Obama: First 100 Days; What’s Been Lost And What’s Been Gained
Court Challenges. A report in the Wall Street Journal warns that Biden's executive actions may be met with increasing pushback in the courts. Has this already started? We did a search of the Lexis/Nexis archive of legal cases. We asked how many Federal cases reported within the first 100 days of an administration (i.e.., 1/20 - 4/29) refer to "Executive Order" and the administration. We searched for Biden, Trump, Obama, Bush. There were 21 cases for Biden, 50 for Trump, 10 for Obama, and none for Bush-43. (We are not counting a lawsuit that involved Bush's actions as Texas Governor.) As a ratio to orders issued (2.0), Trump had far more court challenges in the same time period. The rates for Biden and Obama are nearly equal (0.5). Of course, eventually, the court decision is what matters.
Obama: First 100 Days; What’s Been Lost and What’s Been Gained
During the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt promised drastic initiatives within his first 100 days. The New Deal legislation he got passed set a standard of action that subsequent presidents have been measured against. Although it has less significance, some analysts even make comparisons of the performances of presidents during their first 100 days of the second term.
Obama's first 100 days were highly anticipated after he became the apparent presumptive nominee. In his first 60 Minutes post-election interview Obama said that he had been studying Roosevelt's first 100 days. Understanding the significance and symbolism of the first 100 days, Hillary Clinton's campaign strategy included mapping out a first 100 days plan.
In his first week he also established a policy of producing a weekly Saturday morning video address available on Whitehouse.gov and YouTube, much like those released during his transition period. The first address had been viewed by 600,000 YouTube viewers by the next afternoon. The policy is likened to Franklin Delano Roosevelt's fireside chats and George W. Bush's weekly radio addresses.
Tonight we thought we would talk about the first 100 days and what new trends we have seen in both foreign and national security policy. We have a great panel of two today for whom, in the best reportorially fashion, I think the best I can contribute here is to basically introduce them and shut up and get out of the way. They don't really require any introduction.
Sandy Berger, to my immediate right, was, of course, national security adviser under President Clinton. And you can read the rest of his biography in the handout that you have. Secretary Lawrence Eagleburger was, of course, secretary of State starting in 1992. And we are eager to hear their views on what the past 100 days have brought and, I think in many more interesting ways, what the next 100 days may bring as President Obama turns from some really interesting initiatives to actually having to begin to execute some very difficult situations around the world.
Let me make some observations about the first 100 days, from my perspective. The first thing I would say is that Obama has not let the economic crisis rob him of his ambition on foreign policy. I think you can argue that the first 100 days has been the greatest burst of foreign policy initiatives in a comparable period in over a generation -- setting a deadline for withdrawal from Iraq, grappling with the twin problems of Afghanistan and Pakistan, setting a date for closing Guantanamo and banning torture, entertaining negotiations with Iran, pressing the reset button with Russia, we could talk more about that, a very vigorous outreach to the Muslim world, moves on Cuba, a new global policy on climate change, a recalibration of the defense budget. It is clear that, from the 100 days, that President Obama is seeking to lead the country in a different direction.
Second, I think what is notable is that there has been a significant change in how American foreign policy has been conducted over the first 100 days. There is a greater willingness for dialogue with our friends and adversaries. Some have described his willingness to talk to Iran and Syria and Cuba as a sign of weakness. President Obama clearly believes that negotiation does not mean concession, that it's a way of seeking common ground and, failing that, of laying the groundwork for tougher collective action if negotiations fail.
All in all, this is a very ambitious beginning, in my view. As President Obama said in his inauguration, American leadership is back. He has great popularity. But as Les Gelb reminds us in his excellent new book, popularity is not power. Notwithstanding his popularity, he was not able to get the Europeans to increase their stimulus. He was not able to get them to increase troops to Afghanistan. Nonetheless, he is the dominant leader on the world stage, and it has been, I think, a very impressive 100 days.
