ROME wasn't built in a day. It wasn't
built in 100 days either, which is more to the point, and Barack Obama's presidency will neither stand nor fall based on what he has done - or failed to do - in the 100 days since his Jan. 20 inauguration.
As a presidential benchmark, 100 days dates from 1933, when newly elected President Franklin D. Roosevelt responded to the Great Depression with an unprecedented burst of activity. Since then, nearly every president has been graded on what he managed to get done in the same three-plus months.
If this is a useful yardstick for comparing presidents, it is only marginally so because the situation - and therefore the needs - facing each incoming president are unique. Of more concern, however, is that setting up artificial checkpoints leads to the false expectation that complex problems have simple solutions, which is seldom the case.
We in the media, driven by the necessities of a 24/7 and increasingly interactive news cycle, foster this sort of instant analysis by Obama Administration members, supporters, and opponents, as well as outside experts, analysts, pundits, commentators, talk-show hosts and guests, and just regular folks who are encouraged to grade the President in much the same way they would contestants on TV's American Idol or Dancing With the Stars. CNN, for example, began counting down Mr. Obama's first 100 days from Day One, churning out a veritable cottage industry's worth of discussion and analysis.
Added to this is the fact that ours is a fast-food culture. We want everything - from burgers to bailouts - right now, leading to the frustration among many that the President has not yet finished fixing the economy. This frustration is fed by those, such as radio talk-show hosts, who benefit from discord, as well as Republicans who see in it a chance to gain future votes.
In his first 100 days, President Obama has signed bills, issued executive orders, or announced policy changes in such areas as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. policy on torture during interrogations, detainees being held at Guantanamo, Cuba, economic stimulus, health care for kids, defense spending, bank and the auto industry bailouts, stem-cell research, global warming, high-speed trains, and U.S. relations with Cuba, Venezuela, Muslims, and the world in general. He also acted forcefully in response to North Korea's recent missile launch and against Somali pirates. And the list goes on.
Some of what he has attempted will fail, other initiatives will be adjusted over time, and still other efforts will be judged successes. But, despite the post-mortems that will fill airways and bandwidths at least through the weekend, those results will take considerably more time than 100 days.
Patience is easy counsel from those who still have jobs to go to every morning and homes to return to every evening. But patience is what is needed now and in the coming months.
That said, it's true that people are demanding an accounting. So, not to be left out of the 100-day debate, President Obama deserves a grade of IP - for "In Progress" - and let's defer the final evaluation for later.