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Enough With This ‘100 Days’ Nonsense

Posted on Apr 28, 2009
White House / Pete Souza

By Stanley Kutler

Since Barack Obama’s inauguration on Jan. 20, the media have cast their reporting under the catchy title of “The First 100 Days.” CNN has designated April 29 as “Report Card Day” for the Obama administration. Even the traditionally staid New York Times has succumbed to the breezy—and terribly inappropriate—comparison to the beginning of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first term, in 1933. Congressional Republicans reportedly are combing Amity Shlaes’ anti-Roosevelt account of the Great Depression, “The Forgotten Man,” to find how Roosevelt “demonized” Wall Street and big business in that period. Finally, not to be outdone, The New Yorker will convene a “summit” for “The Next 100 Days.”

The notion of 100 days to measure any new president is meaningless, a contrived metric for evaluating Obama or anyone else. It is true that FDR’s first 100 days witnessed an almost unprecedented flurry of legislation that began to fundamentally alter the old order. Congress vigorously responded to the president’s call for “bold, persistent experimentation.” Legislation provided relief measures that involved the government as both provider of a “dole” and the “employer of last resort.” Recovery measures took first, sometimes stumbling steps to stimulate the economy. Reform measures such as the Glass-Steagall Act divorced investment banks from commercial banking, and Congress initiated a veritable alphabet soup of agencies to administer the new programs.

But “the first 100 days” hardly captures the history of the New Deal, and certainly isn’t a report card of its achievements. The following years produced landmark legislation that transformed commercial farming, labor-management relations, securities and commodities transactions, and, of course, the Social Security Act, which brought the still-enduring monument of insuring old-age pensions.

Roosevelt’s first 100 days occurred at another time, another place. The Great Depression dramatically gained momentum, spreading to all segments of the country, with one in four workers unemployed and the nation’s banking system teetered on the verge of collapse. Even conservative Republicans knew they could not support Herbert Hoover’s unsuccessful methods.

The New Deal measures did not spring full-blown from FDR’s inauguration and the opening of a new Congress. Reform ideas had been in the air throughout the previous decade—unlike, say, the 1990s—and, most strikingly, they were not partisan, unlike now. In the 1930s, progressive Republicans in Congress, still responsive to the party’s Theodore Roosevelt legacy, regularly supported the administration’s efforts. Sens. Robert La Follette Jr., George W. Norris and Bronson Cutting, among other Republicans, readily voted for the president’s initiatives. Many of the measures had been proposed and debated for years. Since the mid-1920s, Norris had led the fight to convert Muscle Shoals, a federally owned dam in Alabama, into a means of cheap power and flood control for the Tennessee Valley. Congress had considered relief legislation and insuring bank deposits since 1931. Not surprisingly, FDR at first opposed the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. measure, apparently because he saw it as too radical, but when he realized how popular it was across the political spectrum he came around (Patrick Maney, “The Legend of FDR’s First 100 Days in Office”).

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Perhaps all this talk of 100 days is meant to establish a deadline for the current mode of criticism. Perhaps after April 29, CNN will bring back Pat Buchanan, Robert Novak and Glenn Beck and give them carte blanche to mug the president. Were the sights and sounds of “Tea Cup Day,” with slogans worthy of a neighborhood barroom brawl, a portent of what will come?

In breathless tones, CNN urges us to watch the unfolding of Barack Obama’s “Report Card” on April 29. What grades will he receive? Certainly the president has leapfrogged over his predecessor in the image he has projected abroad. But two trips, handshake with Hugo Chavez and all, give us only a symbolic snapshot for now. What counts is whether and how he will re-regulate banking and financial operations, restructure the auto industry, stimulate job growth, truly close Guantanamo and determine the lawful status of detainees, improve relations with Cuba, Iran and Venezuela, implement an exit strategy for Iraq and Afghanistan, and redirect and revitalize such institutions as the Pentagon and the CIA.

Obviously, the president can receive only an “incomplete” at the moment. It is the only fair and intelligent grade, despite media hoopla surrounding the first 100 days. The past three months hardly constitute a legacy, just as FDR’s early days are not any measure of his legacy. We judge Roosevelt by his achievements over 12 years, not a mere, fleeting 100 days. For now, we can watch, with hope and a critical eye, the remaining 1,360 days of Obama’s term, if not beyond.

