Obama at 100 Days: Ratings and "Report Cards"

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Barack Obama has now been president for 100 days, an arbitrary number in one sense but an important historical touchstone in another sense. Does "100 days" matter? I tend to agree with Doris Kearns Goodwin that "After the first 100 days of FDR, because so much's part of our culture to be measuring this." Of course, many things - junk food, 99% of TV and talk radio - are part of our culture but don't exactly add much. In the end, I'll go with JFK on this one, that "this will not be finished in the first 100 the first 1,000 days, nor in the life of this administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin."

So, what kind of beginning has Barack Obama had? Let's start with Gallup's 100-days poll results, which find that Obama's approval is "broad as well as deep," with "majorities of everyone but Republicans and conservatives" (not many of them these days) approving of Obama's performance so far. For those who argue that Obama is "polarizing," I'd point to the fact that 73% of "moderates" approve of his performance, as do 64% of "independents." Heck, even 42% of "conservatives" approve of Obama's performance so far, along with 90% of "liberals." I'm sorry, but there's absolutely nothing "polarizing" about that. So far, we've got a popular president and a country that increasingly feels we are on the right track, despite the nasty recession and many other problems Obama inherited from the Bush/Cheney/DeLay disaster.

With that, here are some "report cards" I found out there in the intertubes:

*Foreign Policy magazine has 35 "of the best foreign-policy minds in Washington and beyond...rate the U.S. president's first 100 days in office." The result: 11 A's, 16 B's, 7 C's, and 1 D. That looks like a B+ average to me, not bad at all, although I agree with Andrew Bacevich that Obama gets an "incomplete" on "the challenge -- and the opportunity -- of conceptualizing what follows the American Century." No problem, right? :)

*Salon Magazine have 21 "[b]loggers, activists, economists and writers grade the president's performance so far." The conclusion is that "The state of the president's report card is (mostly) strong...though there are critics both left and right ready to give him failing grades in a few crucial areas." For instance, Newsweek editor Jonathan Alter gives Obama an A- on the economy, foreign policy, and "overall." Michael Lind of the New America Foundation gives Obama a B on the economy and an A on "foreign policy/national security." Professor Robert Reich hands out grades of A for the "10-year budget plan," a "solid B" for the stimulus package, and and "F, at least so far" for the "bank bailouts." Kos weighs in with grades of B on the economy, A- on foreign policy/national security, and A- overall, concluding that "Given the GOP's impotence, there's little reason for Obama to slow down." Environment/energy expert Joseph Romm of and the Center for American Progress gives Obama an A+, writing giddily that "If [Obama] achieves even half of what he has set out to, he will likely be remembered as 'the green FDR.'" The one sour note comes from "Club for Growth" (an Orwellian name if I've ever heard one, since it's really about corporate welfare and redistributing income from the middle class to the wealthy) Grover Norquist, who gives Obama a D on the economy, whining, "Spending too much money is not left-wing, it is stupid." Whatever, Grover, go back to eating children, listening to Rush, or whatever it is you do with your days.

*The BBC "attempt[s] to assess how has [Obama] done, measured against his own pre-election pledges and goals" on a 1-star to 5-star scale. The results? Five stars on Guantanamo and Torture; four stars on Iraq, Iran, Arms Control, the Economy, and Climate Change; three stars on Afghanistan, Health Care, and Building a team; two stars on the Middle East; and 1 star on Bipartisanship. That's a 3.5-star average, pretty good but not awesome from jolly old England.

*Populist/progressive David Sirota gives Obama an A- on Iraq, an A on his "budget/spending plans," a "B- on his policies towards Wall Street," a B+ on the economy overall.

Personally, I think that Obama has done well so far: A on the economy; A-/B+ on the environment; A-/B+ on foreign policy; A on cabinet appointments; B-/C+ on bipartisanship (I blame this one overwhelmingly on Eric Cantor and Company). Of course, given the scope of the horrible situation Obama inherited in areas ranging from the economy to the environment to health care to foreign policy, he obviously still has a huge amount of work to do. In fact, I'd say President Obama will require two full terms in office to completely turn this country around. That's cool, though, I can handle that! :)

So, what are your grades at the 100-day mark?

UPDATE: Think Progress writes about "Obama's 100 Days of Progress."