Enough with this '100 Days' Nonsense

Since Barack Obama's inauguration, the
media have cast their reporting under the catchy title of "The First
100 Days." CNN has even designated April 29 as "Report Card Day." Only
a fool would expect to know anything about a president's legacy a mere
100 days in.

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

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").

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.

Join Us: News for people demanding a better world

Common Dreams is powered by optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter makes the difference.

Your contribution supports this bold media model—free, independent, and dedicated to reporting the facts every day. Stand with us in the fight for economic equality, social justice, human rights, and a more sustainable future. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

© 2023 TruthDig