- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 21, 2009


President Barack Obama is now halfway through the first 100 days of his presidency, and what a brief but interesting honeymoon it has been.

One of the most impressive things about Mr. Obama’s first 50 days is how hard he is working. And the most glaring contrast between him and former President George W. Bush is how well Mr. Obama communicates what, why and how he is trying to accomplish the Herculean tasks before him.

The chattering classes, meanwhile, spend most of their waking hours looking for fights between the president and the Democratic-controlled Congress or the Republican opposition. They have even tried to revive Sen. John McCain’s campaign role as Mr. Obama’s lead critic. And when they tire of picking old fights, there are always the Democrats, who can be their own best enemy. Blue dogs versus the House leadership! Or all of the above versus the president! Whee!

There’s no question the president will have to spar with members of his own party from time to time. Democrats are not monolithic. And those inside-the-Beltway Republicans? They deserve Oscars at next year’s Academy Awards ceremony for a new category invented just for them: Worst Actors in a National Recession. Their whining, rantings and posturing have been pure theater. Too bad their script doesn’t include fresh ideas and sound alternatives.

The Republicans’ resistance to rolling up their own sleeves and working on important issues is disheartening. Even the loyal opposition has its own loyal opposition. Bill, a Republican friend of mine from Missouri, recently e-mailed me: “I’m embarrassed by the ongoing conservative rhetoric that is designed to divide, and by all those that continue to embrace it.”

Mr. Obama has done incredibly well in his first 50 days in office. In addition to passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, known far and wide as the stimulus bill, the president has been working hard to help transform our economy and reverse some of the misguided policies and practices of the last eight years. His ability to multitask, thank heaven, is amazing.

“What might look like a distracted focus to some,” wrote another friend, Connie, from Illinois, “looks like a multiphased strategic attack to me. Without it, where would we be right now?” She’s right. Where would some states and localities be right now without the stimulus money to keep teachers at work, police on the beat, and funds flowing to millions of newly unemployed folks whose families have lost their health insurance and are in jeopardy of losing their homes?

The administration must ignore the near-universal Republican rejection of its policies and continue to think big and bold.

Now, I’m not drinking the entire jug of Democratic Kool-Aid. We all know Republicans alone did not get us into this mess of spending money we did not have and going to war in Iraq when we should have finished the job in Afghanistan. And, yes, providing generous tax cuts to those who did not need them when we knew the bill would come due didn’t help. We all knew where that AIG, Citibank, Bank of America and other bailout money would be going from the start. There are people pocketing our hard-earned tax dollars, and we’re paying to cover their losses just so they can start loaning us money again. But now it is our own money they’ll be loaning us. It is incredibly absurd when you think about it.

If we are to come out of this recession with any hope for a standard of living akin to what we’ve enjoyed for the last 50 years, the president and Congress must work together to change the securities markets. They are in need of major reform, which, I suggest modestly, should begin with the fundamental lessons on how credit should be managed.

It isn’t Mr. Obama we should fear. We should be afraid of those who wish he had done nothing and those who hope he fails. After all, we are in this together. No one is immune, including me.

Over the last two months, I have seen my hours cut back, a newspaper column canceled, clients unable to renew their contracts with my firm, and others needing to renegotiate my modest fees. Business is drying up, and despite all my frantic maneuvers to move my little retirement funds out of harm’s way, my 401(k) is disappearing faster than the snow from the recent storm. I don’t want to see this president fail, and I suggest that to do so is a partisan luxury none of us can afford.

Fifty days is not nearly long enough to allay the personal fears we have about our future. We are all fearful of what’s in store for us. Still, I am enjoying this change in government. The bad news is certainly tempered by Mr. Obama’s actions. And I’m proud of him so far.

It’s time we all hope for the best as well as do our best to help those suffering. As my Republican friend from Missouri reminded, “We all just have to wait and see how it goes from here.”

Donna Brazile is a nationally syndicated columnist, a political commentator on CNN, ABC and National Public Radio and the former campaign manager for Al Gore.

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