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Barack Obama- The First Hundred Days of the Presidency - History

Barack Obama- The First Hundred Days of the Presidency - History


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Day 1Day 51 March 12, 2009
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Comparing Bill Clinton and Barack Obama’s First 100 Days

On the surface Bill Clinton and Barack Obama seem to have a great deal in common. They are/were both young Democratic presidents who also have/had Democratic controlled Congresses, who inherited recessions, but each president’s first 100 days took different paths.

Here are the legislative accomplishments of the first 100 days of the Clinton administration:

1). Family and Medical Leave Act – On February 5, 1993 Bill Clinton signed the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). FMLA would be one of the lasting legacies of the Clinton administration. The act allows employees to take unpaid leave for a pregnancy or a serious medical condition. The bill had languished in Congress when George H.W. Bush refused to sign it.

2). Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was compromise that Bill Clinton made with the Congress on the issue of gays serving in the military. The president originally sought to repeal the ban on homosexual service, while Congress opposed allowing gays to serve in the military. This issue would not be settled until August 1993.

3). Health Care Reform – President Clinton created the national task force on health care in 1993. He appointed his wife First Lady Hillary Clinton as chair. The plan was fought about for a year and a half before it died in 1994.

4). Aid to Russia – In response to Russian President Boris Yetsin’s request for help, Clinton got a $1.6 billion aid package passed. The package was designed to help Russia stabilize its economy, and help Russia provide humanitarian aid to it citizens, and to dismantle nuclear weapons.

Clinton’s first one hundred days that were caught up in the gays in the military debate, the first WTC bombing, and the Branch Davidian/ATF standoff in Waco, TX. Clinton also lost his first two attorney general nominees to scandals. To say that Clinton struggled in his first 100 days would be an understatement. His is the rare presidency that got more popular with age. At the hundred day mark, President Clinton’s approval rating was 55%.

Here are the major accomplishments of Obama’s first 100 Days:

1). Economic Stimulus Plan – Obama got Congress to pass a $787 billion economic stimulus plan.

2). Expanded SCHIP – Obama signed a law that expanded the State Children’s Health Insurance Plan to cover an additional 4 million children.

3). Lilly Ledbetter Act -Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Act which requires equal pay for women.

4). Ethics Guidelines– Obama implemented new ethics guidelines that are designed to curtail the influence of lobbyists.

5). Iraq and Afghanistan – Obama announced the phased withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq, while sending an additional 4,000 troops to Afghanistan.

6). Budget and Healthcare– Obama got his budget passed, which paves the way for healthcare reform later this year.

Obama is enjoying an approval rating which is around 10% higher than Clinton’s in 1993. The ex-Clinton people in the Obama administration have learned their lessons well. Obama has avoided controversial issues and scandals. Obama also hasn’t had to deal with anything as severe as the Waco standoff, or the first World Trade Center bombing, so there is a degree of luck also involved.

Bill Clinton was derailed by gridlock within his own party, while Obama has faced little resistance from his fellow Democrats. This has allowed Obama to pass legislation rapidly. Compared to the disorganized chaos that was Clinton’s first one hundred days, things have been smooth sailing for Obama. Clinton and Obama are two presidents from the same party, who faced similar situations, but got different results. It will be interesting to watch if Obama’s popularity will build like Clinton’s did, or does this represent a high point for the new president?

Mr. Easley is the managing editor, who is White House Press Pool, and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.

Awards and Professional Memberships

Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association


Talk:First 100 days of Barack Obama's presidency

The number 7 citation is WRONG about Obama ordering the closing of Guantanamo Bay. First, it doesn't appear in the article. Second, he signed an order that he would review the subject in a year. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 32.179.116.252 (talk) 16:03, 20 August 2009 (UTC)

Barack Obama's first 100 days sounds like the first third of his first year of life. Shouldn't it be Barack Obama's first 100 days of Presidency(is presidency capitalized??)? To assume that Barack Obama's first 100 days refers to his presidency seems to be a case of recentism. For all we know his presidency may be one of his minor accomplishments before his life is finished. Chillum 00:37, 12 February 2009 (UTC)

I think that would be a really good rename, actually, to Barack Obama's first 100 days of Presidency or First 100 days of Barack Obama's Presidency, something like that. And yeah, by convention, the Presidency is capitalized in reference to the American president. rootology ( C )( T ) 01:57, 12 February 2009 (UTC) I prefer the latter.--TonyTheTiger (t/c/bio/WP:CHICAGO/WP:LOTM) 02:43, 12 February 2009 (UTC)

I also prefer the latter. Chillum 03:14, 12 February 2009 (UTC)

I'll move it over, we can always do it again if something better comes up. rootology ( C )( T ) 03:31, 12 February 2009 (UTC)

It is good to be bold. Chillum 03:42, 12 February 2009 (UTC)

Shouldn't presidency be in lower case? English isn't my first language but I don't think it's a proper noun then again Presidency of George W. Bush puts it in caps in the introductory sentence. Natural Cut (talk) 02:32, 14 February 2009 (UTC)

According to this[1] and everything else I read you capitalize it when you are referring to a specific president. So you would say "It would be neat to be president", you would also say "It would not be so neat to be President Bush". Chillum 05:14, 14 February 2009 (UTC)

But the question is, would you say "George W. Bush didn't enjoy his Presidency" or "George W. Bush didn't enjoy his presidency". -) The former simply looks wrong to me, and American news say "Obama's presidency" so I'm going to stick by my gut and say move it to lower case. Natural Cut (talk) 06:04, 14 February 2009 (UTC)

They did not capitalize "presidency" because that word was not referring to a specific president, it was referring to the position of president. In the same article they say ". that President Barack Obama can handle the crisis with a competent and steady team". When referring to a specific president then it is capitalized. See also [2],[3],[4]. Chillum 06:09, 14 February 2009 (UTC)

I wasn't disagreeing with you that President would be capitalized. You're 100% correct. It's Presidency [sic] that I'm saying is incorrect. Even when it's President Obama's presidency. Natural Cut (talk) 06:35, 14 February 2009 (UTC)

Lol, I spent all that time researching the rules and I forgot what we were comparing to. Yes I think you are right that since "presidency" is not referring to the person who is president that is should not be capitalized. Sorry, it has been a long week and I got a bit befuddled. Chillum 15:52, 14 February 2009 (UTC)

These also agree with your point[5][6]. Chillum 15:56, 14 February 2009 (UTC)