Stanley Kutler is the author of the “Wars of Watergate” and other writings.



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By Frank Goodman, Sr., May 1, 2009 at 7:22 pm Link to this comment

That Obama could make an error in his judgment is less frightening than the general quality of the American public that will judge him. It frightens me that it took 8 years for Americans to come to the conclusion that George W. Bush was dangerous to American progress and protection.

But that is politics. Most is trivial pursuit, and jockeying for votes. That we have come thus far with the progress we have made is nothing short of miraculous. Thus, it must be the will of God. Can we modify the statement that God looks after children and idiots? God looks after some children, most idiots and America the Beautiful.

We survived George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, and George W. Bush. Now, how about Barack Obama the barbarian? Doesn’t it bother you that we have never had a Slavic, Hispanic, or Asian president? What about a native American? A women of any stripe, or a Jew, Muslim, or Buddhist.

Roosevelt was a physical cripple, Bush is a mental cripple, others were blind, deaf and dumb. Truman never went to college, and William Howard Taft became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Obama represents the best we can offer and is the worst angel that ever flew out of the imagination of political America.

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By KDelphi, May 1, 2009 at 5:29 pm Link to this comment

Leefeller—Sorry. Didnt get that you were joking.

I am just SO tired of hearing about Pres. Obama personal traits vs what he is doing and/or going to do! I dont give a damn if he is good looking or nice! He is NOT my “friend”...you know??? I think that it is wierd to hear the president referred to as “poised” and “confident”, rather than focusing on his accomplishments or lack thereof.

Miss California (and Miss Anywhere) are pieces of meat. You know that Palin got Miss Congeniality, right?

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By Leefeller, May 1, 2009 at 5:20 pm Link to this comment

It is just that I find the Miss California thing very funny. Today they made a big deal about her Brest implants, telling all they were paid for by the pageant?  Apologize for my lame teasing.

Seems we actually agree in concept, just not degree with Obama.

Today I was listing to a radio program talking about Corporatism and how it how corporations have no regard to integrity and refuse accountability to people. Exonn and the Alaska oil spill for reference. If this is accurate, we feel politicians are for sale to the highest bidder and this of course eliminates you or I.

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By KDelphi, May 1, 2009 at 3:24 pm Link to this comment

Leefeller—the word was “POISE”! It certainly is an odd term to use im describing a president, but, the Left keep using it. As in “Obama is calm and poised…articulate…” blah, blah, blah. Yeah, so what. Better than Bush. Yes ,. So what. Poise is a term most often used in modeling or beauty pageants…

Yes, I know about Miss California…that was the point.Other than that, I cant really figure out what you are talking about…I am NOT a right wing supporter, ok? Palin can go piss up a rope.

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By Leefeller, April 30, 2009 at 10:16 pm Link to this comment

Kdelphi,

“Pose is for Mrs California”?  Why California?  She has sided up with, (Marriage is not for Gays you don’t)
crowd, if one was to use pose maybe Bow the dog would be a better choice for pose? Octomom was back today, she was posing. Anyone besides Miss California. How about this, Pose is for Rudy Giuliani in drag! If you prefer a women of renounced integrity, how about pose is for Michele Bachmann?

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By Folktruther, April 30, 2009 at 8:35 pm Link to this comment

Good one, KDelpi, poise is for Ms California.

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By KDelphi, April 30, 2009 at 11:36 am Link to this comment

Leefeller—Yes, but why?? I will never give up on the idea that the people can DO BETTER! We just have to! This is not working! It is a moral imperative, not a choice…

Pres. Obama is smart—so is every person who worked in DC—truly. HOw could they get there if they were not?

If you think Bush is so stupid, how come he got everything he asked for and retired rich as hell? He is not the one with the empty 401k…these guys are all smart, but, ...do they have a HEART?!

