health insurance.

"Then there's personal style; the cool, African-American lawyer from Chicago, and the back-slapping white rancher from Texas.

"'It's Mars and Venus,' says Thomas Mann, senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C., think tank. 'It's hard to find a more different contrast between the presidents.'...

"Obama supporters such as Democratic political consultant Mark Mellman note the new president is merely responding to conditions that were inherited from Bush. 'Obama is solving the problems,' Mellman says. 'That's a pretty big difference.'"

Steve Holland writes for Reuters: "Far more than anything else, President Barack Obama's first 100 days have been marked by an ideological shift to traditional Democratic policies in tackling the U.S. recession....

"[H]e has set the United States on a path toward reversing eight years of the Bush administration's conservative policies."

Fareed Zakaria writes in Newsweek that "so far, any president would be envious of Obama's accomplishments.

"The real question is, why has Obama been so successful? Many commentators have focused on his calm leadership style, his deliberative methods and his tight teamwork. That's all true, but there is a larger explanation for the success so far. Obama has read the country and the political moment correctly. He understands that America in 2009 is in a very different place now. Polls say the country is more liberal than it was two decades ago."

The Atlantic is one of several publications featuring special reports on the First 100 Days.

Andrew Sullivan writes there: "My sense is that this is a subtle and auspicious start. He has built trust; he has restored a tone of responsibility; he has shown a new American face to the world; he has ended the torture program; although it may not be enough, he has done the minimum necessary to prevent a truly epochal depression; he has put science before ideology; and he has demonstrated outreach to his opponents. And he has done it with a real degree of grace and eloquence and sincerity that have rendered him more personally popular today than ever before.

"We have an adult in charge. And we have civil public reasoning back in a persuasive president. Even with the fetid and somewhat desperate attempts of the far right to bring him down so soon, he dominates the stage right now. Because Obama's game is always a long one, a hundred days seems too soon to judge. But the ground has been laid. For what? We'll find out."

David Saltonstall compiles a list for the New York Daily News of the "100 events that helped shape President Obama's first 100 days." Among them: "1. First African-American President" and "87. White House Easter eggs contain 31% less paperboard this year."

The New York Post, aided by Joe Scarborough, Glenn Beck and others, weighs in with a list of Obama's 100 mistakes in 100 days.

The Los Angeles Times asked commuters what they expected from the new president before the inauguration -- then went back and asked them how they feel now.

It's certainly been quite a wild ride. And for a lot of people, it's been full of personal meaning. So over in my White House Watchers discussion group, I'm asking: What were your personal best and worst moments of his presidency so far? No polemics, please, just stuff from the heart.

By Dan Froomkin  |  April 27, 2009; 2:20 PM ET
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Well Bush was somewhat popular 100 days in, not sure what these numbers are likely to tell us.

Obama is going to be judged on the economy. If the economy recovers he will remain popular, if it does not he will not be very popular. So really he is in his honeymoon phase.

The other big If for Obama is on security, if something happens the blame will largely fall on his shoulders.

Posted by: DCDave11 | April 27, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Not quite 100 days into his term and many many on the right have already judged him to be the worst president every, an unmitigated, disaster, a totalitarian fascist, a socialist borderline communist etc… Yet not surprisingly those very same people still say we have to wait a generation or more until we know the effects of the Bush presidency and its policies. I think putting these artificial time stamps on this, or any other administration is plain wrong. Each policy should be judged on its merits when enacted and reevaluated as it takes effect. The accumulation of the policies should then be aggregated to judge how the president is doing. At this point in his term he is still messing with the Bush era Tarp program, the Bush era torture issues, the Bush era financial meltdown etc… what of his policies have really come to fruition yet?

Posted by: m_mcmahon | April 27, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

DCDave 11. Of course he will be blamed for anything that occurs on the terrorist front. If we were attacked on January 21’st it would have been pinned 100% on him. It reminds me of something I read way back when the democrats were caving to every whim and fancy of the president and republican party. Someone was talking about opposition and mentioned that if they oppose anything the president asks for the democrats will be blamed 100% for it. The columnist pointed out that even if they acquiesced 100% to the republicans demands (and they nearly were) they still would have been blamed for any terrorist activity that occurred. So there was no point in not resisting the republicans demands. 9/11 occurred 8 months after Bush took office and, according to the right, that was not his responsibility at all, that all blame lay with Clinton and the myriad fictitious reasons (not limited to the totally fictitious notion that Washington called off a sniper who had Osama zeroed in). Yet I feel, no, I know that if a major event occurred today Obama would take 100% of the blame.

Posted by: m_mcmahon | April 27, 2009 3:03 PM | Report abuse

I have to note a truly disgusting and sleazy stunt that Obama pulled on April 24th: he blatantly broke his explicit campaign promise to recognize the Armenian Genocide.

What made that *particularly* painful was that his advisor (and long-time Genocide truth advocate) Samatha Power had recorded a pre-election video urging Armenian-Americans to support Obama because he would keep his word and recognize the Genocide. The video is getting a lot of circulation on YouTube now.

And where was Ms. Power on April 24th, while Obama was cashing in her professional reputation as casually as we mere mortals would cash in an empty soda bottle? She was giving birth.

It's understandable that she hasn't yet made a comment. But I look forward to hearing what she has to say, when she has recovered. I wonder how she can continue to work for the Obama Administration in good conscience, particularly given the utter contempt with which he has treated her word of honor and reputation.