I have gone ahead and made the move since the grammar rules are clear on this(now that I am thinking straight). Chillum 16:01, 14 February 2009 (UTC)

It seems to be common knowledge that the media does not like how Obama has handled them. The two first missteps were his opening week venture to the media room for gladhanding when they wanted substantive answers and is blockage of media for the retaking of the oath. I see a <> was added about this issue. This does not mean he is not handling the media effectively. He has had not Kennedyesque blunders yet to my knowledge. They just don't like his effectiveness.--TonyTheTiger (t/c/bio/WP:CHICAGO/WP:LOTM) 08:19, 12 February 2009 (UTC)

However, saying that he has done the wrong things and saying what he should do is completely inappropriate for an encyclopedia. That should be removed. And additionally, those two 'blunders' are seen as such by the media, not necessarily himself or others. As for it being common knowledge that the media isn't thrilled by Obama's handling of them, that does seem to be common knowledge. --Andrew (talk) 13:17, 14 May 2009 (UTC)

"Although the first hundred days was not a concept relevant in the Lincoln Administration, Obama followed Lincoln by naming the former party front-running Senator from New York as his United States Secretary of State. [ citation needed ] Lincoln had chosen William H. Seward and Obama chose Hillary Clinton." I'm kind of hoping Obama's presidency won't be exactly like Lincoln's, Civil Wars aren't all they're cracked up to be, but this particular comparison seemed interesting. ChildofMidnight (talk) 02:38, 16 February 2009 (UTC)

Since there are plenty of sources for this subject I see no reason not to diligently remove uncited material. Good job. Chillum 02:58, 16 February 2009 (UTC)

Why isn't Obama's appearance on Leno included? This is notable being that he was the first sitting President to appear on a late night talk show. Sure it has nothing to do with his policies or 100 days agenda, but he made the trip in order to communicate to a certain audience/demographic about the economy. He also made the "Special Olympics or something" comment blunder. I believe that it is notable and must be included. I don't think articles on Obama should be completely scrubbed clean of any controversies or dumb things he's said or done, it's not "neutral" as you all believe WP should be. We've already seen right wingers complain about how Ayers and his citizenship aren't included on WP enough, I just think we should mention it to make everybody happy and fair. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 24.166.175.146 (talk) 19:58, 21 March 2009 (UTC)

It pains me, because I love both Wikipedia and Obama, but this article is terrible beyond any excuse. I mean, its ok for plenty of minor topics, but. this isn't. Now I know what you're going to say- "Be the change that you want to see in this article." Well, I believe we need to completely reconsider even having this page, so I'm really doing all I can. So. here it goes. Sorry for the length. If you know what I'm talking about you can skip most of it.

First of all, I do have to agree with most people who argued that the first 100 days is not a standard benchmark for measuring presidents. Its a popular thing to refer to by people who wish to incite parallels to FDR, but other than that the concept has no real meaning. For FDR, it most definitely did have a meaning- it was a specific plan to speedily pass a huge quantity of drastic policy changes. The whole idea behind the 100 days was, everyone wanted FDR to make those drastic changes. Obviously there were some setbacks (laws struck down by Supreme Court), but generally the Congress wanted to do everything he recommended could as fast as possible.

This period has been nothing like that. Obama has been working very hard, and he has made many positive changes, and far faster than we are used to. But Obama didn't come into office with huge bundle of laws to shove through Congress. And of course, he's right not to, because the Congress is not like it was under FDR. Republicans are almost totally unified in their opposition, and they are very vocal. Not only do they have the power to slow or stop the crucial legislation, they have leverage that comes with it. Yes, things are getting accomplished, but the tone is still of constant debate among mostly party lines, except that even some members of Obama's own party will oppose measures.

FDR's First 100 days was significant historically because it was a sudden change of tone to "the debate's over- get these things through." And this isn't just looking back- that was the idea he was promote. I'm not commenting on the validity of either approach, just that they are way different and these periods are fundamentally different.

What makes this article really bad isn't just that it probably shouldn't exist. The problem is that since the beginning, this has been a concern, and the consensus opinion is to just leave it as is so long as the intro is devoted to trying to justifying the article's existence. The introduction provides almost no actual information, like initiatives he has focused on (save the obvious ARRA), the manner in which he has used executive orders and other tools, how he has worked with the press, how he has appealed to the public to put pressure on Congress, or- well, there's an awful lot it could say. I know why its so empty- basically the same text was there when this article was written- before the inauguration. The intro was written without even any knowledge about the tone of public affairs during the "notable period" it is seeming to present.

Moving down the page, we get information on other random presidents and the early parts of their administration, even though no one ever even considered the concept as relevant to them- because it isn't. The Comparisons section is sort of on topic, but it definitely not NPOV, and soon it gets off-topic to just comparing presidents. By then end, it is a random walk though assorted facts said elsewhere on the page and irrelevant trivia. Again, it all seems like it is desperately trying to convince the reader that "100 days" is significant.

I usually can't blame an article for having plenty of information, but Jesus why is the Oath of Office event so important to this supposedly defining time frame? That's why we have Inauguration of Barack Obama.

The Administration and Cabinet section looks really top-notch, but why is it even here? It is by far the biggest section, yet nothing related to staff was even mentioned in the intro. If this is about the first 100 days, shouldn't it be following the actions instead of the people? The style just doesn't make sense.

The remaining text has some useful information, we already have pretty much the same stuff and more already on Presidency of Barack Obama#First 100 days. Which, by the way, I feel also needs to be changed, but not really that much.

Ok, so if we keep this article, consider that: We will have to continue to fit in more and more information about the presidency into the article until we hit an arbitrary 101 day mark. Then we're in a rather awkward position, right? What happens if a Cabinet appointment gets put off that long? When Obama makes a foreign policy decision, where does that go? Well, if its important enough, obviously a mention in Presidency of Barack Obama, and clearly more extensive coverage on Foreign policy of the Barack Obama administration. If it happens in the first 100 days, it also goes here. As time goes on, we'll have evern more duplicates than there are already, which means edit confusion, extra work, and less consistency

Alternatively, we can: For the Administration and Cabinet section, we can just put it in its own page. Then it can have as many days as it takes, and we can break it up into sections, including starting it off with the intro it already has, except with it not cramped between everything else. Then we get to put the article in the Barack Obama template like its tiny brethren List of judicial appointments made by Barack Obama. As for the inauguration info, again we already have the fantastic Inauguration of Barack Obama. We can just merge in any appropriate information that was left out there (though I doubt there will be). For everything else. like I said its mostly duplicate or irrelevant anyway. If everyone wants to take the time to scavenge through it for nuggets, we can just dismantle this thing slowly. And hell- if everyone feels the phrase is really that relevant, we can leave behind a page like "First 100 Days (Barack Obama)" to document its widespread usage in the media, and its implications. This could be a good, relatively short article that would fit with other public image pages. Really, I think it would make a great section in a page just on his press coverage- like, his public image, only to the media.

