Guest Post by Jonathan Guyer: Obama’s First 100 Days – A Crisis and Opportunity for Progressives


(Credit: Jonathan Guyer)
Jonathan Guyer is a Research Associate at the New America Foundation/Middle East Task Force.
I dropped by Obama @ 100: A Progress Report from The Nation yesterday to hear The Nation‘s editors discuss the best and worst of Obama’s first 100 days, during which the President’s vast array of actions, statements, and policy reviews have cluttered the political scene in Washington.
Here’s a brief recap of The Nation’s take on these first seminal days:
• Washington Editor Chris Hayes noted that “Obama is nothing but a deft politician, constantly calculating battles of interest.” As such, Obama gives the American public the good with the bad: the President releases torture memos and then speaks at the CIA the same day. In almost obsessively offering something on the one hand and then something else with the other, Obama leaves the American public to determine which action is sincere and which is meant to cover his back.
• William Greider, author of a new article called “Testicular Politics: Obama and the Big Dogs” about Obama’s relationship with Wall Street, claimed that the bailout reflects old time politics. Greider was tough on Obama and Geithner and asserted that Americans would find out over the course of the next several months whether Obama has the courage to take on the bankers.
• Looking at Obama’s social policy, Deepak Bhargava, Executive Director of the Center for Community Change, lauded Obama’s efforts to repair the safety net for the country’s neediest. Although Obama has already proposed the largest public expenditure on anti-poverty programs in 40 years, Bhargava argued that due to the severity of the financial crisis, low income families would be worse off in spite of increased spending, and he predicted 20% unemployment among African Americans in the coming years.
• Ari Melber analyzed the nature of transparency in Obama’s first 100 days, asserting that the administration received good marks with regard to sharing information with the public and had even been somewhat open to the press. But with regard to the other two branches of government, Melber argued, the administration deserves an “F” for maintaining the Bush administration’s use of the state secrets privilege, which limits third branch oversight just as his predecessor did.
• Katrina vanden Huevel, the magazine’s Editor and Publisher, offered a more optimistic appraisal of Obama’s first one hundred days. She praised Obama’s message of re-engagement, which has America back in a leadership role across the globe. But she warned that military escalation in Afghanistan might tarnish America’s image in the Muslim world and lamented that problems inherited from the Bush administration would continue to frame Obama’s policy agenda over the next 100 days.
But the worst part for Huevel? Richard Holbrooke and Larry Summers are back.
• Congresswoman Donna Edwards, a Maryland Democrat and member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, noted that “We have an open opportunity for this administration in a similar way as we have another open opportunity with, for example, Cuba. We have an open opportunity saying we have to maybe engage in a conversation, a dialogue, with Syria that doesn’t have so many absolute conditions that Syria could never come to the table – and I’m actually looking forward to that.”
Concerning the investigation of torture that happened on Bush’s watch, Representative Edwards’ message was clear, “Moving forward requires us to look back.”
• Ralph Nader posed a question to the panel: “Are there levers that progressives have to influence this administration beyond being in cheerleader mode?” – but the panelists could not agree on a common strategy.
To cap off the panel, Nichols gave each of the panelists a minute to sum up the highlights and lowlights of the first 100 days – a task which seemed impossible given all that the President has done thus far. Like the president himself, the panel found it difficult to keep their priorities straight – straining to find a voice of criticism while leaving space to agree with the President’s early accomplishments.
— Jonathan Guyer


12 comments on “Guest Post by Jonathan Guyer: Obama’s First 100 Days – A Crisis and Opportunity for Progressives

  1. David says:

    “The media convention of evaluating new administrations after one hundred days has never made much sense other than as a hook for stories that would be written anyway and cable networks seeking to promote their political talk shows. “Grading” a new President’s performance, especially when the graders have never done more than observe and talk about government, is not an exercise worthy of detailed discussion.”
    Thank you, Zathras. The superficiality of this process is what most distresses me. I could live with “What is it legitimate to conclude at this point?” But this First 100 Days blather, and most of it strikes me as blather, is a bit much, especially since it is an attempt to judge the president in what amounts to the first few minutes of the first quarter, to borrow from sports. But then life in our capital is a blood sport.
    For the record, I hope DOJ does finally bring the actual criminal perpetrators of torture as US policy to justice. I just don’t at this point know how one can successfully bring the full weight of justice to bear on Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. We couldn’t even bring the full weight of justice to bear on the OVP for outing the identity of a CIA agent.


