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The Hundred Days

A Commentary By Susan Estrich

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Watch out. Everywhere you look, the talking heads are going to be talking about Barack Obama's first hundred days.

Did he end the war in Iraq? Not yet.

Turn the economy around? I'd have to say not yet.

The EPA has been making moves, and there's a new proposed rule on stem cell research, although the last time I went outside here in Los Angeles, the air was no cleaner, and no new diseases have been cured since January, at least as far as I've heard.

Are we better off than we were three months ago?

Why would we be?

There's an old rule of thumb that chief executives should only try to do three things at once. Three is an agenda. Six is a laundry list. The problem comes when you inherit the reins of a state or a company or a country with more than three major problems. What then?

Obama is trying to deal with the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq and the crisis in the Middle East and the saber rattling by Iran and the tests conducted in North Korea. Then there are the banks and the auto companies, the housing market, historic unemployment and job loss -- and did I mention the cratering stock market and the impact on folks who are trying to retire or send their kids to college? And, oh, yes, there's health care (that was a top, top priority) and the environment and the challenge of building the economy of the future, which requires great attention to education. And, of course, energy and the crumbling infrastructure, transportation and high-speed rail, worker's rights, women's rights, gay rights, waste and abuse, housing and homelessness. And, yes, could we please just cure cancer?

The reality is that few presidents in recent times have come to Washington with less experience in the nation's Capitol and more problems, at home and abroad, to deal with.

So let's cut to the chase: He hasn't solved them all. Not even close.

The suggestion that he could have, should have, that anyone might have, is ridiculous.

What Obama has done is establish himself, at home and abroad, as a leader to be reckoned with. Vive Obama.

He has gotten major legislation through Congress on the economy. He got rid of the CEO of General Motors, in the process giving notice that failing up with taxpayer funds will not be allowed. He has managed to avoid ugly and embarrassing confirmation fights (remember John Tower? Zoe Baird?), and even found a politically acceptable purebred for his girls. (Who can say no to a gift from Ted Kennedy?)

Has he made mistakes? Sure. Getting into a fight with Rush Limbaugh is silly. Getting caught off guard by the AIG bonuses, as the administration was, and then tap dancing about who knew what when was unnecessary.

But what's impressive about this team, agree with them or not, is that after a hundred days, there is no question of who's in charge. There's no question of the confidence or competence of the man on top.

For a guy who couldn't get his credit card taken when he tried to rent a car at the 2000 Democratic Convention, a guy who in 2004 was a State senator in Illinois, it's not bad. If he could come this far this fast, think what he might do in a few more hundred days. Or a few years.

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