I feel like the Obama articles should really reflect some of Wikipedia's best editing tendencies- and part of that is organization to make things easy to navigate, easier to edit, and more consistent. So lets get this fixed.

BTW, I'm sorry for coming on strong (and long- I probably was way too elaborate, but I don't like the tit-for-tat bickering- I'd rather just say it all once). Also, just in advance- I probably made some mistakes here, and I'm sure you guys have some better ideas. And I don't mean to criticize the people who have helped to develop the article. Its got some good stuff, its just sometimes things get a little off-track when the purpose of an article isn't clear. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Ian Burnet (talk • contribs) 22:59, 3 April 2009 (UTC)

  • I agree that a 100 days article is misleading. We should perhaps have sub articles for each year of a president's term, end capped by each annual State of Union address. Aaron charles (talk) 17:02, 7 April 2009 (UTC)
    • I guess so.. But other Presidents' pages are only broken up into terms. This page is just too much of a clone of Presidency of Barack Obama. I really think most of this should be merged into that. Ian Burnet (talk) 19:41, 10 April 2009 (UTC)

    There's an article on the Invitations to Obama's inauguration. That shows how ridiculous Wikipedia has gotten in trying to cover this guy. I think this is an exact replica of his normal "Presidency" article. We don't need this much coverage on him unless somebody's gonna write "Second 100 days of Barack Obama's presidency" or "2009 in the Obama presidency". As I recall, Wikipedia is "not news"

    Amen, Ian. --Andrew (talk) 13:28, 14 May 2009 (UTC)

    I don't think other presidents have an article devoted to their first 100 days. For example, I just picked a president at random to check, and there's no First 100 days of William Henry Harrison 's presidency article. Grundle2600 (talk) 09:22, 17 May 2009 (UTC)

    Considering Harrison was only in office for 32 days, that is hardly surprising! The media made a big deal out of the first 100 days of Obama's presidency, so it makes perfect sense for Wikipedia to have an article about it (since it easily meets notability guidelines). Concerns about it being too similar to Presidency of Barack Obama are disingenuous, given that Obama has only been in office for four months. Obviously the "Presidency of. " article will be changing continuously over the next 4 (or perhaps 8) years. -- Scjessey (talk) 19:28, 17 May 2009 (UTC)

    The fact that this subjet is so widely covered in the media is the reason articles like these exist. Wikipedia has no agenda for making articles about Obama. WP is based off of sources, and for this topic, there are a hell of a lot of them. 98.164.216.136 (talk) 06:29, 25 September 2009 (UTC)

    Since Barack Obama has a first 100 days article would it be acceptable to have a similar page for leaders elsewhere when the first 100 days is considered important enough and indeed "torrid" enough to be mentioned by the media and to have to be defended due to accusations of "failure"? -- can dle • wicke 04:12, 24 December 2009 (UTC)

    No consensus to move. Vegaswikian (talk) 23:45, 19 January 2011 (UTC)

    You misspelled his name. I fixed it above. As to the argument, I'm fine with either really.--Dudemanfellabra (talk) 23:18, 4 January 2011 (UTC) Weak oppose, the current form seems more natural, and since the meaning is so obviously the same, there doesn't seem any need for consistency with the other title.--Kotniski (talk) 11:57, 12 January 2011 (UTC) The above discussion is preserved as an archive of the proposal. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

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    This comparisons section seems particularly ill-conceived. It simply restates the opinions that were written in a 5-day series in the New York Times, and it does so in a confusing manner to the reader (for example, it references "Smith," presumably meaning Jean Edward Smith even though there is also a Clive Stafford Smith quoted and wiki-linked in the article). I am struggling to see the value of this as a stand-alone section apart from "Media Coverage" and also do not feel the length and depth of the section is warranted. Magic1million (talk) 17:11, 15 November 2016 (UTC)

    I see this was deleted (which I support) but now I question the necessity of the paragraph in "Media" even mentioning this NYT series. The paragraph doesn't actually include any information apart from "a newspaper did a piece on this". sure, the NYT ran pieces on it, so did many other news outfits. I don't see how this paragraph adds any base information to the actual 100 Days. Should this just be removed altogether? Or if it's kept, do we really need to list out the publication dates and authors? Seems overly detailed.Henry chianski (talk) 16:57, 26 November 2016 (UTC)

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    'We cannot make . those mistakes again'

    Another difference is how the two presidents dealt with the opposition leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who held the same position in Obama's early years and famously said in 2010 that his top priority was to make him a one-term president.

    "The biggest lesson learned is that Mitch McConnell doesn't act in good faith," said David Litt, a former speechwriter for Obama. "You see Mitch McConnell's Republicans running the same playbook. But Joe Biden and his administration and the Democrats — this time they know what's coming."

    He said GOP votes not to count Biden electors after the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 drove that home.

    "The Biden administration came in saying: Maybe not all of these GOP lawmakers are totally committed to the whole democracy thing. And we should act accordingly," Litt said.

    McConnell has accused Biden of pursuing a left-wing agenda in contradiction to his campaign promises to seek unity. He offered similar criticisms of Obama early on. At the time, Democrats moderated their policies in search of GOP support — sometimes fruitlessly, as in the case of the Affordable Care Act.

    Biden, by contrast, held one meeting with GOP senators about Covid-19 relief aid before he opted for a filibuster-proof process to pass his $1.9 trillion bill without them.

    "'Get me once, shame on you get me twice, shame on me' is at play here," said Cornell Belcher, a Democratic strategist who used to be Obama's pollster. "This whole idea that we can find Republican support for things is of a bygone era. It's of a pre-Mitch McConnell era. It's fair for Joe Biden to simply not play along with him in that cynical game."

    Republicans say the White House is learning the wrong lessons.

    "They should learn the lesson that they shouldn't pass things that the American public don't want," said Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., arguing that voters want a secure border, reopened schools, a ban on "men playing in women's sports" and voter ID laws. "They should do things that the American public wants instead of doing things that kill the American economy."

    Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., identified two lessons from the Obama era, when he was the caucus' third-in-command: Err on the side of going big on crisis relief, and don't waste time.

    "In 2009 and ཆ, we did not put together a robust recovery bill, and we stayed in recession for too many years. And then we spent a year and a half negotiating on something good, the ACA, but didn't get anything else done," he said. "We cannot make either of those mistakes again."

    The different backgrounds of Obama and Biden have also shaped their political realities. Obama's ascent represented a tectonic shift for multiracial democracy that triggered a racial backlash Democrats with divided constituencies sought distance. Biden doesn't have that problem. And centrists in his party are more comfortable embracing his programs.

    While Obama had a knack for making moderate programs like the Affordable Care Act sound transformative to progressives, Biden's talent has been to make FDR-size liberal ideas sound moderate.

    "Joe Biden happens to be an old white guy. There's something comforting to those old middle-of-the-road white voters about an old middle-of-the-road white guy," Belcher said. "When Joe Biden says something, it comes across differently than if Barack Obama said it. Implicit bias is real."


    Flashback: Media Lovefest over Barack Obama’s First 100 Days

    3,501 Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty

    The media’s framing for former President Barack Obama’s first 100 days began with the premise that his very presence in the White House was “historic.” Obama was praised for aggressively pursuing a bold policy agenda and reversing the policies of his predecessor.

    The same media would later indulge Obama’s incessant complaints that all of his problems were caused by George W. Bush, which is difficult to square with their nearly universal praise for his total reversal of Bush policies 100 days into his administration.

    Time m agazine , for example, dubbed the Obama administration a “historic presidency” at the top of its Hundred Days special coverage, then brought in Joe Klein to declare Obama’s start “the most impressive of any president since F.D.R.”

    Mark Halperin gushed that Obama was “instantly comfortable and highly skilled at the hardest job in the world,” swooning over the new president’s “even temper, cool demeanor, boldness under pressure, shrewd facility for managing personnel, unfailing instincts about when to delegate and when to engage.”

    Halperin faulted Obama only for a “handful of public missteps” and, most amusingly, for his “failure to ameliorate the partisan divide.”

    Comparisons to FDR were ubiquitous in Obama’s Hundred Days coverage it would probably be easier to list the mainstream media articles that didn’t favorably compare Obama to Roosevelt. Savannah Guthrie at NBC News inadvertently let slip the reason why: White House officials were making the comparison themselves, every chance they got. The media simply followed their lead.

    NBC’s summary illustrated how much of the media uncritically accepted what the Obama White House said about its first few months in office. Guthrie’s piece literally repeats the talking points Team Obama gave her, treating them as objective truth. (“Advisers are only too happy to tick off a flurry of accomplishments on the economy in the administration’s first hundred days.”)

    She even repeated transparently ridiculous fluff like Obama’s aides claiming his “even temperament” only “darkened” when he had to deal with “military families who’ve lost loved ones” and read “personal letters from Americans telling stories of their own economic turmoil.”

    The Washington Post said Obama had “moved quickly to strengthen the U.S. economy, refine the American strategy in two foreign wars and reverse Bush-era detention and interrogation policies that have drawn condemnation at home and abroad.”

    In the Post’s view, Obama’s biggest failure at the 100-day mark was overestimating the willingness of Republicans in Congress to “rally behind the nation’s first African-American president at a time of crisis.” In other words, they thought Obama naive for believing evil Republicans could overcome their racism to vote for his magnificent stimulus bill.

    Jack Cafferty at CNN asked its audience to name their favorite Obama success in the first 100 days, blithely assuming no reasonable person would think the nascent presidency a failure. One of Cafferty’s favorite successes was “meeting with leaders around the world, promising a new era of American leadership and cooperation.”

    ABC News saluted Obama for moving “swiftly” and “rapidly” to “revoke and alter policies that marked the legacy of the Bush team.” (Why, just 100 days into the Obama presidency, Guantanamo Bay was as good as closed!)

    The only criticism of Obama ABC could think to mention was that “critics say he could be putting too much on his already-full plate.” Those old enough to remember 2009 may recall critics saying many other things about Barack Obama, but for the mainstream media, the only flaw of this history-sculpting titan was that he cared too damn much .

    The memory bank over at NewsBusters coughed up a clump of TV “journalists” worshiping at the Obama altar 100 days in, with comparisons to George Washington and the Kennedys. Michelle Obama was embraced as a “rock star.” Katie Couric asked John Boehner if his Republican caucus was “digging themselves into a hole” by not surrendering all objections to Obama’s magical agenda.

    It is hard to top New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny’s legendary puffball question at President Obama’s 100 Days press conference: “During these first 100 days, what has surprised you the most about this office, enchanted you the most about serving in this office, humbled you the most and troubled you the most?”

    Even as the Obama Hundred Days were unfolding, the Pew Research Center noted that President Obama “enjoyed substantially more positive media coverage than either Bill Clinton or George Bush during their first months in the White House.”

    Pew found positive stories about Obama outweighed the negatives by two-to-one, not just on the op-ed pages, but in “straight” news stories. One of the reasons proposed for this disparity was Obama’s habit of “getting out of Washington and meeting directly with the public,” giving the media a steady stream of soft-focus human-interest stories to write about.

    Also, Pew noted the coverage was heavily focused on Obama’s “personal and leadership qualities” than on his actual policy agenda. Not coincidentally, lifestyle and entertainment media continued treating the Obama family as celebrity superstars throughout the Hundred Days. “It feels as if sometimes the editors love them more than the readers,” one celebrity magazine editor remarked to the Today show.

    When the media did talk policy during the Obama Hundred Days, it gave him nearly unlimited credit for dealing with the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. Coverage of Obama’s trillion-dollar stimulus bill almost invariably portrayed it as the new president’s effort to “fix” the nation’s broken economy, opposed only by mindless obstructionists (and, as noted, racists).

    The media stressed Obama’s popularity in polls, conjured an aura of profound legitimacy around his margin of victory in the 2008 election, and placed great emphasis on polls that showed public optimism about America’s moving onto the “right track” because of his election. (They seem a great deal less interested in polls that show the public brimming with confidence about the economy now that Obama is gone.)

    The media themselves were suffused with optimism and appreciation for Obama’s good intentions at the Hundred Day mark. For example, check out this assessment of Obama’s first budget proposal from April 29, 2009, at CNBC : “While a welcome victory, congressional passage of the budget would be only a first, relatively easy step toward Obama’s goal of providing health care coverage for all Americans.”

    Notice how getting that budget passed was not qualified as a welcome victory for Obama or for Democrats, and his healthcare ambitions were presented as pure unalloyed goodness. The mainstream media rarely discusses the “goals” of Republican presidents, especially the current one.

    Obama’s political credit card had no limit for advances on his good intentions. There was a little grumbling about how he did not manage a few administrative details perfectly, but the media had no doubt whatsoever that Obama meant well or that he had brilliant strategies for achieving his noble ends. Conversely, Republicans were asked to explain how they could oppose the new president in good conscience. The narrative of a historic president with a nearly unprecedented electoral and moral mandate was set long before Day 100 ticked by.


    The first 100 days: Meaningful milestone or debunked benchmark?

    FDR's benchmark is now inextricably embedded in our presidential politics

    President Franklin Roosevelt served an unprecedented 4,422 days in office, but his first 100 set a benchmark by which his successors are inevitably measured. The milestone’s origin in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency coincided with the convergence of a worldwide economic depression, a midwest climate crisis, and an activist chief executive who created a bureaucratic behemoth to address the disasters. Americans would henceforth turn to the modern, some would call it the “imperial,” presidency to address the nation’s ills.

    FDR declared in his first inaugural address that he was prepared to exercise “broad executive power to wage a war against the emergency.” His 1932 victory over the passive Herbert Hoover signaled the people’s “mandate that they want direct, vigorous action. …They have made me the present instrument of their wishes,” Roosevelt concluded. A few months later, he referred to “the crowding events of the hundred days which had been devoted to the starting of the wheels of the New Deal.”

    With Democratic Party majorities in both houses of Congress, FDR signed an unsurpassed 76 bills into law by the 100-day mark, and he managed to calm the nation with his patented fire-side addresses, delivered in soothing tones that supporters found accessible despite their patrician lilt.

    Winston Churchill observed that meeting FDR was like uncorking your first bottle of champagne. With the unemployment rate at 25%, the nation rallied to his effervescent personality. His jaunty cigarette holder, broad smile, and upturned face radiated confidence. “Happy Days Are Here Again,” his campaign theme song, seemed truly attainable. The Roosevelt brand was launched into history.


    The First Hundred Days

    Many news stories recently have looked forward to Barack Obama’s first hundred days as U.S. President, while looking back to the first hundred days of the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), e.g., “Shades of FDR in Obama’s First 100 Days”:

    As Barack Obama plans his first 100 days as president, he has looked for inspiration to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who raced through his early days in office, spurring Congress to act.

    “I hope my team can emulate (FDR). not always getting it right, but projecting a sense of confidence and a willingness to try things, and experiment in order to get people working again,” the president-elect told “60 Minutes” in November. He said he was reading a book about the New Deal president's first 100 days in office in 1933.

    At the height of the Depression, Roosevelt used his first three-plus months in office to quickly push through Congress a series of reforms aimed at righting the economy.

    Since then, the first 100 days of each administration have become a benchmark to track the progress of the new president.
    .

    Like many previous presidents, Obama has attempted to tamper expectations for his first 100 days in office.

    “The first hundred days is going to be important, but it's probably going to be more like the first thousand days that makes a difference,” he told a Colorado radio station in an interview shortly before Election Day. “Most of the big challenges that we face, whether it's making college more affordable, or fixing our health care system so it works for everybody, or making sure that we've got a serious energy strategy, or winding down the war in Iraq, all those things are probably going to take longer than three months to complete.”

    Works about the first hundred days of FDR’s presidency are classed in 973.917 Administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1933–1945, if the focus is broadly on conditions, policies, programs, and events of that time, e.g., FDR: The First Hundred Days. If the work is biographical or focuses on FDR as a person (or on FDR and his close associates), it is classed in 973.917092 United States—1933–1945—biography (built with 973.917 plus T1—092 Persons), e.g., The Defining Moment: FDR's Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope and Nothing to Fear: FDR's Inner Circle and the Hundred Days that Created Modern America.

    Works about the first hundred days of Barack Obama’s presidency—or first thousand days, or his full administration—will be classed as appropriate in 973.932 Administration of Barack Obama, 2009– or 973.932092 United States—2009– —biography.


    FDR’s First 100 Days in Office

    Like Joe Biden, Franklin Delano Roosevelt took the helm of a country in crisis. In his first year in office, the American unemployment rate would reach its peak at around 25%. Over 12 million Americans were out of work.

    Roosevelt equated fighting the Great Depression to fighting a war—an analogy that has also been used to describe the fight against coronavirus. Roosevelt said:

    “I shall ask the Congress for the one remaining instrument to meet the crisis — broad Executive power to wage a war against the emergency, as great as the power that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe.”

    Two days after his inauguration on March 4th, 1933, Roosevelt declared a national “bank holiday” to stem the tide of people trying to withdraw their money from failing banks. A few days later, he signed the Emergency Banking Act, which allowed banks to reopen if the government found them sound. Aware that the country could plunge into deeper crisis, Congress rushed the passage of the bill—even though there were no available copies to read.

    On March 12th, FDR gave his first “fireside chat”—a radio address to the nation to explain his actions and to reassure Americans that it was safe to put their money in the bank.

    Roosevelt gives his first “fireside chat”, March 12, 1933 | National Archives

    “My friends,” Roosevelt said, “I want to talk for a few minutes with the people of the United States about banking—to talk with the comparatively few who understand the mechanics of banking, but more particularly with the overwhelming majority of you who use banks for the making of deposits and the drawing of checks.”

    He reassured the country that it was: “Safer to keep your money in a reopened bank than under the mattress.”

    FDR’s direct communication worked. In the following weeks, Americans returned nearly a billion dollars to banks that the governments had declared sound. Raymond Moley, one of Roosevelt’s closest aides, remarked that “capitalism was saved in eight days.”

    Roosevelt didn’t stop there. In the next 100 days—technically, 105—his administration would usher 15 bills through Congress. They had a three-pronged goal: to boost employment, to help Americans in rural states, and to enact financial reforms.

    A year later, unemployment started to drop and the country’s GDP began to rise. Arguably, it would take the ultimate stimulus of WWII—and the ramping up of production—to end the Great Depression. But FDR brought relief to millions of Americans.