Obama is smart, Obamas is smart—stf what…he isnt doing anything, and, with Geithner and Summers and Gates and Bush/Clinton crew on board, he isnt likely to…People are dying…I thought that you guys wanted “change”. not milquetoast…
...and the ‘Merkins SETTLE , once again, having had their expectations drastically lowered by the loathsome Bush and Clinton families…all it took was a pretty face and , what do they keep calling it—POISE? Poise is for Miss California…

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By Caryl S. Foster, April 30, 2009 at 10:59 am Link to this comment

What refreshing winds of change to know that our President is articulate, intelligent, well-versed on a myriad of complex issues, has a depth of understanding that these critical issues are inter-related and is unafraid to seek, conceptualize and implement new ideas and strategies to deal with them collectively based on his stated future vision of America which the majority of Americans have embraced as evidenced by his election mandate and ongoing support.

The Repudiated Republican Party of No eat your heart out for you have no one within your ranks who can come close to let alone match the overall and in particular the political brilliance of Barack Obama.

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By Leefeller, April 30, 2009 at 10:22 am Link to this comment

Kdelphi,

The half glass is my analogy and perspective towards politics. Obama never seemed other than what he is, I only voted for him because the competition seemed even worse.  Obama’s flight from super dove to super warhawk after Hillery lost, was the hand writing on the wall for me, though without that move he may not have won? 

If one looks at the last president and his attitude of strong willed hard headed righteousness and the divisiveness it perpetuated, to have Obama use the same techniques on the opposite side of the road, do you believe would win support of friends and influence people? 

Over all, if Obama even does one thing of which I feel Politically signifigant for the people, I will be both happy and surprised. Seems I have set the bar much lower than you?

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By KDelphi, April 30, 2009 at 9:47 am Link to this comment

Leefeller—It wouldnt happen if the glass wasnt half full…the “actions” that Pres. obama has taken, are, lame at best. I agree with his closing GITMO, “leaving Iraq”(WE had to anyway), and, well, thats about it. When are those things going to start happening anyway. The UK left yesterday)I want him to regulate the banking industry, the credit cards , not pass PAFTA, do true heatlh care reform..

I think you know what progresives (dont know a better word) really want out of an Administration. Most wont be happy until he becomes more progressive. For some reason, people were under the impresion that he was progresive.

I never was. But, he is alot more conservative than I even expected.  I still have a right to expect better than, say, this milque toast credit card bill that I hear in the background…he wants a credit card bill, he talks to the bankers, (same for more TARp $)he wants “health insruace reform”, he talks to the insurance industry. If everything is on the table, then why were supporters of single payer given such short shrift? Where were Consumers Unions and such not at the bank meeting? How is this different than Bush meeting with oil industry executives, if Pres Obama meets with the banking executives to make our economic plan? He hires Wall St ...sounds familiar to me…

Many feel that, if the Administarion doesnt head in the right direction , during the honeymoon period, trying to move in those directsin later will be useless…that is all it means.

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By Animadverto, April 30, 2009 at 8:58 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I found the 100 day love fest orgy revolting.  I had to turn off the TV.  Admittedly, the love fest orgy was a great distraction from real news and a propaganda primer to follow the messiah into the bowels of hell when it really hits the fan.

In the meantime, Chrysler has filed for bankruptcy, GDP declined 6.1%, unemployment surged another 630,000…And the stock market loves it, up over 300 points in the past two days.

What is wrong with this picture?

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By Leefeller, April 29, 2009 at 3:20 pm Link to this comment

Like I stated, if a person did not like Obmama, on day one, why day 100? Seems every day is the same, just more to complain about, every time he does something.  Looking at the 1/2 empty glass everyday must get old.

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By BruSays, April 29, 2009 at 2:38 pm Link to this comment

Quick - Go back and analyze George Walker Bush’s first “100 Days” in office. If, from those first 100 days, you had predicted the beginning of what would prove to be one of the most disastrous presidencies in U.S. history, you’d be branded a fool.

Once again, this “First 100 Days” is news hype. Like sheep we’re falling all over each other to analyze to death an item dropped on our plate, instead of analyzing the motive of those who put it there.

People…this is non-news. It’s fluff. It’s irrelevant. Anyone projecting Obama’s accomplishments over a 4-year term based on 100 days is a fool.

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By LeftTexas, April 29, 2009 at 10:58 am Link to this comment

Exactly right.

They want the focus off of the lie to go to war, torture to fan the flames sitting in our living room like a big steaming pile of crap.

