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Archive for April 30th, 2009


Posted by rwandaonline on April 30, 2009

Sure, 100 is a nice round number, but why do we critically judge presidents on what they’re able to accomplish in just their first 100 days? After all, they’ll be the leader of the free world for (at least) 1460 days. The short answer? Blame FDR.
Franklin Roosevelt came into office amidst a massive financial crisis. Unemployment was high. Banks weren’t loaning money. America had a confidence problem. The one bright spot for Roosevelt was a Democratic Congress. (Sound a little familiar?) The new president went right to work. In just over 100 days, a first version of the New Deal was launched and Congress passed 15 major bills. As The L.A. Times reports:
The initial storm set a tone for the rest of Roosevelt’s first term: constant action, bold experimentation, unprecedented expansion of the authority of the federal government. Since then, journalists and political analysts have embraced the 100-day report card for new presidents.
Pretty tough yardstick to be measured against. And Barack Obama knows it. As president-elect, he told “60 Minutes” that he had been brushing up on Roosevelt’s initial days:
“There’s a new book out about FDR’s first 100 days. And what you see in FDR that I hope my team can emulate is not always getting it right, but projecting a sense of confidence and a willingness to try things and experiment in order to get people working again.”
And like FDR, Obama’s found plenty to keep him busy. He passed a $787 billion stimulus bill; he approved a troop increase in Afghanistan and set a withdrawal timeline for Iraq; he signed orders to close Guantanamo Bay detention center, ban the most harsh interrogation methods and reverse the ban of federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Does this mean he has a near-frantic three-and-a-half years ahead of him?
There’s still much debate about whether or not the first 100 days are actually a good measure of the rest of a president’s term. Jimmy Carter had a notably rough first 100 days and was easily beaten in the next election. Ronald Reagan started strong and handily won a second term. But Bill Clinton’s famously rocky start was followed by high approval ratings and a second term. David Greenberg wrote in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal:
The main reason that the hundred days are an unreliable indicator of future performance is the same reason we watch them so closely: They constitute the period in which the public is just getting to know the new president, and in which the president is just getting to know his new job.
But Michael Watkins, who wrote “The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for Leaders at All Levels” disagrees, saying the first 100 days actually tell us a lot about what’s to come. He explains on
The first hundred days mark is not the end of the story, it’s the end of the beginning. Leaders entering new roles can stumble badly and still recover. But it’s a whole lot easier if they don’t stumble in the first place. And that’s why the transition period matters so much.
While we may not be able to predict whether his first 100 days will help usher in a successful presidency for Obama, the economic turmoil he still has to contend with indicates that his second 100 days will be just as busy.
-Sarah Parsons
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