And while apologies and all of that activity may look good to us, I think you need to think about how the Russians and the Chinese and the Iranians and some of the rest of our friends, allies and enemies may have looked at all that activity on the part of the president. And there were some Americans, and I'm one of them, who didn't like what he was doing. But I don't think that's half so critical as the kinds of judgments that may or may not have been made by friends, allies and enemies over the qualities and the general thrust of President Obama's policies.
As to some of the issues, the documents issue, the torture issue, while I don't happen to believe, in many ways, it is an issue worthy of much discussion in terms of foreign policy, there are a couple of points to make, I think, the first of which is the to and fro on the part of the president about, are we going to investigate, are we not going to investigate? Damn it, I have to tell you, I don't know how in the world anybody who's been in this town for anything over two weeks at least can't at least wonder about the impact of these kinds of activities on the CIA. This is not the first time. There's a wonderful article, a piece by Stratfor on the whole question, the impacts on the agency of all those various different investigations over time.
And the other is missile defense where he's cutting way back. Yet these activities on the missile defense side of things were jointly done by us and some of our allies. And I remember it wasn't too long ago when President Bush was in office. Our friends here to my left -- and they're all to the left maybe, but anyway -- my friends were talking about Bush not realizing what he was doing to our allies when he did the sorts of things that they thought were unwise in terms of treating the allies. Well, one of them, I would think, is to try to budget items that we and allies are working on and particularly without even talking to our allies first about whether that should be done or not.
I have two other things, and then I'll shut up. The first is the nuclear issue. And on that, I have nothing to complain about with regard to the president. But I only would say it is important that somebody begin to pay some serious attention to this. I have been screaming for I don't know how many years that we had to find a way to stop countries from building these nuclear weapons or else we would, one of these days, inherit the whirlwind. And I think we are close. To quote Henry Kissinger, he said, quote, "The next literally few years will be the last opportunity to achieve an enforceable restraint."
The questions, every single one of them, can be asked on the basis of what we didn't ask in the Vietnam case. And I will tell you now, in my judgment, unless something is done very quickly, this president, for reasons I cannot understand since he doesn't want to fight a war in Iraq but he's prepared apparently to fight somewhere else, I cannot understand why he is doing what he's doing now in the light of what we should have learned in Vietnam. And he's going about, the way he's done so far at least, in precisely the terms we did in Vietnam in the first place. And it scares the hell out of me, frankly, ladies and gentlemen.
What I'm trying to get at here is that I think there is a question to be asked at least as legitimate as accepting his statements on the record. There's at least as (popular a question ?) which is, has it really worked the way he says? Or has it in fact rather, as I said at the very beginning of this thing, has it played into the hands of those who feel he is too weak? Or that he is weak and that's what we've seen demonstrated over the first 100 days?
QUESTIONER: Sally Horn, consultant. I'd like to ask each of you one simple question. Given where you are in the sense of what you think of the last 100 days, outside of the issue of the memos, what would your advice be for the next 100 days?
EAGLEBURGER: First of all, I don't think another 100 days is going to make much difference. The interesting thing about this first 100 days is that, at least in my view, it does demonstrate -- and I think Sandy's basically said the same thing -- it does demonstrate to a great degree where the president's mind is, what is it he's aiming to do. It's just that the two of us disagree on what that is. But I think the path, to a degree, has already been set. I don't think you're going to learn much more over the next 100 days.
BERGER: Well, first of all, President Obama accepted the recommendation of General Petraeus with respect to what to do in Iraq. This is not something he took out whole cloth. He had talked in the campaign about a faster timetable. But then when he became president, Petraeus had done a very substantial review of Iraq policy and recommended an 18-month timetable for taking combat troops out and then leaving 50,000 troops for an indefinite period of time thereafter, at least until 2011. That's not terribly different that the time frame that President Bush was talking about when he left office, though without a specific or precise deadline. So I think this is consistent with what General Petraeus believed ought to be done with Iraq.