One of the most impressive accomplishments of U.S. President, Barack Obama, during his first 100 days in office (he reached that milestone on Wednesday), is that he made Americans feel good about themselves again.
That was no mean task.
Following the past eight years of the George W. Bush administration which saw the country turn into a bully on the world stage and feared, not for its power, but for its misuse of power, and loathed for turning against just about everything good that country has ever stood for, it is just amazing that, in such a short space of time, he seems to have changed world opinion to again favour the U.S.
And that is the next major accomplishment. Who would have thought that the view of the world, after the Bush nightmare, could so quickly be turned around?
Obama is greeted around the world as few other U.S. presidents in recent times have. His appearance in the just-concluded Summit of the Americas in Trinidad & Tobago is a case in point. He was the focus of the Summit with world leaders just wanting to meet and listen to him. He had Venezuelan President, Hugo Chávez, calling out to him: “I want to be your friend.”
Chávez has been an unrelenting critic of the U.S. under Bush.
Brazil’s President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, expressed his admiration and affection for Obama even before the two met at the G-20 Summit in England a few weeks ago. He told a television interviewer: “I am praying for him.”
Crowds gathered to greet him when he traveled through Europe following the G-20. And there is a palpable sense of the renewal of hope, not just in the U.S., but around the world.
So, what else has he accomplished?
Americans are now saying that they are feeling more optimistic about the economy. That is a good thing and it could be attributed directly to Obama’s positive leadership. While we all need to be cautious, optimism will go a long way in helping the economy recover since, even with sound government policies, if the market is unsettled, recovery will be that much more difficult.
A majority of Americans – and most of the world – would be glad to see the end of the war in Iraq. Obama has already set in motion the drawing down of troop strength in that country and has called on the government to step up so that it can take over responsibility for its own security. While the U.S. will continue its presence in a support role much into the future, its military involvement in that conflict is coming to an end.
The focus in Afghanistan, with increased numbers of U.S. troops, is going to be on what it should have been in the first place, hunting down and rooting out al Qaeda.
Obama’s most important achievement, however, was getting the economy moving again and getting the $787 billion stimulus bill passed in Congress.
Obama’s first 100 days must be viewed from the perspective of what he inherited. As Ed Rollins, CNN contributor and former campaign manager of Republican presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee, wrote Wednesday:
“Obama certainly inherited a mess: A disastrous economy. Unemployment the highest in decades. Manufacturing plants closing and the jobs moving overseas daily. General Motors and Chrysler on the verge of bankruptcy. Our banking system teetering on the brink of collapse. America at war on two fronts. A military worn out by fighting nonstop for seven years. The quality of education dropping in most cities throughout the country. And now a potential swine flu crisis.”
The news on Tuesday that veteran Republican senator from Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter, had left his party to join the Democrats, was a major boost and a sign that Obama’s strong leadership is attracting support across party lines.
Specter has always been more moderate in his views than most in his party. He was one of only three Republican senators – of a total of 41 – to support Obama’s stimulus bill.
After 100 days, Obama’s support – in the mid-60 per cent range – is higher than his last four predecessors were at this point in their first mandate. Obviously, Americans are satisfied with what this president has accomplished so far. And, so are we.