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By Frank Goodman, Sr., April 29, 2009 at 9:14 am Link to this comment

I disagree with most comments here that the first 100 days is meaningless. The first day was and the second, etc. A president sets a tone and an agenda. He does not go out with ax and shovel to dig the holes and chop the trees.

If the president organizes his White House machine to generate policy and motivate change to correct what is wrong, he can set the tone for his administration. Necessarily, the first days are the hardest before the oil has reached all parts of the machine. There are squeaks, groans, and clanks. See Charley Chaplin in “Modern Times.”

Timing, emphasis, and direction are more important than which bathroom to use when more than one person has an urge.

Then there is the politics to deal with. Every Tom, Dick, and Hillary has to be heard. The White House is lonely, but he is not alone. He is the one to say yea or nay in the unitary decision of the executive suite. One hundred senators with each 100 days, should be able to accomplish as much as 10,000 presidents if that were the criterion. It comes down to at least one senator in the pivotal seat to carry a vote. But, one senator can’t do it alone. One president can.

Now let us get away from the trivial pursuit and get back to judging the results thus far in the Obama administration. I DO NOT GIVE A DAMN IF CNN USES 100 DAYS OR 101 DAYS. Just get to the vital issues facing this country.

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By Louise, April 29, 2009 at 8:39 am Link to this comment

“The notion of 100 days to measure any new president is meaningless, a contrived metric for evaluating Obama or anyone else.”

~~~

Precisely! And that is exactly why CNN and others (no-one in mainstreammedia should be spared here) have made it the most important item on todays news agenda! The words “meaningless and contrived” exactly define the general thrust of the endless hours of “news” manufacturing that goes on 24/7 behind the doors of the corporate driven providers of same.

But there is an even more “important” defining motive here.

Mainstreammedia, like most politicians, (particularly the “conservative” type) has figured out that most Americans CAN NOT REMEMBER ANYTHING for more than one hundred days!

If they stop short of one hundred the public will be confused. If they go beyond one hundred the public wont remember. So reality (or not) has to be chopped up in easily remembered time slots, so the public can pay attention. Well at least for a hundred days.

But then maybe that’s even to long!

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By tomack, April 29, 2009 at 7:58 am Link to this comment

Let’s see, 100 days. If he worked 10 hours a day, including weekends, that’s 1000 hours. Minus meals, bathroom time, and the various traveling (walking, driving, flying) that leaves about 800 hours.

In 800 hours approx. 33 cars can be built, one modest house, and a mile of road.

My god! “They’re” right; he should have saved the world by now, stopped hunger and disease, and fixed that pesky economy.

And you know what else, I still haven’t got that second chicken in my pot.

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By Paul_GA, April 29, 2009 at 7:52 am Link to this comment

“New package, same garbage.”

And that, RdV, is why I consider the two big parties to be part of the problem, not part of the solution.

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By RdV, April 29, 2009 at 7:06 am Link to this comment

“Though he seems to be attempting to sweep responsibility for Bush torture and abuse of power under the rug, he must deal with a tanking economy, 2 wars, the byproducts of 8 years of plutocracy, a polarized country, failed foreign relations, a bloated service economy w/o manufacturing (only 11% of economy), giant deficit, giant trade deficit—is that enough Bush excrement?”

  Doncha just love it! ocjim acknowledges that Pres O is sweeping torture under the rug and then whines that he has too much to do to deal with it. Hey, he is accelerating the financial crisis with his appointees—he hopes to avoid actually doing anything—rather hopes to prop up SOP, he is escalating wars, his health plan will be the next corporate give-away Wall St bubble much like they hoped to mine SS for, he is a whore to coal, he will provide lip service re I/P but like Bush won’t do shit and will do his best to gut any reform.
  Soon the new bright shiny penny will start to tarnish. New package, same garbage.

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By KDelphi, April 28, 2009 at 9:28 pm Link to this comment

Ok, well, will you guys let us know when we can start judging him by his accomplishments instead of his looks? I dont expect miracles, but, moving in the right direction is usually a good course of action. Picking your own team, of “change agents” would help. If you want to clean up Bush’s mess, get rid of Bush’s messes!

Anybody who is paying any attention to CNNs “100 days” crap, will just swallow more of it. I heard about 5 min of it—that was enough.

Lets make it his first 1459 days….or double it. Or whatever. Samo/samo.

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By Leefeller, April 28, 2009 at 6:34 pm Link to this comment

When I trap a skunk, it takes more than a 100 days to keep him from spraying you.

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By BruSays, April 28, 2009 at 1:56 pm Link to this comment

I think “felicity” comes close with the comment regarding the media: “They’re all trivial theater all the time displaying a constant fascination with and love of anything dystopian.”  Precisely.

This is NOT a story about Obama. This is a story about Corporate Media.

Any sane person would understand that no president, especially one handed the offal (well-put OCJim) slopped on the White House’s doorstep by Bush, can be graded in any meaningful way so early in the first term.

This is about Corporate Media’s craving for a story - any story - that can allow them to chop up, box up, label and serve an easy-to-feed sound-bite to the “Entertainment Hungry” masses. “One Hundred Days!” It has a nice ring to it. It’s finite. It’s a yardstick. It’s “Kennedy-esque.” Whatever.

But it ISN’T responsible reporting. One hundred days is hardly enough time to return judgement on a toaster, let alone a president.

It’s all about the dumbing down of the news they feed us - making it smell good and taste good so that we’ll come back for more. Never mind that it’s all empty calories…Non-News. What’s important is that it sells, that it makes us watch and listen and buy the products advertised. It’s about market share, demographics, market penetration, buying patterns.

People: We’re being served crap and we’re eating it all up.

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By Frank Goodman, Sr., April 28, 2009 at 1:42 pm Link to this comment

I remember the first 100 of JFK. He could not move his agenda due to the opposition in the Congress. Only after LBJ came on after the assassination did any civil rights legislation and medicare get passed. Then it passed more as a tribute to JFK and the political turmoil of the time. I would hate for anyone to jump to any conclusions about GWB in his first 100 days. It was in the next 1360 days that GWB did the damage. Calvin Cooledge did nothing for his first 1461 days. Hoover tried, but failed to get anything done. Roosevelt did what Hoover failed to do. I don’t remember Cooledge, but I do remember Hoover and the Hoover Commission to improve government during the Democratic regimes. (Herbert, not JE) Truman took personal responsibility for everything that went right or wrong. Blame him for the mess in Palestine. The last openly anti-Semitic President who recognized Israel before his rival Thomas Dewey could get out of bed. It got Truman elected to his own term and began over 60 years of heartache for the Middle East.

The first 100 days does count at least as much as any 100 day interval. Let us judge Obama on his effort, his program, and on his achievements. To hell with journalistic pundits and bar room politicians.

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By tropicgirl, April 28, 2009 at 12:58 pm Link to this comment

Impeach Obama 2012! Torturer in Chief.

And Michelle, we want all those clothes back.

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By ocjim, April 28, 2009 at 12:46 pm Link to this comment

Rdv,

“President Obama is doing what we expected him to do: clean up the offal left by an irresponsible, even criminal, Bush crew.”

Your comments:
