2009-05-07 / View From the Middle

View From The Middle

A Hundred And Seven Days — And How's He Doin'?
By Charles Rogers

New York's former Mayor Ed Koch, bless the guy (he's still going strong as an elder statesman), used to walk around the city waving at the populace, kissing little babies and little old ladies and asking, "How'm I doin''?" And he'd always (well, almost always) get a positive answer that made him feel good and look forward to the next walk among the crowds.

President Barack Obama will probably not be seen walking around kissing babies and old ladies (don't bet on it!) but, at this point, I don't think he needs to fear a negative answer to the "How'm I doin'?" question.

President Obama has been in office one hundred and seven days. Somehow, it seems longer than that. Maybe it's because his campaign was so long — his and the plethora of others who ran against him and agonizingly, scrutinizingly alongside him until we all realized he was the only real, positive choice.

Frankly, if asked how I feel about his presidency these five-score-plus days that have passed since January 20, I feel pretty good. And I think that's not too far from the feelings of the general population.

Now, we know three months is really a short time for anyone to get accustomed to a new job, much less the leadership of the most powerful country in the world. All-in-all we must give Barack Obama lotsa positive points — from every standpoint. There have been so many discussions and punditries about his efforts on how the president has done during these first days, frankly, I'm as sick of it as you are. I've heard enough about what he's done with the economy problems; enough about the two wars he has taken over as commander-in-chief for; the budget, of course; and his tax-delinquent Cabinet assignments (who would have believed it?).

Then there's the stimulus package, not to be dismissed so lightly, except when you talk about the auto industry, which has been another thorn in his side. And what about the trips abroad? Bowing to the king of Saudi Arabia (don't fool yourself, he DID bow!) is not such a faux pas after all. Not at all. It was not a "humbling" gesture any more than he was humbled in front of the Queen of England in London. I mean, the king of Saudi Arabia is a KING. Ya bow to them! Big deal! It's called protocol, and it just shows Barack has a lot of class.

And the bit about apologizing for a few things the previous administration, as well as his own, might have done was okay too. I know. I know. Perhaps we have to look a bit more forward and serious when dealing with those presumed to be our enemies, but sometimes a lighter approach can work just as well. He said he'd like to be able to sit down at a table — one-on-one — and talk things over with these presumed antagonists. But before you start calling him a wimp and all that, though, don't for a moment forget one great big fact: The President of the United States knows he doesn't have to kowtow to these emissaries and leaders of other countries. And he knows THEY know he has the upper hand in ALL instances. After all is said and done, he's the one who calls the shots. Period!

Let's not forget what an arrogant, pugnacious showing George W. Bush made of himself and our country throughout the world, along with his two buddies, Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. They came on the scene like warmongers. They LOOKED the part. Although their answers to the 9/11/01 attacks were justified, they took the "opportunity" as an excuse to go to war. Frankly, I don't think we can blame Bush as much as the other two for the mess we got in, with George W. looking like the titular head while the others kept frothing at the mouth and saying, "C'mon. Do it! Do it!" The "it" was to allow the president to be pushed into declaring war on Iraq.

No, we won't see that going on with the current president. I think he's more of a "speak softly and carry a big stick," Teddy Roosevelt type. Forgive the comparison, you T.R. fans, but what Obama needs now is some more experience. And maybe a Teddytype safari to Africa. It's going to take a lot of doing to rectify our image to other countries, but I think our president has already made a few good strides in that direction.

In the final analysis, of course, he still exudes that initial confidence we all knew, early on, would eventually put him in the Oval Office. It's the same trait that compels people to keep on tuning in and listening when he holds one of his many (too many?) news conferences. The one he held last week, on the evening of his 100th day, encompassed such a wide range of topics it was hard to keep up with it. But that's the way it is now. He wants the plate to be full. He wants to be able to continue to be our president with the same verve and confidence he had a hundred and seven days and two years ago. No. Barack Obama need not fear the answer to the "How'm I doin''?" question.

Not yet, anyway.

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