Obama's first 100 days have been more important than has historically been the case with most presidents, because unlike past presidents, Obama's lack of a track record renders him somewhat of an enigma. While legislative voting records provide a picture of an individual's ideology, they tell very little about his character, his executive capabilities or his willingness to set aside ideology in the interest of achieving practical objectives. So, the first three months of Obama's administration have been the first opportunity to really see if there is any substance beneath the marketing hype.
It is becoming increasingly apparent that Obama's greatest strength may also be his greatest weakness. The cool, narcissistic detachment which was mistaken for a calm and measured demeanor during the campaign provides him with the ability to ignore both public and private pressure, which will tend to lend a greater unpredictability to his actions. On the other hand, the personal ruthlessness he betrayed in throwing his pastor and grandmother under the bus has been underlined by his ready willingness to sacrifice promises made to his earliest and most fervent supporters. If his decision to name no less than five lawyers from the Recording Industry Association of America to the Justice Department is not the most significant of his numerous betrayals, it is arguably the most telling in the way it demonstrates his complete lack of concern for his most important group of core supporters outside the black community.
After only three months in office, it is already clear that Obama will be a prime example of the counterpush concept I described last September. Instead of turning away from the major Bush administration programs, such as the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance infrastructure, and the Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism, Obama is embracing them and even expanding their reach. (Despite his announcement of budget cuts, I will readily admit that Obama shows absolutely no signs of ever attempting to balance the budget.) And despite having won the Democratic nomination with the support of the anti-war crowd, it is looking more and more likely that if Obama does ever elect to withdraw troops from Iraq, it will only be to send them to Pakistan.
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But if his force of character is stronger than many had expected, his executive incompetence has thus far proven to be more comprehensive than even his harshest critics had assumed of a man who was nearly devoid of managerial experience, let alone executive seasoning. His nomination of a series of unvetted tax cheats to Cabinet positions was remarkable, while his inability to staff the various vacant positions in the Department of the Treasury during a severe financial crisis is a failure topped only by the amusingly incompetent performance of Obama's Secretary of the Treasury, Tim Geithner. Only four months ago, it would have been hard to imagine a Treasury Secretary less respected by Americans than Bush's bankster di tutti bankster, Henry Paulson, but Obama somehow managed to significantly exceed even the most cynical expectations.
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The most important aspect of Obama that has been revealed in his first 100 days is probably his total disregard for reasonable limits. His decision to quasi-nationalize some of the largest American corporations and then intervene directly in their operations is downright staggering; as recently as one year ago, no one could have imagined the White House going so far as to order the CEOs of major corporations such as General Motors and Citibank to step down. This is a large step toward the public-private corporatism that is better known as fascism; one can't help but wonder how long it will be before a national council of experts for various industries is proposed.
As for policies, Obama's decision to continue utilizing the economic model of the Friedman-Keynes synthesis all but assures that Americans will become aware they are trapped in the throes of Great Depression 2.0 well before 2012 rolls around. Whether this will be of any electoral utility to Republicans is doubtful, however, as the G.O.P. subscribes to the same economic neo-orthodoxy that created the debacle in the first place, and Obama can quite reasonably continue to blame Bush and the permanent Republican majority of 2000-2006 for the contraction until a genuine alternative appears.
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