WaPo Survey: Obama at 100 Days





The Post asked former officials, strategists and others for their thoughts on the next phase of the Obama administration. Below are contributions from Allan J. Lichtman, Thomas A. Daschle, Alan S. Blinder, Meghan O'Sullivan, Martin Neil Baily, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Paul Wolfowitz, Kathleen Dalton, Elaine L. Chao, Robert Shrum, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Ed Rogers and Paula J. Dobriansky.

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ALLAN J. LICHTMAN

Author of "The Keys to the White House" and "White Protestant Nation"; history professor at American University

Forget about the first 100 days of a president's term. Since Franklin Roosevelt established that artificial benchmark in 1933, newly elected presidents have accomplished more in their second 100 days than in their first.

Dwight Eisenhower signed the armistice ending the Korean War on July 27, 1953. Ronald Reagan steered his landmark 25 percent across-the-board tax cuts through Congress on Aug. 4, 1981, and George W. Bush gained passage of his signature $1.35 trillion tax cut on May 26, 2001.

It takes time for a president to put his team in place, formulate policies, steer legislation through Congress and conduct foreign negotiations. Roosevelt, in 1933, was the last president inaugurated on March 4, rather than Jan. 20, which gave him an additional six weeks of preparation time.

President Obama accomplished much in his first 100 days. He won congressional approval of his budget and a $787 billion stimulus bill, and he changed policy on stem cell research, abortion, the environment, labor rights and national security through executive orders.

Obama will be more sternly tested in his second 100 days, when Congress considers proposals for overhauling financial regulations, fixing the health-care system and controlling global warming, arguably humanity's greatest challenge. He will face intense opposition from interest groups and cannot presume unified Democratic support or cooperation from Republicans.

Obama will not enact his full agenda during his second 100 days, but he needs to make significant progress. In foreign policy he needs to show results from controlling nuclear arms, negotiating with Iran and expanding a dubious war in Afghanistan that could become his Vietnam. Check in again on Aug. 6.

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KATHLEEN DALTON

Author of "Theodore Roosevelt: A Strenuous Life"

President Obama enters his second 100 days with an advantage over many previous occupants of the White House. He insists upon keeping his eyes on the prize -- the big issues of governance that helped get him elected.

Many presidents quickly lose their sense of political direction. The distractible Bill Clinton got derailed by the explosive issue of gays in the military, which savvy conservatives threw in his way early on. Likewise, Jimmy Carter lost hold of party unity while micromanaging the White House tennis court schedules.

What are the potential distractions out there now? Although questions about torture prosecutions are in the news, the quagmire of Afghanistan and the dangers in Pakistan are more likely to give Obama what Lyndon Johnson got -- a foreign mess to ruin even the best domestic agenda. Moreover, presidential focus can be especially difficult during hard economic times, which tend to bring out unruly and irrational forces. Think of how Roosevelt had to face down demagogue Huey Long, pitchfork anarchists and would-be anti-government conspirators.

But Obama brings to the job a fierce determination unequaled in recent presidential history. He plans to fight hard to win universal health care, clean energy and education reform. And, so far, he is undaunted by critics and crazies alike.


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