  2. TonyForesta says:

    Let us never forget that Obama inherited a ravaged and reengineered America from eight years of fascism, wanton profiteering and pathological lying under the uholy reign of the bushgov, – the face of America changed under the bushgov, – our core principles, our codes, our standards our laws, and our Constitution were ruthlessly challenged, dismembered and reanimated into something less than America – something brutal, lawless, supremist. Then our vaunted economic system collapsed (the result of eight years of raping, plundering, and robbing poor and middle class Americans to feed the superrich, the predatorclass) – and the PONZI scheme’s that were conjured and bruted by cabals of swindlers and thieves and select Wall Street oligarchs swiftly, painfully, alarmingly deleveraged as they say, or unwound. Millions lost homes, lost decades worth of savings and investments, lost jobs, wages, job security, lost access to higher education for the children, lost health care benefits, lost safetynets, – lost hope.
    Enter Obama, the chosen one, the peoples champion promising to give voice to the voiceless, and endeavor to work toward the necessary and seemingly impossible “change” the majority of Americans voted for, and support.
    No accountability for the fascists perverts and wanton profiteers in the bushgov.
    Affectively supporting the bushgov rendition and torture policies.
    Refusing to support any congressional or bipartisan investigations into the festering litany of bushgov deceptions, abuses, treasons, and wanton profiteering.
    Obama DOJ stealthfully – in the cloak of night and behind the scenes has buttressed or enhanced the twisted and brutish bushgov legal opinions and directives urging the courts to nullify habeaus corpus rights and precedents, and frame the Gitmo, Abu Gharaib, Bhagram, and whoknowswhereelse torture victims, – I mean prisoners as “not a person”, a notperson!!?? What are they (neverendingwaronterror suspects and prisoners) if they are not persons, – some new species of mammal? The term “enemy combatants” would imply humans at least, since the descriptive does not define any insect, animal, or alien creature, – the message obviously intends to define a human enemy or threat. Oh and like the bushgov, the Obama gov declares that the US does not torture, while deceptive defend torture on legal grounds and refuse to entertain investigations into the tortue policies conjured and applied by the bushgov. The logic is stretched to the far reaches of phantasmagoria. The framing is unconstitutional and flawed on it’s face, and promoting this nonesense constitutes conduct unbecoming. The fact that the Obama government is party to and directly involved in this unholy process is – shattering.
    On the positve side, – Obama is indeed promising, and has made some little progress on initiating a HealthCare discussion, and redressing global warming, and alternative energy or green technologies, – though nothing much has actually happened yet toward those noble and necessary ends, – the soaring rhetoric boasts of the promise of hope and change.
    But by far the most shattering injury, and heartbreaking recognition is the obvious truth that the Obama government is adopting the exact same bushgov policies by overtly favoring, shielding, cloaking, buttressing, and funnelling trillions of borrowed tax payer dollars in the offshort accounts of the predatorclass, the PONZI scheme, swindlers and thieves in the finance sector and select supposedly tobigtofail oligarchs FAILED, and whose FAILED management conjured, sold, profited wantonly from, cloaked, and are now reanimating the same FAILED models that are instregal to, and the cause of the collapse of the global financial system, and the most calamitous economic crisis since the great depression.
    Obama’s economic advisors are entirely – every single one, – Wall Street insiders, and predator class voodoo economics practitioners, – with a huge number of former Goldman Sach employee’s or contractors of brood or another.
    How can Obama betray the people, (and the progressives who elected him) and pour trillions of the peoples dollars into the offshore accounts, and homegrown coffers of the predator class oligarchs, PONZI scheme swindlers, thieves in the finance sector – who caused the most devastating economic collapse since the great depression, – and then have the obdurate heartless gall to beg for bailouts and heap imponderable, costs, debts and deficits on our children? How can Obama betray us, with such obdurate disregard?
    Say it ain’t so O? Say it ain’t so!


  3. Bill R. says:

    In answer to Nader’s question, the purity trolls, who linger long on this site, continue to go down the path of self-marginalization, since they have no talent except to throw stones. It doesn’t matter who is elected, who is in power, they will never measure up to the righteous.


  4. Don Bacon says:

    The Wall Street Journal is happy with “O-change”:
    Three cheers for President Obama’s decision, announced quietly on Monday, to repudiate a campaign promise and not press for new labor and environmental regulations in the North American Free Trade Agreement. The last thing the Western Hemisphere needs are more trade barriers that would snarl supply chains and damage commerce.
    Perhaps we should call this Austan Goolsbee’s revenge. Recall that last year the Obama economic adviser had told a Canadian diplomat to ignore Mr. Obama’s Nafta campaign rhetoric; the candidate was merely pandering to Big Labor. When that disclosure became news, Mr. Goolsbee was banished to the campaign’s isolation ward for imperfect spinners. Now we know Mr. Goolsbee — not the candidate — was the one telling the truth.


  5. Don Bacon says:

    “unlawful enemy combatants”
    That’s Newspeak for people fighting a US military aggression.
    Or as Army Brig. Gen. Mark Milley told a visiting Admiral Mullen yesterday at Combat Outpost Deysie, Afghanistan: “Who is a combatant? Is an Afghan who joins a raid to feed his family because there is no work in his village a combatant or just someone being used?”
    It doesn’t matter. General Milley’s boys will kill this modern-day Jean Valjean, and then all his kith and kin will take up arms against the aggressor. It’s sometimes called by naysayers “recruiting the resistance.”
    There’s an official description of this. It’s called embracing a more wide-ranging counterinsurgency strategy focused on enhancing the military, governance, and economic capacity of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
    It sounds progressive, doesn’t it.


