Wednesday, April 29, 2009

One Hundred Days

The absurd “First One Hundred Day” ritual is underway: in the spirit of mindless, artificial milestones, here are a few comments.

1. We have a highly intelligent, gifted, African American president. We have an articulate, thoughtful, internationally respected president. We have a president aware of the complexities of the economy, of geo-politics, of the environment. We have an open-minded president, not spewing ideology for its own sake. We are very fortunate, in this period, to have Barack Obama as the president of the United States.

2. President Obama has an impossibly difficult set of problems to deal with. Events and issues are coming at him so fast and from so many directions that it is inevitable that he will do some lurching and make some major mistakes.

3. Obama has committed much to saving the financial institutions that have been so irresponsible and damaging. This has been his biggest and most risky decision. He has decided, at the expense of much political capital with his base, and with absolutely no Republican support, that the consequence of letting the major banks fail is not acceptable. This is a courageous decision, clearly based on what he sees as best for the country. It would be much easier to rail against the greedy Wall Street thieves, let the banks collapse under their own weight, and just pick up the pieces of the collapsed banking and investing system. He has decided to try to prevent that, and we shall see if he made the right call.

4. By releasing the torture memo's he has opened up a Pandora’s box, one that needed to be opened, but one that he cannot control. I am not of the belief that this is bad for him. The conversation about torture needs to happen. There are many military and intelligence experts, who decry torture as immoral and ineffective. To hear Newt Gingrich and his allies defend torture after spending a generation making the argument that what separated us from the Soviets and the Maoists was our decency, our rule of law, our constitutional protections, is very telling. It does appear that Cheney decided to use torture to get someone to link 9/11 to Iraq. This is criminal behavior. If this is true, it ranks with the great crimes committed by any administration. We need to continue to discuss and investigate this. It may be a hot seat for the President, but he can take it.

5. Obama is serious about passing health care reform. I think he will do it, hopefully in an effective way. The Arlen Specter surprise certainly helps. He does not seem to fear a broad, complicated and ambitious agenda.

6. On foreign policy, he has an enlightened, internationalist perspective. He understands that the United States cannot dictate to the world how to live, and that we actually have limited military and diplomatic capacity. The railing against his handshake with Chavez and his so called bowing to the Saudi king by Hannity and company is a laughable critique. But he is president in a very dangerous world, and Al Queda is not going to stop its program of violence for him. Iraq is not going to be pacified easily. Afghanistan and Pakistan are dangerous and difficult problems. Israel is moving far to the right. Obama understands the nature of these problems and has as good a chance of making progress as we could hope for. But there is every chance that any of the hot spots, or some unforeseen situation will create enormous and messy challenges for him.

7. President Obama will face an increasingly desperate right wing attack machine. Creating false expectations for him, and then accusing him of not meeting them will be the rights main strategy. It is important to set realistic expectations for his presidency. He is not going to bring peace and prosperity by the force of his personality. He will need effective assistance from skilled policy makers. And there may be structural problems that are beyond fixing. The journey of his presidency is just beginning. If he ends up completing two terms, I have not doubt that he will be one of the most influential presidents in our history.

1 comment:

  1. Ez: Let the record show I am a loyal, devoted Conservative. I have been touched by your thoughtful and insightful analysis. I am impressed by what I feel is a sense of fairness that I find missing in most of the commentaries that come to my attention. - Howard Germain (



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