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Apr. 05, 2009
Special Discussion from Iowa State Daily.Com
Obama ahead of schedule for first 100 days, commentators say
Click here to view the discussion.
President Barack Obama has not yet been in office 100 days, but that didn’t stop national political commentator Arnie Arnesen and Iowa State University political science professor Steffen Schmidt from critiquing his presidency as if he’d reached the milestone.
Obama was elected on a platform that promised change, Schmidt told an audience filling ISU’s Memorial Union Sun Room Wednesday night, and he said Obama’s challenge is to direct that change in a constructive way for the United States and its global neighbors.
The trouble is the world is complicated, and it’s more difficult than ever to “predict the consequences of decisions we make,” Schmidt said.
Arnesen said Obama’s biggest problem is not the consequences of his decisions; it’s educating the American people that national and global issues are so complicated, “we don’t have a clue, and there is no magic bullet.”
Obama’s report card
The audience asked Schmidt and Arnesen to state their opinions for Obama’s performance in his first 71 days in office.
Schmidt said Obama moved quickly to keep campaign promises, using executive orders to reverse bans on stem cell research and birth control tied to foreign aid, for example.
“It was remarkable and quick,” he said.
Obama also did what he could to “stop the bleeding” from the financial crisis that began before he took office and was a “hemorrhage by the time he was sworn in.”
His response was more agile than any president in history, “even though no one likes what he did,” Schmidt said.
Arnesen said Obama raised the bar for the people he wanted to bring into his administration “so high that no one wants to do it.”
The verdict is still out on the long-term challenges confronting Obama’s presidency, Schmidt and Arnesen said.
Obama faces challenges not seen since the 1930s and some scenarios never seen before in history, the two agreed. Arnesen said it’s impossible to overstate the complications of the global financial crisis.
Schmidt said foreign policy “quagmires” with Afghanistan and North Korea, for example, would get worse before they get better. He said the federal government needs a lesson in contingency planning.
“We need a plan for the best, the average and the worst-case scenarios,” he said. “When you become president, you realize the difference between the campaign and the things you can really change in the system without causing the whole thing to collapse.”
And that’s when the checks and balances of the three branches of government become very important, he said.
Arnesen, of News Hampshire, reminded audience members they have a responsibility to support the president.
“Iowa is a pocket of success surrounded by acres of failure,” she said. “We are connected, and we rise and fall together.”