- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 2, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

COMMENTARY:

Perhaps you haven’t heard, but we recently completed the first 100 days of the Obama presidency. So today, we will do a job-performance evaluation - of our anniversary, not his.

How have we done in our first 100 days as American citizens during the Obama presidency?

America’s citizens began the Obama presidency beset by more simultaneous crises, domestic and international, than have been experienced simultaneously under any previous presidency. We don’t need a teleprompter to list them: Financial meltdown. Economy stalled. Real estate in free fall. U.S. auto industry on cement blocks. Jobs vanishing. Health costs soaring. Energy dependence deepening. Education left behind. Simultaneous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nuclear-nightmare scenarios in Pakistan, Iran and North Korea. Global warming ignored so long it may be too late. A new swine flu with no known cure.

How did we citizens perform as the Obama presidency confronted all the above, all at once?

We start by looking at our fellow citizens who make their livings in banking and finance and just got bonuses after they screwed up royally, destroyed their companies and shattered the economies of the United States and the world, causing the rest of us citizens to plunge ourselves into massive debt to bail them out and begin to stabilize our planet and keep it spinning.

By the only standard those bonus-or-bust citizens care about, they did quite well during the first 100 days. By the standards of the rest of us citizens, they plundered our Treasury in ways that seem traitorous. They got away with it by saying they had contracts, and even in a bailout crisis, nobody could make them forgo their million-buck bonuses.

By the standard of the thousands of auto-industry workers who also had contracts but responded to their industry’s bailout crisis by agreeing to cuts in pay and benefits to keep their jobs and keep factories open, there is a national double standard.

Next we look at those of our fellow citizens who are senators and representatives. When President Obama called on Congress to jump-start the economy by enacting a huge emergency stimulus bill containing only programs essential to that purpose, the House moved quickly, in ways we know too well. House Democrats treated the situation as just another feeding at the trough, inserting earmarked little pork projects that had nothing to do with instant stimulus, and Mr. Obama didn’t publicly take them to the woodshed. House Republicans just said no, showing a bankruptcy crisis of their own - they were bankrupt of ideas.

In the Senate, Democrats trimmed the fattest of the House-cooked pork, and three Republicans courageously spoke out on the need to enact a stimulus, tried to convince fellow party members without success, and finally voted with the Democrats to enact it. (Tuesday, one of those Republicans, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, completed the journey by switching parties and becoming a Democrat.)

Meanwhile, out there in the blogosphere, small numbers of fringe-based haters continue to do what they did during the election campaign - spout anti-Obama exhortations that make outrageous claims in unacceptable ways. But when they do, something rather remarkable happens. Nothing. The haters are largely ignored by most citizens.

Even though times are tough and our crises seem almost overwhelming, America’s citizens are showing a remarkable patience - a quiet confidence that seems to transcend parties. Citizens give Mr. Obama overall job-approval percentage ratings in the mid-60s, ratings consistently higher than their approval of his policy decisions.

It is much the way citizens reacted to Ronald Reagan, and before that, to Franklin D. Roosevelt. Citizens respond well to presidents who visit with them in their living rooms, and talk to them matter-of-factly about problems and solutions.

So we citizens don’t yet get a final grade. But we are staying the course.

Martin Schram is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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