    In his actions, FDR not only helped steer the United States away from crisis—he redefined the role of the federal government. Roosevelt believed it was a matter of “social duty” for the government to help where it could. His predecessor, Herbert Hoover, was well aware of this. A free-market capitalist, Hoover remarked that the 1932 election between Roosevelt and himself would be not: “a contest between two men” but “two philosophies of government.”

    Roosevelt also erected a bar for future presidents to scale. His successors would face pressure to have a productive 100 days in office like he had.


    The first 100 days: When did we start caring about them and why do they matter?

    As we approach President Biden’s first 100 days in office many will use the occasion to evaluate his performance. Why 100 days? There is no constitutional or statutory significance to the first 100 days of a president’s term. In the first hundred and forty-four years of the Republic no one made a big deal about the 100-day mark. It is a somewhat arbitrary and artificial milestone. David Alexrod, a top aide to President Obama once called it a “Hallmark Holiday”—lots of attention but no significance.

    So where did this come from and why do we still talk about it?

    It came from the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Elected in the midst of a great depression, Roosevelt kept out of the fray during the long transition period between Election Day 1932 and Inauguration Day on March 4, 1933. According to historians, his sense of political theater led him to avoid President Hoover’s attempts to involve him in dealing with the overwhelming crises before the country.[1] Thus he successfully orchestrated a complete break from the past and a new start with the American people.

    FDR’s ability to talk to America is without equal in the 20 th century and in 1933 it was an especially dramatic contrast to the stern and uncaring policies of his predecessor Herbert Hoover, who had vetoed several relief bills. Roosevelt’s inaugural address is memorable for the phrase “we have nothing to fear but fear itself.” And less than two weeks after that he gave the first of many fireside chats—explaining over the radio, in simple terms, what was happening to Americans and how he would fix it.

    But Roosevelt’s rhetoric and mastery of the new medium of radio were not what made him the president who is remembered for the first 100 days. It was the breathtaking scope of bold and new actions, both legislative and regulatory, that set the bar so high. To name but a few: in those 100 days he declared a bank holiday which stopped the disastrous run on the banks, he took America off the gold standard, and he passed groundbreaking legislation for farmers and homeowners and for the unemployed. He also passed amendments to the hated Volstead Act which had created prohibition. Immediately, “beer parties” were held all over the country in celebration.[2]

    Ever since, presidents have been evaluated for their performance in the first 100 days. Suffice it to say that few have lived up to Roosevelt. Ronald Reagan probably comes closest of all the presidents since then—a combination of skill and luck. His administration began with the release of the hostages that had been held in Iran by Islamic radicals. No clearer contrast could be drawn between him and the unlucky President Jimmy Carter, whose last year in office was clouded by the hostage crisis that he could not control and that he could not end. Although Reagan had little to do with ending the crisis, he came in with a clean slate.


    Obama begins leading America in a new direction

    On the last Friday in March, President Obama summoned leaders of the banking industry to the White House, where they gathered around a mahogany table in the State Dining Room, site of many a feast. On this day there was not a piece of fruit nor can of soda in sight. At each place was a glass of water. No ice. No refills.

    The president’s message was hard and crusty as a slab of day-old bread.

    He urged the bankers to view corporate excess through the eyes of Americans who are belt-tightening their way through the recession. Obama mentioned the carpet stains in the Oval Office, to make a frugal comparison with $1-million suites decorated with $8,000 trash cans.

    The corporate chieftains protested, citing the specialization of their field and the need to pay handsomely to avoid a brain drain. Obama cut them off: “Be careful how you make those statements, gentlemen. The public isn’t buying that. My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.”

    Direct, assertive and utterly self-assured, Obama has used his broad popularity, a driving ambition and a sweeping agenda to move America in a wholly new direction.

    Just shy of 100 days in office, he has ordered the closure of the Guantanamo Bay military prison and a troop withdrawal from Iraq made it easier for women to sue for job discrimination eased a ban on stem cell research extended healthcare coverage to millions of children ousted the head of General Motors reached out to the Muslim world moved to ease tensions with Cuba traveled to Canada, Europe, Turkey and Latin America and set aside huge tracts of wilderness for federal protection.

    More broadly, Obama has seized on the worst economic crisis since the 1930s -- exploiting it, critics say -- and set out to reshape major aspects of everyday life: the price we pay to see a doctor, the size of our children’s classrooms, the fuel we put in our cars.

    If Obama’s history-making campaign offered hope, the nation’s first black president has delivered audacity his vision of an activist government has been so vast, Washington now guarantees not only savings accounts but brakes on a Buick.

    “You can carp and gripe,” said Allan Lichtman, a historian at Washington’s American University. “But you really have to go back as far as Franklin Roosevelt for this much coming out of a newly elected president.”

    Whether dealing with imperious bankers or Somali pirates, Obama as chief executive looks a lot like Obama the candidate: the calmest one at the table, ribbing stressed-out aides and sipping bottled water as his lieutenants guzzle caffeine.

    Not that his performance was always so smooth.

    After a quick start, a series of controversies slowed hiring for the administration, leaving hundreds of desks vacant and phones unanswered it took three tries to land a Commerce secretary. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, the point man on the economy, relied on holdovers from the Bush administration to shape Obama’s policies, and botched his debut so badly that he helped send markets off a cliff.

    For a man who considers himself a good listener, Obama sometimes appeared tone-deaf, underestimating public disgust with a would-be healthcare czar who rode around Washington in a chauffeured Cadillac and failed to pay taxes on the perk. He was slow to detect the populist backlash brewing when tens of millions in taxpayer-funded bonuses went to executives who helped tank the economy.

    At times, the nation’s orator in chief struggled to find the right tone -- sometimes too grim, sometimes too glib -- when talking to a country that needed to hear both hard truths and gentle reassurance. (Last week, Obama gave a speech touting economic improvement the same day lousy consumer spending figures came out.)

    When Obama’s agenda threatened to hit a wall inside the Washington Beltway, he took to the road -- reporters in tow -- to soak up support from friendly, campaign-style crowds.

    But more important than personal adulation was something else Americans seemed willing to give their young president, something apparent in robust poll numbers and a recognition that things weren’t going to improve overnight: The country was willing to be patient.

    On Jan. 21, the first full day of the Obama administration, the president stepped into the Oval Office at 8:35 a.m. He spent the first 10 minutes alone, reading a private note that former President George W. Bush had left behind: “To: #44, From: #43.” Then, wearing a starched white shirt, sky-blue tie and no jacket -- his would be a less-formal White House -- Obama went to work behind Bush’s old desk.