  6. Zathras says:

    There may be some people who do not know that the phrase “one hundred days” became well known because it was the period between Napoleon’s return from exile on Elba to his defeat at Waterloo. It was a period of turmoil in Europe that briefly made it appear as if a war that had lasted for over fifteen years would go on forever; in retrospect, of course, “one hundred days” came to refer to endings — specifically, Napoleon’s — not beginnings.
    The 100 days of the New Deal in the 1930s referred to a period when Congress, in session for that entire period, approved a number of Roosevelt administration initiatives. This took place after a transition between administrations fully two months longer than what we have now, and at a period when the government was much smaller and needed many fewer officials requiring Senate confirmation — to say nothing of the fact that defense and foreign affairs absorbed very little time and attention at that moment in history.
    The media convention of evaluating new administrations after one hundred days has never made much sense other than as a hook for stories that would be written anyway and cable networks seeking to promote their political talk shows. “Grading” a new President’s performance, especially when the graders have never done more than observe and talk about government, is not an exercise worthy of detailed discussion.


  7. Carroll says:

    I agree with the Obama examples of Afghanistan, Cuba and habeas corpus that Clay pointed out.
    However I don’t think we can totally grade Obama yet. So far it looks like Obama puts one foot in the right direction but his other foot is stuck in the tarpit of political considerations so he can’t quite complete the leap.
    Still say Obama is going to have as much of a fight with his own dem congress as with repubs on a lot of his policy wish list.
    My hope is, with the dem congress now on center stage, their corruption gets the same public attention as the corruption of the reubs so we can bury them also. Exposing both parties and the political money that rules our system is the only way we are going to get to any real representation for the people.


  8. Clay Thorp says:

    There are 3 things from my perspective that I think Obama has done wrong. One of which I have come to understand through the tutelage of this blog. (Thanks Steve) That being the war in Afghanistan, not allowing ALL Americans to travel to Cuba and retaining the power to suspend habeas corpus to detainees both abroad and at home. This last point is the most disconcerting to me because there were many strong statements made by Obama against the tacticts that Bush used to gain info from “unlawful enemy combatants.” Other than that, I think he’s done a phenomenal job. Then again, I’m not a highly educated policy analyst like some of you guru’s.


  9. Daniel B. Lippman says:

    Richard Holbrooke is one of the most talented US diplomats today; I don’t think he deserves to be criticized. He is very smart and he has an almost-impossible job of fixing AfPak.


  10. Mr.Murder says:

    Dana Rhorbacher, armed with talk radio talking ppoints, wonders why Hillary hasn;t declassified the documents Cheney kept classified for national security concerns in his reign.
    It seems Cheney is deciding that he needs this information out, since he may actually be liable for having approved of torture. That’s where all this headed. All your Halliburton dollars are about to appear on Alien Torts stautes.
    John Grisham could perhaps write a book about it. He’s shaped his success around taking up subject matter of such nature before in the realm of liability or untimely death.
    Cheney’sa all about the money and until this was a threat to him he could hide behind the security card firewall(Condi got named, and he knows she’ll fold like a card house to save her own tail).
    So Dana is opening the window for this from his lofty perch on House Minority Committee to perhaps clear Cheney’s name or give them terstiomonial immunity. This is not really understood in full context without the help of superb blogger Digby, who reminds us all that ‘It’s time for another edition of “Dana’s Got A Secret!”‘


  11. easy e says:

    If Hitchens has the balls to get waterboarded (and admit it’s torture), how about some other freepers stepping up to the plate (e.g. Limbaugh, Hannity, Will, Liz Cheney, etc., etc.)
    For that matter, let’s invite the crowd at the center of the AIPAC investigation.
    Not to change the subject, amazing how quickly the Jane Harman story faded away (not to mention Pelosi in the mix)…………
    Steve and TWN?


  12. Mr.Murder says:

    A currency buyback timed before trips abroad as POTUS was an adept tactic. It bolstered investor confidence in the dollar worlwide. It gave him leverage to harden support for a wide array of policy even though much of his first visit it agreeing on what SoS Clinton secured in advance of him.
    The reciprocal effects will be much better and State can shape spending a ppropriations to new levels. This kind of ability to merge aims that suit diplomatic interests will see us develop amazing momentum in coming talks.
    Each time we’ll have more depth and interaction, agreements delivered to greater degrees.
    Too bad he didn’t go fishin’ in Texas and chop wood in those first hunnerd daze like Dubya! Yeah, let’s not look back while we move foward…


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