The Note, 4/24/2009: 100-Day Stare — Inside analytical window, a storyline that will outlast retrospectives

By Caitlin Taylor

Apr 24, 2009 8:07am

By RICK KLEIN How many of the first 100 days can get consumed by talking about the first 100 days? (Wake us when it’s over.) Does what happens in the last 10 days of the first 100 affect how they’re all remembered? (Or will the impact be greater on the 100 after that?) When the glow from the first 100 days has faded — when the puppy’s just a “crazy” puppy again, and we resume our regularly scheduled, recession-tinged lives — what will the Obama White House still be dealing with? We’re well into a period of reflection and analysis on the 100-day front — though we’re not anywhere near that point on the torture memos and interrogation techniques. (Since the 100-day mark is arbitrary and silly and a journalistic conceit, thank you, Mr. President, for having a prime-time news conference that night.)  We are now far enough into memo madness to know this story isn’t fading quietly. And that still means looking back in a period where President Obama would like to look forward. “Is Mr. Obama putting a new style and approach on the age? Yes. On the occasion of the hundred days one can say: So far, so good,” Peggy Noonan writes in The Wall Street Journal.  “But now a hard issue has arisen, and it may well have bad foreign-policy implications,” she continues. “A problem with the release of the documents is that it opens the way — it probably forces the way — to congressional hearings, or a commission, or an independent prosecutor. It is hard at this point to imagine that what will follow will not prove destructive to — old-fashioned phrase coming — the good of the country.” For your short-term . . . Another poll dictates one end of the storyline. 56 percent say he’s doing an “excellent” or “good” job in this one. “President Obama’s opening months in the Oval Office have fortified his standing with the American public, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, giving him political capital for battles ahead,” per USA Today.  David Axelrod interprets the results: “He is seen as someone who was handed a large array of challenges and is dealing with them in a sensible way.” Pew numbers back him up: “Despite ongoing economic problems and political fighting in Washington, nearly two-thirds of Americans approve of President Obama’s performance as he approaches his 100th day in the White House,” the Chicago Tribune’s Mark Silva writes. “Sixty percent of people surveyed by the Washington-based Pew Research Center said they approved of his handling of the economy, though most respondents said that his economic policies had not had an effect so far or that it was too soon to tell their effect. On foreign policy, 61% approved of his approach.”  Politico goes with a magazine to mark the occasion five days early: “If Washington in the age of Obama is not a city transformed, it is nevertheless one whose mood and feel, whose affect and atmosphere, are strikingly different from those of the eight years of the Bush administration that preceded them — and, for that matter, from those of the previous 200 years,” Todd S. Purdum writes. “The concept of a second coming of Camelot has already become a cliché, but it is true that Washington has not experienced such a collective change of attitude since that young PT-boat skipper named John F. Kennedy replaced the supreme allied commander of World War II, not quite seven months before Barack Obama was born,” Purdum writes. The powerhouse trio weighs in: “The reality is that the 100 Days yardstick, even if arbitrary, works rather well for this president,” Mike Allen, Jim VandeHei, and John F. Harris write. “Because of the plunge in the economy, Obama was confronted in his opening weeks with as many consequential domestic decisions in three months as some presidents face in four years. Because of his party’s big congressional victories, he has more power to assert his will in a short amount of time than many presidents ever get. And because of the epic reach of his own ambition, he has revealed more about his own leadership style and values sooner than might be expected from a typical president in typical times.” The brand: “He is like Nike: Kids still love him; foreigners still love him. Obama remains a powerful brand that commands constant media coverage, much of it fawning, and that moves markets.” But this will still be here when the FDR images are no longer airing: “The Obama administration agreed late Thursday to release dozens of photographs depicting alleged abuses at U.S. prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan during the Bush White House. The decision will make public for the first time photos obtained in military investigations at facilities other than the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq,” the Los Angeles Times’ Peter Wallsten, Julian E. Barnes and Greg Miller report. “The president has tried to walk a fine rhetorical line, heeding liberals’ calls to release the interrogation memos but appearing to argue against further investigation or prosecution by saying ‘this is a time for reflection, not retribution.’ Instead, he managed to anger both constituencies.” Is this clear now? ‘The Obama administration struggled to quell persistent Democratic demands for a potentially explosive probe of harsh Bush administration detainee interrogations Thursday, abruptly declaring opposition to an independent commission,” per the AP’s David Espo. “Any public investigation would present Republicans and Democrats alike with the possibility that events could take years to sort out, pose complicated legal and constitutional issues and potentially spiral out of their control.” At least that takes care of . . . nevermind: “Although a full-scale independent inquiry now appears unlikely anytime soon, the Bush administration’s use of waterboarding and other techniques that critics say crossed the line into torture could still be examined by a variety of Congressional panels in addition to the Senate Intelligence Committee,” The New York Times’ David M. Herszenhorn and Carl Hulse report. “The snowball effect is inevitable and no matter how many people — current and former administration officials, members of congress, and members of the military and various intelligence agencies — have a vested interest in letting this story go away, it just won’t die,” Madison Powers writes in a CQ column. Coverage with a corrosive effect: “The Obama White House wilted further Thursday in the flap over torturing terrorists, conceding that getting rough may have mined good intelligence,” James Gordon Meek writes in the New York Daily News. If this was all a response to Cheney — maybe those Cheney-is-bad-for-the-GOP voices got it wrong: “A source familiar with White House views said Obama’s advisers are further convinced that letting the public know exactly what the past administration sanctioned will undermine what they see as former vice president Richard B. Cheney’s effort to ‘box Obama in’ by claiming that the executive order heightened the risk of a terrorist attack,” The Washington Post’s Jeffrey Smith, Michael Shear and Walter Pincus report. Nothing has sated the left. Speaking of powerhouse trios . . . Paul Krugman, in The New York Times: “The only way we can regain our moral compass, not just for the sake of our position in the world, but for the sake of our own national conscience, is to investigate how that happened, and, if necessary, to prosecute those responsible.” Arianna Huffington, at Huffington Post: “This is a defining moment for America. The way we respond — or fail to respond — to the revelations about the Bush administration’s use of torture will delineate — for ourselves and for the world — the kind of country we are. It is a test of our courage and our convictions. A test of whether we are indeed a nation of laws — or a nation that pays lip service to the notion of being a nation of laws.” Eugene Robinson, in The Washington Post: “The many roads of inquiry into the Bush administration’s abusive ‘interrogation techniques’ all lead to one stubborn, inconvenient fact: Torture is not just immoral but also illegal. This means that once we learn the whole truth, the law will oblige us to act on it.” Plenty of headaches await. Stress-test stress: “After a two-month wait, the nation’s 19 largest banks will start learning on Friday how they fared in important federal examinations — and which among them will need another bailout from the government or private investors,” Eric Dash reports for The New York Times. Next up on cars: “Chrysler LLC is preparing to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as soon as next week, whether or not it reaches a deal with its lenders or forges an alliance with Fiat SpA, said several people familiar with the matter,” The Wall Street Journal’s Jeffrey McCracken, John D. Stoll, and Stacy Meichtry report. “If an agreement with the car maker’s lenders can be reached, Chrysler would file for bankruptcy protection to rid itself of some liabilities. That would let Fiat pick and choose which operations it wants, these people said. The U.S. government would provide bankruptcy financing while the reorganization plays out.” On the stimulus — tracking the money: “The GAO study asserts that officials from most of the states surveyed ‘expressed concerns regarding the lack of Recovery Act funding provided for accountability and oversight. Due to fiscal constraints, many states reported significant declines in the number of oversight staff — limiting their ability to ensure proper implementation and management of Recovery Act funds,’ ” ABC’s Jake Tapper and Matthew Jaffe report. “President Obama’s stimulus bill was supposed to spend money to create jobs, but four of the top 10 recipients of per capita grant aid to date have the lowest unemployment rates in the country and nearly all are below the national average,” Stephen Dinan writes in the Washington Times. The search for the poster-child project is over: “You’ve heard of the Bridge to Nowhere. You might call this the Airport for Nobody,” ABC’s Jonathan Karl reports. “Most of the time, the only thing the airport doesn’t have is airplanes. An average of just 20 people a day flew out of the Murtha Airport last year. But, the airport