President Barack Obama certainly covered a lot of ground in his third prime-time press conference last night. For once, almost every question he was asked was a fairly intelligent one, and the media pack seemed to have settled down quite a bit from their initial post-recess elementary-school behavior. Obama was asked about many substantial issues, and gave many substantial answers. He announced new policy directions, and clarified some vague stances he has had recently, all of which is newsworthy today.
Archive of Articles for April, 2009
Time magazine just proved this point beyond any doubt. They just released the results of their online poll for "The World's Most Influential Person," and a 21-year-old college student who goes by the name "moot" won first place.
Senator Specter's announcement today that he is switching parties and joining the Democrats is the political equivalent of an earthquake. Because, much like Jim Jeffords becoming an Independent (and caucusing with the Democrats) it changes the entire balance of power in the Senate. Or, to be more accurate, will change, when Al Franken is finally seated.
Another "big news" number is the percent of people who think things in the country "are generally going in the right direction" versus "have gotten pretty seriously off on the wrong track." The scores of 50 percent for "right track" and 48 percent for "wrong track" don't sound all that impressive, until you compare them to preceding polls. Just before Obama was sworn in, those numbers were 19 percent "right track" and 78 percent "wrong track." Just before the election last year, the "right track" number was an abysmal eight percent, with ninety percent responding "wrong track." Right track numbers haven't topped fifty percent since 2003. That is a stunning turnaround, for only 100 days in office.
I admit, I am getting the jump on the rest of the media here, by writing my "First 100 Days" article six days early (some would say five days early, but they would be wrong). I have jumped this particular gun already, I should point out, having already written one article (after Obama's first week in office) entitled "Obama's First 168 Hours." So today we are going to pre-empt the usual Friday Talking Points article this week with a special edition on President Obama's "First 100 Days," since everyone will be talking about it starting this weekend.
Welcome back to my pre-emptive strike on the thousands of journalists preparing their "Obama's 100 Days" articles for next week. How many of them will count wrong and publish one day early (his first day in office, depending on how you measure, ended at noon 1/21/09)? Time will tell. So while I will be publishing my own take on "Obama's First 94 Days" tomorrow, we continue today with a look back at President Obama's immediate predecessors. Yesterday's article examined Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan's first 100 days (and how they were seen at the time in the media). Today we take a look at George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush.
It is "first 100 days" season in Washington. This is when lazy journalists (I include myself in that designation) write about an artificial timeline first instituted for Franklin Roosevelt's presidency. The roundness of the number, and the ease at fashioning a "hook" to your storyline prompts a flood of "100 days" stories for each and every president.
OK, I fully admit that's a provocative title for me to write. To be more accurate (and a lot less sensationalistic) it should probably read: "In Support Of Dick Cheney's Call To Declassify The Evidence To Prove Whether Torture Worked Or Not." Call me biased towards openness and knowing what was done in the American public's name, but I support Cheney's recent call for more (not less) disclosure in this case. Whether it makes logical sense to anyone's argument about the subject or not.
President Obama called last week for simplifying the United States income tax code. This issue may be too big for even Obama to succeed at changing, though. Because while politicians love to rail against the briar patch that is our tax code, and love to call for "reforming" or "simplifying" it, very little progress is ever actually made at doing so. But there's an easy one-step solution for this systemic problem that would go a long, long way towards simplifying the thousands of pages of instructions from the Internal Revenue Service. This idea could fit on a postcard: "Force Congress to do their own taxes. With no help. And then immediately audit all of them, and post the results publicly."
What a strange set of sentences that is to begin an article about the twenty-first century world we live in. But pirates are attacking ships with regularity off the coast of Somalia. This has been going on for years, but Americans just realized it is happening (because an American ship was just attacked). And, while the two are not connected (and I am not advocating for their connection, sorry for the slightly-misleading headline), people are finally talking about torture after President Obama released the Bush torture memos to the public. We'll get to the Bush torture memos in a bit, but I'd like to begin with a proposed solution to the pirate problem first.