President Barack Obama’s first 100 days have been impressive, but compared to what?
Let’s suppose that in one of the presidential debates leading up to the 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore, one of the more benevolent journalists on the panel, perhaps sensing the affable Dubya’s brainpan was a couple of quarts low, threw out the kind of softball you might pitch to a third-grader on the short bus.
“Mr. Bush, do you believe in science?”
Imagine Bush stammering as the pitted and brittle gears inside his skull grind to a halt, and a worried-looking Karl Rove emerges from behind the curtain to pull the ring at the back of Bush’s neck, which turns out not to be a pull string enabling Bush to speak, but a dipstick. There’s the sound of metal on metal as Rove whips out the dipstick, wipes it with a white hanky that comes off clean, and shrugs.
Can there be any doubt that the eight long years of torment the nation and the world subsequently endured would have been postponed indefinitely, right there on the spot? After all, “doesn’t believe in science” isn’t high on the list of traits most voters consider when selecting the leader of the most advanced technological society the world has ever known.
Which brings us to the deeply misguided project of judging President Barack Obama’s first 100 days in office.
To whom are we to compare Mr. Obama? George W. Bush has set the bar so low, not even snakes can slither under it. The new president could rub dog excrement over his entire body and still come out smelling like a rose in any head-to-head comparison with Bush. Has any president in U.S. history had a less memorable first 100 days than George II?
It’s just not fair. Obama waves his magic wand, and presto change-o, stem-cell research is legal, giving hope to millions of patients with spinal-cord injuries and other maladies that cures will soon be on the way. You say people are starving because the United States doesn’t provide aid to countries that permit abortion? Presto change-o! We do now.
Nowhere has Obama had an easier go than foreign relations. The Bush administration actively sought to overthrow Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez; Obama shook the socialist leader’s hand, who in turn gave the president a book. Canada, Europe and Asia love Obama, and even Cuba is in play. Everywhere the new president goes, he’s greeted by delirious, shellshocked munchkins singing, “Ding-dong, the witch is dead.”
Therein lies the trouble. No president in our lifetime has ever been dealt a deck worse than Obama’s. The global economy is in tatters, with no recovery in sight. The war in the Middle East, which Obama pledged to end, is on the verge of expanding from Iraq and Afghanistan into Pakistan. Then there’s the matter of those torture memos. It’s going to take much more than a few symbolic measures and feigned bipartisanship to solve all of these issues.
In that light, it’s best to view Obama’s first 100 days as a well-deserved honeymoon. That honeymoon is now over, and it’s time for Obama’s supporters, myself included, to put the president’s feet to the fire. Anyone who is even remotely aware of the daunting prospects facing all of us, particularly the economic downturn, understands that radical, unorthodox, never-before-tried measures will be necessary. Like Franklin D. Roosevelt, Obama is bound to face stiff opposition to such policies; the future of the country and the world lies in the balance.
Despite the high stakes, there are reasons to remain optimistic. For that we can thank George W., Dick Cheney and Karl Rove, who have successfully destroyed the Republican Party beyond any hope of repair. Remarkably, the Republican response to Obama so far has been to lower the bar even further via certified cretins such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Newt Gingrich. They rounded up every backwoods racist they could find for their recent April 15 “Tea Party,” which fizzled out like a flat can of soda.
The Republicans’ latest brainstorm? Brand Obama and the Democrats as “socialists.” I guess that makes Republicans the “anti-socialists.” Interestingly, that also refers to a serious psychiatric condition, anti-social personality disorder, that has no known cure. As the economic downturn plunges the world into darkness and each of us becomes more dependent on the other, it’s hard to imagine this strategy going anywhere but the way of the Titanic.
Looks like former Republican Sen. Arlen Specter jumped ship just in time.