- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 30, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

COMMENTARY:

The national news media have been treating President Obama’s first 100 days as a historical landmark, as if he has done great things instead of doing what we routinely expect from our presidents.

That is, to submit the major items on his campaign agenda to Congress for its approval, which hasn’t been very hard to get, considering his party has majority control of both chambers. Try getting your agenda, including the biggest tax cut in history, through a House controlled by the opposition party. President Reagan did it against great odds as the economy sank into the worst recession since the Great Depression, and he faced down the Evil Empire in the Cold War, to boot.

Mr. Obama also faces a nation plunging into a severe recession, plus two wars in distant lands. Congress has trimmed and passed his economic recovery spending bill, enacted last year’s leftover omnibus appropriations package and all but adopted his budget proposals with modifications.

However, the vexing problems he came into office to fix not only remain, but have worsened - and his job-approval numbers have been sinking.

Unemployment continues its upward climb and likely will skirt 9 percent next week, and the economy continues to shrink. Mortgage foreclosures are rising; home values are falling Mr. Obama’s prescriptions for what ails us will add $9 trillion to the nation’s debts and government accountants say only a relatively small portion of the infrastructure stimulus funds will be spent before this year is over.

Abroad, al Qaeda in Iraq has begun a new offensive to test Mr. Obama’s mettle; the Taliban terrorists are resurgent in Afghanistan, threatening that country’s tenuous democracy, and flexing their muscles in Pakistan, where a takeover would put nuclear weapons into their hands. Iran is becoming a threatening nuclear power. North Korea is close to developing medium-range nuclear capabilities.

Mr. Obama went to the economic summit in Europe to ask, beg, the Group of 20 richest countries to pump billions more into their economies and send combat troops into Afghanistan to fight the Taliban. He came home empty-handed on both counts.

The administration is closing the Guantanamo Bay prison without any decision on where we will put the most dangerous terrorists on the face of the Earth.

He banned aggressive interrogation techniques and released classified memos - against the advice of high-level intelligence officials - that spelled out in minute detail how they are carried out - giving al Qaeda and Taliban cutthroats critical information about how to withstand such practices.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney is being pounded by the White House and the Democrats for having the temerity to say Mr. Obama’s actions have endangered U.S. national security, but it appears a majority of Americans agree with him.

A Pew Research Center poll reported last week that nearly half of Americans surveyed said torturing terrorists is often or sometimes justified. A 54 percent majority of independents agreed.

A Gallup poll reported this week that a 55 percent majority thinks “the use of harsh interrogation techniques for terrorism suspects was justified.” Among those who said they have followed the issue closely, 61 percent said such methods were justified.

Mr. Obama remains personally popular, but his job-approval polls have been declining steadily - unusual for a president this early in his tenure. When Gallup asked 1,051 Americans last week how they would rate the job the president is doing, just 33 percent said good rather than excellent (23 percent). This compared to 23 percent who said “just OK,” 9 percent who said “poor” and 11 percent who said “terrible.” Two percent offered no opinion.

The continuing decline in his job-approval scores has been stunning for someone who hasn’t been in office that long. An Opinion Research Corp. poll for CNN on Feb. 7 and 8 gave him a 76 percent rating. By April 23 through 26, his score had fallen to 63 percent, a 13 percent decline in less than three months. Gallup’s 56 percent excellent/good job-approval score showed an even deeper decline.

The Politico Web site last week compared the average approval scores for Mr. Obama (62 percent) with those of his four predecessors. He did no better than President George W. Bush, who was at 62 percent at this time. President Clinton’s score was 55 percent while President George H.W. Bush stood at 58 percent. All of them paled next to Mr. Reagan, however, whose average approval rating at this juncture was 83 percent.

Mr. Obama still has a lot to prove, and to begin appraising his work at the 100-day mark may be premature. His numbers no doubt will rise and fall in the months and years to come.

But for the national news media to suggest that his first 100 days are in some way comparable to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s whirlwind beginning is sophomoric and silly. This is not the Great Depression, not even close. Other presidents have led us out of recessions, and the test for this president is whether he can do the same without bankrupting the country for a generation.

What should be obvious, though, is that Mr. Obama is losing his support as more Americans begin to doubt he knows what he’s doing.

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent of The Washington Times.

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