50 Days: Is Analysis Premature?

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
It's 50 days into the Barack Obama presidency and in the age of the Internet, 24-hour cable news and instant analysis, the world is being treated to an examination of the Obama presidency to date.

"For Obama, a frenetic first 50 days" (Baltimore Sun)

"The Honeymoon Period Is Over For Obama" (New York Post)

"Day 50: What Kind Of President Obama?" (SkyNews)

"Obama's Need for Speed Trumps Risk of Agenda Overload" (Bloomberg News)

Despite the media beast that seemingly needs to be fueled constantly, it's almost impossible to judge a president after his first 50 days in office, unless you're William Henry Harrison, who died 32 days after being inaugurated in 1841.

Seven weeks into his presidency and Mr. Obama is still learning "how to run the Executive Branch," said CBS News Presidential Historian Douglas Brinkley. "He's barely found the bathroom down the hall" and now he's being deluged with report cards of his nascent presidency.

Twitter, texting and Blackberries have all helped to turn an already fast-paced world into an even more get-it-done-yesterday world. And add to all of the technological advances the economic and financial crises and the country now expects an instant cure for its ills.

"The world has gotten faster," Brinkley added. "It's just like we saw after the election when some were calling for Obama to be inaugurated sooner."

Mr. Obama, recognizing the need for speed, has forged ahead at a breakneck pace, passing a $787 billion economic stimulus plan within his first three weeks, announcing financial rescue and housing plans, unveiling a $3.55 trillion budget, kickstarting discussions on health care reform, and announcing a withdrawal plan from Iraq and a boost in troop numbers in Afghanistan.

He's signed executive orders to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, tighten ethics rules for Executive Branch employees, raise fuel efficiency standards and lift the restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

Compared to some of his predecessors, Mr. Obama seems to be ahead of the curve, especially considering how former presidents used to be graded in the old days (read: pre-Internet).

"F.D.R. was not inaugurated until March 3, 1933, and the impressive legislative achievements of his 'hundred days' — actually, 103 days — were not completed until mid-June. Ronald Reagan, shot by a would-be assassin 70 days into his presidency, did not get the second leg of his tax cut and budget plan through Congress until July 1981," Reagan biographer Lou Cannon wrote for the New York Times on Feb. 24. "Other presidents have fared worse. President Bill Clinton, for example, could not obtain a relatively paltry $16 billion stimulus and barely won approval of his budget during the first year of his presidency in 1993 when the Democrats, as now, controlled both houses of Congress."

Those were the days when presidents used to have a bit of breathing room. They were times when the first assessment of one's presidency was at the 100-day mark and there wasn't a public acclimated to instant gratification nor were there legions of journalists and analysts foaming at the mouth, offering up instant commentary.

In this day and age, just imagine if President Obama didn't move ahead with all that he has moved forward with.

"He had to do some big things early," said Brinkley, "or else people would feel he's not doing enough."

Has he had his stumbles? Sure. There were the troubles with three Cabinet nominees who withdrew, the criticism that he is turning his back on his calls for more bipartisanship and his calls for fewer earmarks, and the looming fights over his budget blueprint and health care.

However, it's hard to argue with a 63% approval rating in the most recent CBS News/New York Times poll; it seems as if Americans are quite content with the president so far.

As President Obama forges ahead with his agenda, an even truer picture will emerge about how his presidency is shaping up.

And 50 days from now, as there are today, there will be plenty of folks around to let you know how he's doing.


Complete Coverage: Obama At 50 Days


Also, make your predictions about Mr. Obama's approval rating after 100 days and after 1 year.







Steve Chaggaris is CBS News' Political Director. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here.
  • Steve Chaggaris

    Steve Chaggaris is CBSNews.com's Executive Editor, Washington.

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