A Good Beginning

Our View: President Obama Has Lifted National Mood, Tackled Economic Crisis

April 26, 2009

President Barack Obama is fast approaching completion of his first 100 days in office. He's run at a sprinter's pace, goaded by the urgent needs of an extraordinary economic crisis and the daunting issues of health care, strategic defense, budget and foreign policy. He made a few predictable rooky mistakes in choosing his team and discovered that achieving bipartisanship is going to be harder than he thought. But he deserves good grades for lifting the national mood at a time of crisis and energetically seeking answers to many of the nation's toughest problems.

For Americans beleaguered by the pain of a deep recession, he appears, so far, to be just what the doctor ordered. Seventy-three percent - including 46 percent of Republicans - hold a favorable view of Mr. Obama, higher than Bill Clinton or George W. Bush at this stage in their presidencies. And out of the media blur, a clearer picture of his personal philosophy has emerged - calm, moderate, carefully reasoned and pragmatic. Hardly the socialist radical depicted by some Republicans, he is more a centrist Democrat out to repair our institutions, not tear them down.

Beyond the political labels, the self-assured Mr. Obama clearly has a larger goal, seeking to establish a new set of national values that would shape our future in a sustained and focused way. Whether our attention-deficit culture will heed his call is very much an open question.

Mr. Obama's early endeavors have been impressive and wide-ranging - the $789 billion stimulus bill, a budget plan that could lead to universal health insurance, interventions in the housing and credit markets, a push to bail out the auto industry, a proposal for a strict new regulatory scheme for Wall Street, a formal recognition of the dangers of global warming and a major shift in foreign policy to restore the nation's global image.

Still, Mr. Obama could fall short of his expansive agenda; his barrage of policy initiatives might end up being overambitious and naive, and his financial remedies inadequate to resolve the economic crisis. Congress could demolish his budget proposals. His attempts to depart Iraq, stabilize Afghanistan and talk with Iran could falter. And who knows what fresh challenges lurk, from unsecured nuclear weapons in Pakistan to another terrorist attack on the U.S.

Some banks and financial institutions are resisting full participation in aspects of the stimulus effort, which could significantly slow a recovery. And members of Congress from both parties are balking at elements of the president's budget that would fund his proposals for health, education and environmental reform.

The Obama presidency will be judged not only by the promises of these early days but by how he meets the inevitable challenges and unexpected events in the many hundreds of days ahead. But the administration has made a good start.

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