Apr 282009
Authors: Matt Minich

Today, on his 100th day as president, Americans will critique Barack Obama’s performance in a tradition that hails back to the Roosevelt presidency of the 1930s.

And while Obama averaged a 63 percent approval rating during his first quarter in the Oval Office –/the highest since Jimmy Carter’s 69 percent approval rating in 1977, according to recent Gallup Poll estimations –/not all onlookers say Obama has made the policy shift he promised while on the campaign trail.

“Publicly I don’t think he’s done a great job of distinguishing himself from the Bush administration,” said Larry Carillo, the chairman of the Larimer County Republican Party.

Carillo said that while the president has reversed former policies on stem cell research and family planning, Obama has continued policies of heavy spending that he said were typical of the Bush administration.

Carillo said Obama has handled the country’s economic situation poorly, and compared the bailout of General Motors to trying to save a sinking ship.

He admitted, however, that, “We as republicans have to keep in mind that this uncontrolled spending started (with Bush).”

While Obama has not gone out of his way to condemn the previous administration, CSU political science professor Jon Straayer said, he has drawn an ideological separation by pursuing his own agenda.

“He’s distinguishing himself from Bush by being Obama,” Straayer said, adding stimulus spending and bailouts were the “best of two lousy options” the administration had in the face of the sickened global economy.

Straayer said that Obama’s policy of heavy spending to bolster the economy was in line with the approach of the previous administration. While he acknowledged that, at its worst, the policy could lead to inflation and a “crushing national debt,” he said this was preferable to possible economic depression if no action was taken.

Obama’s approach to the economic crisis has been a matter of serious controversy, and was protested by millions of Americans on April 15 at so-called “tea party” demonstrations in cities across the country

The tax protests served as a reminder to Obama and his team that changes still must be made to improve the nation’s fiscal health, said Kelly Carnell, chair of the CSU College Republicans and a participant in the Fort Collins “tea party.”

“They think they can spend their way out of this economic crisis,” Carnell said. “I just don’t see the stimulus happening. I don’t think it’s going to stimulate.”

Adam Bowen, chair of the Larimer County Democratic party, said that the “tea party” protests were made up of mostly “disaffected Republican voters who are unhappy that Obama got elected.”

All agreed that the president had made significant changes from the Bush administration’s approach to foreign policy, but did not share a common view on whether the changes would be beneficial for America’s image worldwide.

“I think he’s done a fabulous job reaching out to other countries,” said Charlotte Miller, the first vice chair of the Larimer County Democratic Party. Miller said the image of the president bowing to the Saudi king was diplomatic despite some public criticism suggesting it showed the U.S. in a “weak light.”

“There’s always been people who are willing to criticize,” she said.

Carillo said the president’s foreign policy actions showed the naiveté of a new leader eager to please, and that Obama was clearly unaware of the precedents set by previous administrations.

“I think he legitimately did bow to the king of Saudi Arabia,” he said. “I think it was a mistake on his part.”

The White House has called Obama’s 100th day in office a “Hallmark Holiday,” but says the actual number is arbitrary and serves as no realistic benchmark for a review of the president’s progress.

Politicians and citizens agreed that far more than 100 days are required to determine a true evaluation of the president’s approach to policy and his relative success in Washington.

“I think it’s all going to depend on what the economy does in the next year,” Carnell said.

Miller agreed that it would take more than even another 100 days to be sure if the new administration’s policies are aimed in the right direction.

“This is not something that you fix in a very short time,” she said.

Staff writer Matt Minich can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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