Leading article: Mr Obama is honouring his promise to change America

Those who say he is moving too slowly have underestimated the task

Share
Related Topics

It is an arbitrary number, of course, and it offers almost no clue to the eventual verdict, either of the voters or of history. But it is still a landmark and one which any elected leader knows will be seen as setting the tone for what follows. Barack Obama's first 100 days were always bound to be subject to particular scrutiny, not only because of the hopes generated by his campaign, but because of his uniqueness as the first African-American President and the national and global economic crisis in which he took over.

Now, as so often, it is as though the two sides of the Atlantic existed in different worlds, and were judging two different Presidents. In the United States, the grumbling has already set in. Although more than two thirds of Americans believe that Mr Obama is doing a good job – far higher than for either of his two predecessors at a similar stage – the approval rating is not as positive as for either Kennedy or Eisenhower. The wave of euphoria that greeted Mr Obama's election has subsided fast.

In part, this is because the hopes he raised were so high, especially among America's disadvantaged. In part, it is because the Republicans, still licking the wounds from their defeat, have spurned the cross-party co-operation Mr Obama favoured. There is no political unity on how to tackle the economy. But it is also because the ideological fissures, so deep during both the Clinton and Bush presidencies, were reopened by Mr Obama when he published the White House documents relating to CIA interrogations. His efforts to draw a line under this shameful chapter had the opposite effect. They polarised opinion and left him flailing, uncharacteristically, between two extremes.

From abroad, the back-stabbing intricacies and self-absorption of Washington politics loom less large. Indeed, they fade into the background compared with the scale of Mr Obama's feat in winning the election in the first place and the calm assurance with which he has handled his first months.

Within days of entering the White House he had announced the closure of Guantanamo, set a timetable for the withdrawal from Iraq, rewritten Mr Bush's ban on state aid for stem cell research and prepared a bill, now passed into law, to rescue the US economy. He has also reversed the official US stance on climate change, earmarking money for renewable energy and drafting plans to regulate carbon emissions.

The new openness towards the outside world, the charm offensive in Europe, the inclusion of Turkey in the presidents first major foreign trip, and the hand outstretched to such unlikely recipients as Iran and Cuba, have inspired interest and goodwill towards the US where there was hostility and fear. It is no exaggeration to say that Mr Obama has transformed the international atmosphere. This is a foundation he now has to build on.

At home, reform of the inequitable and expensive health system is one of the few areas where he has still to make a start. But over-ambition here, as Hillary Clinton's 1993 experience showed, holds its own dangers. The appointments process has also run less smoothly than he might have hoped. But to argue, as some of his critics do, that he has moved too slowly is to misjudge the speed at which change can happen, even in the fast-paced United States. It is true that many of Mr Obama's ringing words have yet to be converted into deeds. But 100 days is but a fraction of a presidency. It would be a faint heart or a fool who would say, so soon, "No, he can't".

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Solicitor NQ+ Oxford

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CORPORATE - Corporate Solicitor NQ+ An excelle...

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Liberal Left should stop feeling guilty about flying the flag of St George and have no qualms about celebrating Englishness, one of Ed Miliband’s closest advisers said  

Don't sneer at the white van driving flag waving man

Stefano Hatfield
A customer holds his new iPhone  

How magazine websites for young women are filling a gap in the market

Ian Burrell
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin