President Obama has been in office 100 days and apparently that means
that we get to evaluate him. I
don’t know when this time frame was established but 100 days doesn’t even equal
a semester so it seems pretty early to be giving “report cards.” However, why not weigh in on how it is
going? I should say that at
Princeton, where I serve as Associate Dean of Religious Life we have instituted
policies to combat grade inflation, so President Obama shouldn’t
expect “A” s across the board.
Cabinet and Advisors: B
For all the talk about how carefully people were going to be
vetted, President Obama had a hard time.
There was a pattern of nominating people and then having them bow out,
either for corruption reasons – Bill Richardson and Tom Daschle; or political
ones – Judd Gregg. Tim
Geitner and Larry Summers still seem like weak choices. Even though it is clear that both
are intelligent men, they have not been convincing as public figures and that
is part of what that job requires right now. On the other had, Steven Chu (energy), Hilary Clinton
(state) and Robert Gates (defense) were inspired choices; as is Kathleen Sebellius
(HHS) once the republican silliness dies down.
Economic Recovery: B
This inherited mess is still the major issue facing our
country and it is hard to say what effect Obama’s efforts will have. The stimulus package, according
to almost every serious economist, was the way to go. As a layperson when it comes to the economy it is hard
to compare the talk of a strengthening market with the rising unemployment. Let’s hope that money gets used to put
as many people to work as possible.
While the republicans put
on a show of tea bagging for tax day, I am not sure their efforts resonated
with those many more people who are hoping that the stimulus package can help
them get or keep a job so they can pay taxes to begin with. It is surprising and telling the amount
of Americans who now approve of socialism.
Foreign Policy: A-
It is very nice to again see huge crowds gathering to cheer
not protest when our president visits a foreign country. He is enormously popular abroad,
including in countries which are traditionally viewed as our enemies. He has promised to lead by listening and
being part of a global community and all of that plays well abroad and
(contrary to the outrageous bullshit that Dick Cheney is spewing these days) it
will make us safer. His outreach to the Muslim world including an interview on
al Arabiya news, and a speech in Turkey has begun to shift opinions about
American in that part of the world.
He and Secretary Clinton appear to be serious about maintaining pressure
on Israel and Palestine to restart efforts at peace after years of neglect
under George Bush. The
main issues still to confront the President are Afghanistan and Iraq and it is
not clear at all that he has an exit plan from either of those countries or is
clear that we should have one.
The issue of torture almost rises to its own category but
let’s just say that Obama is doing a very good job on this (B +). He is balancing his promise of
transparency with trying not to get enmeshed in a protracted political battle
around prosecution of the previous administration. I hope we can avoid that battle but if the republicans
continue to insist that there was no wrongdoing (Bill Bennett was especially disgusting
on CNN when he compared the water boarding that our own troops endure from one
another in training to the actual practice of water boarding of prisoners for
which we prosecuted the Japanese for after WW2) then prosecution may be the only way forward.
Culture Wars: B+
Barack Obama has taken the steam out of the culture wars
somewhat by his efforts at reaching across the aisle on questions such as
abortion and gay rights (which, lets face it, are the culture wars). While
there is no question that Barack Obama supports full rights for gay people,
hopefully he will have the courage soon to voice that opinion vis a vis
marriage although it is probably wise for him to hold off until after the 2012
election. While some are claiming he is the most radical pro-abortion president
ever, he also has defenders among the pro-life crowd who appreciate his
abortion reduction strategy. Largely he has his Council on Faith Based and
Community Partnerships to thank for the muted tone of the culture wars. The President appointed a diverse group
of people to help advise him on religious and social policy – throwing almost
too many olive branches towards the right in my opinion (but I guess that is
why it was a good idea from the stand point of calming the culture wars). Still, it will remain to be
seen how this council actually functions and whether they can agree on
While the President has not been able to implement major reforms yet, it is clear they are coming. For the first time we are taking climate change as well as oil independence seriously and putting money behind it.
American Sense of Hope: A-
In a recent AP poll, 48 percent of Americans believe that we
are headed in the right direction – that is up 8 points from February and 30
points from last October! This is
an extraordinary turn and it may provide the key to our long-term recovery as a
nation. From my own perspective,
turning on the television and listening to our president share his viewpoints
clearly and intelligently after 8 years of cringing has made a huge
difference. It is clear we
have elected a man of integrity who is slowly turning our nation in the right
Barack Obama has done a remarkable job – but there is room
for improvement. Let’s check back in
2010 – oh yeah, there is an election then.
Grade for Republicans: C-
Does America really still want Newt and Cheney and their disproven
ideas? It will be interesting to
see what comes of the Grand Old Party.