Senior Correspondent

President gets points for style and substance, forcing critics to acknowledge shrewd moves

WASHINGTON (  – About the worst thing his harshest progressive critics have to say about President Barack Obama’s first 100 days in office is that he’s nothing more than a “Black Bill Clinton.”

But with that, most of them concede: “At least he’s not George W. Bush.”


While April 29th officially marked Mr. Obama’s 100th day in office, his supporters are unrestrained in ticking off what they claim as his “victories.”

The symbolism of the first 100 days in office is important because of the record of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt who won the election of 1932, after the great stock market crash of 1929 when the country was suffering during the Great Depression.

Just as Mr. Obama’s party did in 2008, in 1932 Mr. Roosevelt’s party decisively swept congressional elections across the nation, and he entered office with unprecedented political capital.

People all across the political spectrum were demanding dramatic action, and Mr. Roosevelt responded with a package of programs in the first 100 days of his administration–then from March 4 to June 13, 1933. During those 100 days, Congress granted President Roosevelt’s every request. That package is now known as “The New Deal.”

While not necessarily portraying Mr. Obama’s success in Roosevelt-like proportions, many analysts give his performance high marks. “I think he’s doing fine,” Dr. David Bositis, senior research fellow at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies told The Final Call concerning President Obama’s first 100 days.

“I think he’s dominating his opponents. I wish I could say for certain that the economy’s going to turn around quickly, but it was very bad when he took over, and it’s probably going to take some time.

“In terms of Black folks, it’s pretty much the same as everybody else. What everybody needs right now is the economy to turn around. Now he can’t do that all on his own, but I think he’s done a very good job so far,” Dr. Bositis said.

Those who actively supported the Obama campaign are even more enthusiastic. “Well, I’m just absolutely ecstatic about the breathtaking speed at which President Barack Obama has been working, not only to make things better, but to correct problems from the past eight years before he became president,” Dr. E. Faye Williams, president of the National Black Women’s Political Congress, told The Final Call.

“In his very first week, women were really excited because he dealt early with the Lilly Ledbetter Bill, for fair pay for women–equal work for equal pay. That was really special to us, and let women know that he’s really concerned about the challenges we face in our society.” But on that labor front, some critics complain that the president appears to have forsaken the Employee Free Choice Act, which may now be stalled on Capitol Hill.

Ironically however, some of President Obama’s staunchest critics are troubled by both the substance, but even more, by the style of his success. “It’s funny, I don’t think he has made any mistakes, and he hasn’t done anything that is unpredictable from the point of view of those who got him there,” Dr. Jared Ball, assistant professor of communications at Morgan State University, and onetime Green Party presidential candidate told The Final Call. “Unfortunately, everything that I see him doing is kind of predictable:

“He’s continuing the war in Afghanistan and extending it. He’s increased the military budget. He’s leaving 50,000 troops in Iraq, and leaving the largest embassy in the world in Iraq. He hasn’t said a word about the private contractors who are doing more of the military work than the military, so they’ll all still be in Iraq,” Dr. Ball continued.

“He has basically updated (President Ronald) Reagan’s trickle-down economics theory, which I thought was more or less discredited even among mainstream economists, by the stimulus package, which is just designed to give public money to private corporations who will then hire a few people, to give them enough wages to turn around and spend it right back with those same private entities. So it is just a big public subsidy of private business.”

The economy today is not as desperate as it was in President Roosevelt’s time, and cannot be turned around in a short time, according to Dr. Bositis, who points out that 76 years ago, there was a slow recovery. “The things that Roosevelt did during his first 100 days didn’t in any way, shape or form end The Depression,” Dr. Bositis said.

“As a matter of fact, Roosevelt took office in 1933, and probably the low point of The Depression was in 1937. So, Roosevelt didn’t take office, do a bunch of things in his first 100 days and then turn things around. Things didn’t really turn around until World War II, so I don’t think there’s a direct comparison there.

“I think Obama is doing well. He’s doing well in terms of foreign policy. His opponents are increasingly looking like they are irrelevant,” he continued. “He has to do some corralling of the Democrats to make sure that they support him, but he’s done what he needs to do.”

Dr. Williams is particularly proud of the Obama foreign policy record. “He’s traveled abroad and mended some of the relationships that we once had with leaders abroad. And I’m always excited when he travels abroad because everybody welcomes him and feels that there is a new day in America, and a new day in relationships with America,” she said.

That success is a cause for complaint among some progressive critics, however. “Obama has put out some vague, and ultimately empty promise to end the war (which) has killed the anti-war movement,” said Dr. Ball. “So even the Congressional Out of Iraq Caucus with (Reps.) Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), and (Lynn) Woolsey (D-Calif.), they can’t even come up with a plan to address his continuing (the Iraq occupation).

“Anti-war movements on campuses and other left-wing non-profit groups can’t get funding because everybody figures that he’s already got a plan to withdraw from Iraq.

“So it’s like, all the worst predictions that people like me had, are looking like they’re coming true, and he’s going to be the same as, and in some cases to the right of Bush, and we’re going to have no appropriate response whatsoever, because it’s so well packaged that people don’t seem to see that this is going on.

“In all honesty, I’m trying to reposition myself to not be just the angry hater all the time, even though I actually love doing it. I really would like to hear where his defenders are coming from. I’d like to hear maybe more about what it is they say he’s done right,” said Dr. Ball.

Even as Pres. Obama’s supporters concede that he scores big on style points, Dr. Williams believes that the president’s Black critics should step back and look at the larger political picture. “And I know that some of our people–and when I say ‘our people,’ I mean Black people–are not happy with some of the things that he’s doing because we have our own agendas and we believe that he should have done various things, but at this point, we Blacks are going to have to understand that Barack is not just our president.

“While we’re really proud of him, we’re excited about him, but we didn’t elect him on our vote alone. There were many people who worked to make Barack the first president who happens to be African American, and we have to remember that,” she said.

And while Dr. Williams is disappointed that the president has not been more sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinian people suffering under Israeli occupation, and that he agreed with Israel, and Israel’s supporters in this country who convinced him to not send a delegation to the World Conference Against Racism’s follow-up meeting–Durban II–in Geneva, April 20-24, Dr. Bositis insists that the Durban II decision was not a major mistake.

“I see that more in the context of where he is right now. His administration still is only, practically a skeleton administration and he does have more important things on his plate right now. Face it. The economy in the country was on the verge of totally falling apart, and nobody in the country would be concerned about whether the United States sent someone to Durban or not, if the economy was falling apart,” Dr. Bositis said.

“No, he’s doing well. I’m seeing the same Obama I saw in the campaign: shrewd, calculating, measured steps, positive.”

Related links:

In the Era of Obama, Is There a Need for a Black Agenda? (FCN, 04-22-2009)

BET’s Jeff Johnson interview with Minister Louis Farrakhan on President Barack Obama (, 12/2008)