While it’s my belief that “the first 100 days” is a quite artificial benchmark that’s been exhaustively overstated, especially these last few weeks, and while I also know this post technically comes on the 101st day, I thought I might join the crowd and give a few of my own thoughts on the first 100 days of the Obama Presidency.
President Obama obviously deserves credit for not blowing up the country. I say this only half-tongue-in-cheek, as no matter what your politics, running a byzantine administration without having it all fall apart in tatters is no small feat. And I give kudos to the President for allowing the Navy and its SEALs to do what they do best during the Maersk Alabama crisis.
That being said, there has been little hope to inspire me with much confidence during Act One, Scene One of the Obama Presidency. The Cabinet selections have already become a punchline, and several departments have yet to be staffed. The key piece of legislation during this period, the economic stimulus package, while blessed by Obama, wasn’t penned by him. But by far the main concern is the unsustainable growth in government, evidenced by the recklessly irresponsible spending in both the unneeded stimulus package and the bloated deficit-ridden 2010 budget.
The fact is that we as a nation simply don’t have the kind of money Obama wants to throw around, and we can’t get it without borrowing it or printing it or drastically raising taxes, all three of which are distastefully unnecessary solutions to a problem of Obama’s making. And after seeing the Congressional Budget Office’s dismal projections of future debt, I’m not hearing any arguments to the contrary other than, “Eh, it won’t be that bad.” Coupled with Obama’s laughable promises of fiscal responsibility and opposition to earmarks, promises which have already been swept under the rug, we are beginning to see a governing philosophy that government is the cure for all of society’s problems, a view which I fundamentally reject.
On the world stage, I am likewise troubled by Obama’s call for unilateral nuclear disarmament, a statement made at virtually the same time North Korea test-launched a missile over Japan. Iran continues to press forward with its nuclear program, growing ever closer to its goal of nuclear weapons, and Obama continues to seemingly do nothing but call for more dialogue while alienating Israel. The G20 summit accomplished very little, and after Obama received none of his requests, it seems to me that the world community may like Obama, but don’t necessarily respect him – a key difference.
The protocol gaffes, such as the beastly gifts to Gordon Brown and Queen Elizabeth, and the bow to the Saudi king, I am willing to chalk up to inexperience (though the ridiculous denial of the bow in the face of video and pictures demonstrates an almost pig-headed arrogance). But the passivity in the face of an anti-American tirade by Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, and the almost chummy outreach to Hugo Chavez and the Castro brothers, illustrate a naivete and a man with his international priorities upside down. Together with the closing of Guantanamo Bay and the release of CIA interrogation techniques, it all mixes to fail to make our nation fundamentally safer.
But more than anything else, I am troubled and disappointed to see that Obama has already, it seems, turned off any hope of dialogue with Republicans and conservatives. I can think of no time in the last few months when Obama genuinely reached out across the aisle, or at least tried to cause the least damage. Instead, the “I won” mentality has taken root, as Republicans were basically shut out of the stimulus and budget drafting processes, and the President and his supporters dismiss any reasoned criticism and valid concerns as partisan harping by rednecks and Fox News. I would warn the President that he further alienates the 48% of Americans who did not vote for him (along with some independents and others who did) to his own political peril.
The President celebrated his first 100 days with a press conference that felt more like a cocktail party with all the softball questions you might expect. All of the superlatives being tossed around – the most accomplished 100 days ever, the new JFK, the new FDR, etc. – are all largely juvenile attempts at hopelessly misguided self-reassurance that the President’s supporters picked a superhuman savior to rescue us from ourselves. Karl at Patterico’s site dissects and repudiates a lot of the spin and reminds us that day 101 is the beginning of the rest of the story. As the next chapters unfold and write themselves, we can only voice our own opinions and do our own work to make America better. Sometimes we’ll do that with the President, and sometimes in spite of the actions he takes. Either way, it’s only the end of the beginning, and we’ve got a while left on this ride.