    The transfer of power in Washington can be jarring. But mentally, Obama had been easing into the presidency for some time, especially since mid-September, when Lehman Bros. collapsed in the largest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history. The economy was in free-fall. Republican John McCain was dithering over whether to participate in the first presidential debate. And the country had long since stopped looking to Bush for answers. (In the final days of the campaign, when victory seemed assured, Obama would scan the bleak headlines and privately joke that he could still throw the race.)

    Maybe it was that head start, or his famous unflappability, but as president, Obama moved quickly to assert himself and begin reordering policies at home and abroad. The media, always a bit fawning over a new chief executive, breathlessly chronicled Obama’s every move. He walked toward his Marine One helicopter with “a manifestly brisk stride,” a wire service wrote, and shunned a raincoat and umbrella as though impervious to rain.

    Republicans were a harder sell.

    Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent had been to White House events before, but never one like Obama’s Super Bowl bash. There was a Wii in the East Wing and kids running all over. The president circulated with plates of brownies and warm cookies. When Dent’s son and a friend needed to use the bathroom, they asked the guy with the cookies for directions. “How should I know?” Obama joked. “I’ve only been here 10 days.”

    Seventy-five guests from the two major parties, folks who work side by side on Capitol Hill but don’t seem to much like each other, mingled, drank beer, ate hot dogs and watched the Pittsburgh Steelers win a rare Super Bowl thriller. The president passed up the four cushy chairs at the front of the home theater to join the crowd in the cheap seats.

    Surely it was a reach to think that warm cookies and cold beer would make Republicans any more willing to swallow the end of a conservative era. But if Obama couldn’t get GOP leaders to back his stimulus package, or much else, perhaps he could win over a few of their members.

    Early on, the rank and file seemed to appreciate the effort. When Obama went to the Hill to sell his $800-billion economic rescue bill, House Republicans gave him two standing ovations, even though their leader, John A. Boehner of Ohio, had just urged them to vote against it, citing, among other things, the GOP’s lack of input.

    “It’s always good to communicate with the president of the United States,” Rep. Wally Herger, a Chico Republican, remarked afterward. “That doesn’t mean we’re going to support his plan.”

    In the end, angry over the size and scope of the package, not a single Republican House member did.

    But Obama continued his courtship, opening the White House for Wednesday night cocktails and hosting a state dinner that featured the nation’s governors dancing hands on hips in a bipartisan conga line. To White House strategists, the measure of success was not winning GOP votes but showing the country that, after all the animosity of the Bush years, Obama was at least trying.

    “I’ll keep hugging you, you keep hitting me. Doesn’t bother me none,” said Rahm Emanuel, the former Chicago congressman and political brawler, whom Obama hired as White House chief of staff. “If I keep hugging and you keep hitting, it’s not my fault. Guess who gets blamed?”

    Two weeks into Obama’s presidency, he faced his first significant setback.

    Former Sen. Tom Daschle was his pick to head the Department of Health and Human Services and, more important, to shepherd Obama’s ambitious healthcare plan through Congress. But Daschle’s image was being tarred by stories about his chauffeured limousine and lucrative ties to the healthcare industry.

    Obama and his aides were usually happy to ignore the conventional Beltway wisdom. In this case, though, they lapsed into typical Washington-think: If Daschle had the votes to prevail on Capitol Hill, where the ex-senator remained popular with former colleagues, then surely the controversy wasn’t that big a deal.

    What they didn’t count on was the angry reaction of the American people. The whole thing reeked of the kind of clubby back-scratching that Obama, as a candidate, had vowed to end.

    After waking up to a stinging New York Times editorial, Daschle decided to withdraw the president let him go. That night, Obama proceeded with five network TV interviews that were scheduled to peddle his stimulus plan. Instead, he delivered a five-pronged apology. “I screwed up,” he said.

    The morning after Obama’s serial mea culpa, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs ended his daily staff meeting with a declaration: “When the president said, ‘I screwed up’ last night, that officially ended our experiment with sipping from the waters of the Potomac.”

    The Daschle debacle produced the worst day of Obama’s young administration but established a pattern. Facing trouble, Obama would step forward, hit the road and try to change the subject. Messes made in Washington were best cleaned up outside Washington, by a president whose personal popularity was seemingly unsullied by any mistakes he made.

    But there was something else bothering Gibbs and others in the administration. The Washington narrative was a roller coaster of conflicting conclusions: One day Obama’s stimulus package was destined to pass, the next it was doomed to fail. Yet polling and focus groups found solid support across the country.

    The president, already feeling caged in the White House, was eager to escape. Obama and his aides realized that their best sales tactic was to put the president directly in front of the American people. He touched down in Elkhart, Ind., where unemployment had tripled in the last year in Fort Myers, Fla., where an adoring crowd chanted his name and in Peoria, Ill., where he announced with dramatic flair that the Senate had just passed the stimulus bill. Obama took more trips outside Washington in his first month than any of his five immediate predecessors.

    The point, as Gibbs told reporters on Air Force One en route to Elkhart, “is not explaining to Indiana what’s going on in Washington. This is taking Washington to show them what’s going on in Indiana and all over the country, and why people are hurting.”

    Timothy Geithner was standing before a crowd of reporters in the gilded Cash Room of the Treasury Department. It was a moment Obama had built up, suggesting that the youthful Cabinet secretary would spell out a plan to keep people in their homes and fix the nation’s path to economic recovery.

    But rather than leading a cavalry charge, Geithner looked more like a nervous delivery boy worried he had the wrong order.

    Badly placed teleprompters made matters worse as Geithner spoke, he moved his head back and forth like an oscillating fan, speaking of high concepts but providing little of the substance Wall Street wanted. Reporters began pecking out dispatches on their BlackBerrys, using words like “disaster.” The Dow tumbled 382 points.

    But if Geithner took a pounding, it was Obama who deserved much of the blame: He had promised far more than the Treasury secretary and his understaffed department could possibly provide.

    After Geithner, Daschle and others were tripped up by tax problems, the White House forced appointees to undergo a more vigorous scrubbing it was almost obsessive, some complained, practically forcing appointees to account for the spare change in their pockets. Some stepped aside rather than face a trial by nitpicking.