was just awarded more federal money — $800,000 in stimulus funds to repave an alternate runway.” “Located in Johnston, Pa., 56 miles from Pittsburgh, the Murtha Airport is a monument to the power of Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., who has steered some $150 million in taxpayer dollars to the airport over the last decade,” Karl reports. “The federal government provides a subsidy for every flight into the Murtha Airport of about $100 dollars per passenger, but even with the subsidy, there are plenty of empty seats.” Wrapping up the noise: “Partisan tensions are escalating over President Obama’s plans to revamp the nation’s healthcare system and push through other policies, just as Congress is taking up the heart of his first-term agenda,” Peter Nicholas writes in the Los Angeles Times. “In the latest sign of the combative environment, Democratic and progressive groups announced Thursday that they were launching an Internet and television campaign to promote Obama’s goals and — in some cases — to paint Republicans as obstructionist.” Tom Daschle says he’s still involved: “We talk with some frequency,” he told ABC’s Dr. Timothy Johnston, on “Good Morning America” Friday. “To a large extent, I’m still able to talk with my former colleagues, as well as those with whom I would have worked at the department. So — still quite engaged.” Daschle added that there’s a “good deal and support and validity” to the argument that healthcare reform has to happen this year, politically. Concerns growing on Afghanistan and Pakistan: “I have absolutely no confidence in the ability of the existing Pakistani government to do one blessed thing,” said Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., per ABC’s Kirit Radia. “Today the escalating terrorist violence in Pakistan and that government’s inability and unwillingness to confront the extremist threat undermine any progress we have made in Afghanistan and complicates future efforts there,” said Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y. Coming Friday, from UN Ambassador Susan Rice: “President Barack Obama is committed to making the United States a global leader in ending the nearly 1 million deaths annually from malaria by 2015, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations says,” per the AP’s Edith M. Lederer. “The goal is shared by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the African Union, according to excerpts from Susan Rice’s prepared speech to a malaria summit on Friday made available to The Associated Press. ‘Malaria, simply put, is something we can end. And today I am here to say that malaria is a scourge we can end,’ she said.” President Obama’s Friday, per the AP: “The White House says the president will meet Friday with a family struggling to afford the cost of college. Obama is proposing to cut wasteful spending from the federal student loan program by ending taxpayer subsidies to banks.” “The president also faces a dilemma as he’s expected to issue a proclamation on the 94th anniversary of the start of what most scholars regard as the genocide of Armenians by Ottoman Turks.” For your annals of rebuilding: “It’s very unprecedented for someone like Karl Rove or Dick Cheney to be criticizing the president,” Meghan McCain said while guest hosting “The View” Thursday. “My big criticism is just, you had your eight years, go away.” Steve Schmidt, very much unplugged. Some choice Schmidt quotes from a post-election forum, featuring Schmidt and David Plouffe, at the University of Delaware, per The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank: “When Lehman Brothers collapsed in the fall, I knew pretty much straight away the campaign was finished.” “I was waiting for his bus to crash into a CDC truck carrying bubonic plague to release over Cincinnati and Ohio. It was just one thing after another, you know, and never to our benefit.” And the one you’ll see in a DNC release soon: “As a political proposition, his first 100 days have been successful,” Schmidt said. Movement in Missouri: “A source close to Sarah Steelman told the Political Fix today that the former state treasurer has enlisted Washington, D.C., lawyer Ben Ginsberg to form an exploratory committee for a run for U.S. Senate,” per the St. Louis Post Dispatch’s Tony Messenger.
Coming Sunday: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s exclusive interview with George Stephanopoulos, on ABC’s “This Week.” The Kicker: “Oh, he is a crazy dog. . . . You know, he loves to chew on people’s feet.” — First Lady Michelle Obama, on Bo Obama. “Those people are cats.” — Obama senior adviser David Axelrod, on the 1 percent of USA Today/Gallup Poll respondents who called the president’s decision to get a dog his worst decision in office. Don’t miss “Top Line,”’s daily political Webcast, hosted by Rick Klein and David Chalian, at noon ET. Friday’s guests: Former DNC spokeswoman Karen Finney, former RNC spokesman Alex Conant, and Christina Bellantoni of the Washington Times. Follow The Note on Twitter: For up-to-the-minute political updates check out The Note’s blog . . . all day every day:

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