No he isn’t. This is wishful thinking. If anything, he would like to brush it all under the carpet like it was no big deal.

Your comments are a sweeping generalization. Though he seems to be attempting to sweep responsibility for Bush torture and abuse of power under the rug, he must deal with a tanking economy, 2 wars, the byproducts of 8 years of plutocracy, a polarized country, failed foreign relations, a bloated service economy w/o manufacturing (only 11% of economy), giant deficit, giant trade deficit—is that enough Bush excrement?

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By felicity, April 28, 2009 at 11:39 am Link to this comment

Media typically jump from event to event, crisis to crisis with very little or nothing in between.  Their coverage of anything is brutish and shallow.  They’re all trivial theater all the time displaying a constant fascination with and love of anything dystopian.

The “first 100 days” is merely more of the same.

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By RdV, April 28, 2009 at 11:31 am Link to this comment

“President Obama is doing what we expected him to do: clean up the offal left by an irresponsible, even criminal, Bush crew.”

No he isn’t. This is wishful thinking. If anything, he would like to brush it all under the carpet like it was no big deal.

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By BlueEagle, April 28, 2009 at 11:16 am Link to this comment

I wonder how long it will take before the “Impeach Obama” bumper stickers come out.

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By Leefeller, April 28, 2009 at 11:07 am Link to this comment

If one does not like the policies or the man in office, one day would seem to long. Complaining starts the first day and must persist.  Over all, in the selection of leaders, eight years makes more sense.  Bush’s buggering with the help of congress fine tuned buggering to an art in eight years. 

If I did not like Obama I would be looking at attending one of the tea bag rebellions,  waving teabags in two handed anger anger. Are the tea bags used?

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By Folktruther, April 28, 2009 at 10:41 am Link to this comment

A president has his most power when he assumes office and everyone is waiting for him to sponosr legislation to meet the problems of the time.  Obama has met the problems left by the Bushites with rhetoric, marginal effects, and more Bushite policies.

So the Obama cheerleaders don’t wnnt him judged on this basis.  Why a hundred days? why not a thousand, or a million.  Or simply not judge his policies at all and listen to his nice words and look at his nice smile on tv.  So say the Obama cheerleaders, waving their political pompoms. Give us an O…give us a B…....

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By Sue Cook, April 28, 2009 at 10:27 am Link to this comment

AMEN!
Finally, somebody writing some common sense about the Obama 100 day debacle.
Enough already, this guy don’t walk on water. (only on Lake CNN.)
I give Obama an “A+” for teleprompter experience.
An “A” on moving on agendas quickly. (but not completing.)
An “A” on not fessing up when he or his administration makes mistakes.
Another “A” on most television pressers. (another one tomorrow night. ...yawn.)
All in all, like the author of this post suggests, an “I” for Incomplete at this time fits the bill.
Time will tell and we shall see describes the first 100 day tale the best.

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By ocjim, April 28, 2009 at 9:46 am Link to this comment

The relevance of the first 100 days lays with the obstructionist opposition.

President Obama is doing what we expected him to do: clean up the offal left by an irresponsible, even criminal, Bush crew.

The opposition, however, continues the “wasteland” policies of BushCo. But while Bush poisoned every vital life-sign of America, the feckless Republicans now want to destroy all attempts to clean up their mess.

That is the current point of the first 100 days: to give voters the evidence they need that the Republicans are death to our system and thus should be voted out.

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By Frank Goodman, Sr., April 28, 2009 at 6:59 am Link to this comment

More. Any sample test necessarily takes an aliquant sample and extrapolates results or estimates significance. No test intended to generalize from the sample could be a sample of the entirety. After the Obama presidency, all else is history. At this time, each day is a sample and a hundred days has become the standard sample for comparisons. So long as Obama lives, his life up to the present is only a sample. Consider the significance with the coefficient of variation to adjust for errors.

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By Paul_GA, April 28, 2009 at 6:56 am Link to this comment

You can’t really judge a president by his first 100 days, but I’d have to give Mr. Obama a B- for effort and a D+ for achievement. Fact is, the poor man just has too much on his plate—as does America, of course.

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By Frank Goodman, Sr., April 28, 2009 at 6:44 am Link to this comment

Why ridicule a digital divide of an analog event? Would you ridicule a yard stick? How about a meter stick? A mile? Give an inch, take a mile? What is time anyway? We naturally divide analog time into days, hours, minutes, seconds and fractions of seconds. We assign extensions of time as weeks, months, and years. A hundred days is just that: an arbitrary number of days to establish a measure for purposes of comparison of past performance and to use in future comparisons.

It is ridiculous to ridicule the minuscule.

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By RdV, April 28, 2009 at 6:34 am Link to this comment

This article reads like justification for same old same old Obama and that is definitely a grade lower than “incomplete”.

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By Joe, April 28, 2009 at 6:06 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The democrats did kind of campaign on the 100 days nonsense.

Pelosi was nonstop with it

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By everynobody, April 28, 2009 at 4:28 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

100 days? 1000 days? So what?
We’ve become the actors straight out of the book Fahrenheit 451; where our days are spent around interactive television, aka, the internet.
America is a nation of fools who live from post to post and comment to comment; as though said comments carry some actual meaning, some weight in the day to day world that has been taken completely out of their control. We play the game naively and believe the other commentors are our community and accept the shallow fantasy as real relationship with people we don’t know and have never met. We even believe we write our own scripts, how utterly strange, how utterly absurd!

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