Here's one Armenian-American Democrat who will never support Obama or the Democratic leadership again!

Posted by: PMaranci | April 27, 2009 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Wait another 12 months when the economy is still in the toiler, Pakistan demands people use its new name “The Islamic Republic of Pakistan”, interest rates are at 14% to entice people into buying Fed notes to fiancé the trillions in debt Obama has racked up in his first year, GM is still on the dole, and unemployment is 13%.

Posted by: SharpshootingPugilist | April 27, 2009 3:23 PM | Report abuse

And here's Sharpie to remind us that the true patriots hope Americans suffer for another year to validate the right's discredited ideology.

And people thought Compassionate Conservative was an oxymoron!

Posted by: BigTunaTim | April 27, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

SSP if those are the parameters that you will judge Obama by just rememeber that numbers got worse for the first three years of Reagans first term and that was without the total meltdown of the financial sector that Obama inherited. Mybe we need those 50% top tier tax rates Reagan had? Or perhaps even the 72% rates of the Eisenhower era?

Posted by: m_mcmahon | April 27, 2009 3:27 PM | Report abuse

BigTunaTim: I "hope" we dont have to ... I hope congres tells the Dear Leader to take his $600 billion cap and trade tax and cram it (for starters), I just dont think thats going to happen, and we will all get a chance to paythe price for Obama's "First of the Month" economics.

Posted by: SharpshootingPugilist | April 27, 2009 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Actually, a carbon tax is one of the best means of curbing overconsumption and promoting efficiency. It's certainly fairer than the lotteries and tobacco taxes which predate on the economic classes least able to afford them.

Obama's a politician like any other. He exaggerates claims, sidesteps earlier promises, waffles from time to time. I put aside the flatly stupid claims of "socialism" and "fascism"--made most often by those who have no idea what the terms mean, but are only playing to an audience--but the heart of his domestic agenda is to somewhat equalize the opportunity which every American has.

It seems that most Americans agree with this principle--as most of us agree that spending at this level can't continue for long. The government does need to raise more revenue, and cut down expenditures. Right now, we've got the small matter of this financial meltdown and inactive economy--and Obama is exactly right: the federal government is the only organization with the resources do do anything systemic. (I hope they do enough.)

The first 100 days have been an ambitious overture, I'll say that much at least.

Posted by: whizbang9a | April 27, 2009 4:25 PM | Report abuse

"BigTunaTim: I "hope" we dont have to ... I hope congres tells the Dear Leader to take his $600 billion cap and trade tax and cram it (for starters), I just dont think thats going to happen, and we will all get a chance to paythe price for Obama's "First of the Month" economics."

When your parameters aren't anywhere near occurring, except for Pakistan, which has been out of anyone's control since Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was executed for murder, going Islamic Republic, will you silently take a sabbatical until the sky at least looks like it is actually falling?

What none of you prosaic correspondents from the land of the lotus eaters seems to get is that, by running around screaming "Obama isn't doing what we want him to do" you call a great deal of attention to just how inept the twenty years of republican administrations beginning with Ronnie The saint actually were. When your protestations of disaster don't occur, you not only make Barack look good, you make your candidates look even worse than they actually are to the 80% of the country that isn't drinking lemonade at the Bog Rock Candy Mountain.

You can't have Democratic jobs programs without paying for them, it is true, but the Democrats are already looking for ways to pay for THEIR stimulus bill, and also TARP and the quasi Republican bill that had too many tax cuts and too few jobs dollars.

Republicans, on the other hand, told the country that Rich Republicans could have their tax cuts and it wouldn't matter that it was doubling the national debt once every Republican administration. (well, twice in Ronnie's watch, but he never could count or add convincingly.) They said that we could buy every worthless weapons system some friend of the sage Brush rebellion wanted to get filthy rich on, and not pay for them. (MX, Four Battleships at sea, a "six hundred ship navy..., Star Wars the Reagan years...) and not pay for them, or run two wars with too few troops and too many contractors and not pay for them.

Every time you go ranting about some supposed new horn on Barack's head, you only paint yourselves as unmitigated demons.

Keep up the good work, we really don't have enough Democrats in office and you are doing a GREAT job of rectifying that problem.

Posted by: ceflynline | April 27, 2009 4:59 PM | Report abuse

Let's wait and see how he handles the coming pandemic of swine flue.

Posted by: ruinedbruin | April 27, 2009 5:48 PM | Report abuse

"Let's wait and see how he handles the coming pandemic of swine flue.Posted by: ruinedbruin"

In that he appointed the heads of the National Institutes of Health, the CDC, etc, and they seem to be well on top of the problem, doing about as much as can be done and prepping for the worst, unlike George who under like circumstances would have gone on vacation till it all blew over, Given your current test, he is passing with a full 4.0.

No Drama. Obama.

Posted by: ceflynline | April 27, 2009 9:37 PM | Report abuse

The GOP has yet to come up with a way to successfully pin a "weak" label on Obama. Perchance it's because he is so clearly not. As with most GOP spin, they prefer marketing over substance. Seems they may be meeting their match. And not handling particularly well.

Posted by: Rael | April 28, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Really, taking on Obama's calm and reasonable policy-making with their negative hysteria and venal ideology is a no-win situation for the Republicans.

Posted by: shaman7214 | April 28, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

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