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An historic first 100 days for Obama

April 30th, 2009

President Barack Obama has been busy since his historic inauguration in January.

In his first 100 days in office, his administration has crafted corporate bailouts, a $787 billion economic stimulus package and new strategies for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Within the last few weeks alone, Obama has addressed the Somali pirate controversy, the North Korean missile launch, the G20 Summit in Europe and the Summit of the Americas.

With all of the traveling and the diverse agenda, many say that Obama is attempting to do too much. However, according to Larry Schwab, a political science professor at John Carroll University, “[Obama] doesn’t have much of a choice. Never before has the nation faced so many problems at once.”

On top of Obama’s demanding agenda is the general desire that all presidents have to make a strong impact in their first 100 days in office.

Obama has already changed U.S. policy on abortion, stem cell research, energy, the environment, Iraq, international law, housing and created new guidelines for science policy, all while maintaining a high level of public support.

One advantage that Obama has that many former presidents did not is that his party has a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

This majority has helped Obama pass major pieces of legislation, including the $787 billion stimulus package and his multi-billion dollar budget.

However, despite his promise to encourage unity between Democrats and Republicans, there has been very little bipartisanship in the past few months on major issues.

For example, only three Republicans supported the stimulus package and none voted for his budget proposal.

Republicans claim that they have been left out of the major debates on issues, while Democrats have labeled the Republicans as the party of “no.”

Obama has even been faced with some opposition from within his own party.

According to Schwab, while the strongest opposition was coming from the Republicans, “Many liberal activists have made it clear they will not agree with everything he says. Some feel the stimulus package should have been larger, and some are also critical of the bank bailout. They want to see more government control [over the banks].”

Obama does, however, have another advantage – the legacy of former President George W. Bush.

“[Obama] has the advantage of George W. Bush because he was so unpopular. Obama has a longer grace period because of Bush. That is key, particularly on the economy. For the most part the blame is on the Republicans,” said Schwab.

One of the fundamental differences between Obama and Bush is in their foreign policies.

So far, Obama has shown that he is willing to negotiate with states – such as Iran, Syria and Cuba – and even some non-state actors like Hezbollah and HAMAS that Bush chose to ignore or alienate.

At the recent Summit of the Americas, for example, Obama admitted that he knew that he would not be agreeing with the other leaders on every issue, but indicated that he was willing to bring a change in attitude to the politics of the Americas.

In the coming months, Obama will tackle some of the most challenging issues facing the United States. Health care is high on his priority list. Recently, he has signaled that he will try to pass his proposal for health care reform by Oct. 15.

However, most Americans consider the economy to be the biggest issue that Obama must address. Obama has even signaled that if the economy doesn’t improve by the end of his term, the United States will “have a new president” in 2012.