    The day of Geithner’s appearance, his chief speechwriter was still awaiting FBI clearance. The woman assigned to wrangle reporters didn’t know her way around the building it was her first day on the job.

    Overnight, Geithner became a butt of jokes: home alone at Treasury. A deer in the headlights. The laughter turned to fury weeks later when news broke of the $165-million executive payout at American International Group, or AIG, which received a massive federal bailout. The bonuses were contractually obligated but, fairly or not, Geithner got much of the blame.

    Obama once more set out to tidy the mess, launching a weeklong media blitz that seemed to target sports fans, news junkies, insomniacs and others. There he was on ESPN, making his picks in the men’s college basketball tournament on “60 Minutes,” saying, yes, he too was outraged by AIG on Jay Leno’s couch, where he lauded Geithner as “a calm and steady guy.”

    This time, however, even friends of the White House started asking whether Obama was becoming overexposed. He laughed on “60 Minutes” during a discussion of the failing auto industry. Was he punch-drunk? He apologized after cracking wise about the Special Olympics on Leno’s show. Was he diminishing the presidency by appearing on a late-night talk show?

    Administration insiders, fingers firmly on the pulse of opinion polls, were convinced that the nation’s trauma and Obama’s inordinate skill offered an exception to the usual rules of political engagement.

    “If these were ordinary times, I’d be more concerned than I am during what is, for most people, a crisis,” said Jim Margolis, a campaign advisor who remains close to the White House. “At this moment, Americans need to be able to connect to their president, to see that he understands what they are going through and that he is moving us toward a solution.”

    From the start, warp speed was the resting heart rate at the White House, grinding people down. Just about everyone had at least one head cold the first month. A fatigued national security aide dozed off during an afternoon briefing.

    Each day seemed like a week each week seemed like a month. Take Week Six: Obama hosted the conga-dancing governors on Sunday night, then Monday morning served muffins and a lecture on his stimulus bill. On Tuesday, he delivered his first address to a joint session of Congress, calling for expensive energy, education and healthcare programs that would produce an ocean of red ink. On Wednesday, news leaked that the first family was closing in on a puppy. On Thursday, Obama rolled out his $3.5-trillion budget. On Friday, surrounded by troops at Camp Lejeune, N.C., he announced his plan to wind down the war in Iraq.

    Halfway to the 100-day mark, Obama had already signed into law seven major pieces of legislation, including the biggest spending bill in American history.

    “Never allow a good crisis to go to waste,” Emanuel said. “It’s an opportunity to do what the political system and the inertia of the system have prevented.”

    Many, including more than a few congressional Democrats, suggested that Obama was too ambitious and that the understaffed administration was proceeding too quickly. “It is hard to do everything that needs to be done,” said Kent Conrad of North Dakota, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. “You do have to prioritize.”

    Privately, Obama lamented the crush of events that required moving “from one thing to the other in a way that doesn’t give him the kind of collected and thoughtful ability to respond that he’d like,” said a friend who did not want to be identified discussing their private conversation. “It’s really an array of challenges, any one of which you could spend all your time on.”

    Still, Obama pushed ahead. Not because “I feel like it, or because I’m a glutton for punishment,” he told a group of business leaders. The economic crisis, he said, left no choice.

    One cold January afternoon, Obama posed for pictures in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s elegant office, the two seated in matching yellow wing chairs by the fireplace, smiling. In a few days he would take the oath of office on a stage that work crews were constructing beneath her balcony window. A handful of aides sat across the room, idling as the shutters snapped. When it came time for business, Obama picked up his chair, hoisted it over his head and plunked it down amid the circle of staffers.

    Presidents -- and those about to become president -- don’t move furniture. But clearly Obama had not yet grasped the starchy protocols of a job that comes with two men assigned to hold his coat, dial his phone and carry his lip balm. That was evident again a short time later, when the president-elect casually strolled onto the balcony, only to be yanked back inside by Secret Service agents.

    Assuming leadership of the free world obviously requires some adjustments. But if Obama was bemused by all the pampering, he had no problem seizing power. His White House quickly assumed the persona of its chief tenant: on point, no-nonsense, without a lot of wasted time or effort.

    Meetings start promptly and stay on topic. Participation is limited to those who have a reason to show there is little regard for apple-polishers, or people seeking face time with the president. When he’s not happy, Obama doesn’t holler or flap his arms disapproval is meted out in a clipped tone. “ ‘This is what needs to happen. This is what hasn’t happened. This is what in the next few days is going to happen,’ ” Gibbs quoted the president, likening him to a disappointed parent.

    A typical presidential day begins with a 7 a.m. workout on the third-floor gym, followed by breakfast with daughters Sasha and Malia, policy briefings in the Oval Office and a series of tightly spaced meetings or public appearances. For lunch, he orders whatever he fancies: cheeseburgers and waffle fries more often than one might think. On Fridays, he lunches alone with Vice President Joe Biden.

    While Obama eats dinner, staffers prepare the night’s reading, which is dispatched to the residential quarters in color-coded folders. (Red for classified items.) He sometimes pores over them until after midnight, long past Bush’s strict 10 p.m. bedtime.

    Like every president, Obama is largely walled off from the world beyond the iron gates of the White House. His BlackBerry is a lifeline to old friends, who still call him “Barack.” (Unless they want to tease him. Then, following Michelle Obama’s lead, it’s “Mr. President.”) The Chicago crowd has created a buddy system of rotating houseguests who spend weekends in Washington.

    Obama also tries to stay connected by reading 10 letters a day -- selected from more than 250,000 he gets each week -- from Americans sharing their hopes, sorrows and things that keep them awake nights. The president requested the letters soon after taking office and sometimes shares them with aides, urging them to remember the true-life tales as they make policy. Obama answers about half.

    “I think this is his greatest single concern,” said David Axelrod, Obama’s top political advisor. “Being kind of caught in the bubble and cut off from people.”

    The first 100 days of a presidency have been a milestone since the epic days of Roosevelt’s New Deal. It is an arbitrary measure, and not always a good one. The Sept. 11 attacks that shaped Bush’s presidency were months away when he reached the mark in 2001.

    But the start of Obama’s administration has answered one question that hung over his improbable White House bid: whether a freshman senator, still shy of his 50th birthday and just a few years removed from the Illinois Statehouse, was prepared to face the responsibility and wield the awesome powers of the presidency.

    It will take much longer to determine whether Obama’s actions were wise or successful. But from the start he took the reins, and pulled hard.



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