The 100 Days of Swine and RosesThane Rosenbaum in the Huffington Post, May 02, 2009
This week Barak Obama blazed through the first marker of his nascent presidency with characteristic coolness and panache. At times he seemed to be occupying a White House in hog heaven; at other moments the demands of the job and the state of the world has forced the president to go about his business as if he was putting lipstick on a pig. (Yes, I know: that imagery got him in trouble during the election.)
What is certain, however, is that the first 100 days in the life of an American president has never before been this blistering or eventful.
Whether in fixing our ailing economy, repairing America's reputation around the globe, or combating a recent public health crisis, the president is facing an enlarged portfolio of responsibilities and an abundance of situations in which pig references are figuring into his administration.
By now we are well aware that the meltdown of our financial markets and the bailouts of our corporations would never have occurred were it not for reckless bankers and rapacious corporate executives setting new standards for piggishness when it came to other people's money. All this vanishing wealth and plummeting 401(k)'s has inspired fond recollections of childhood piggy banks that never grew in value but at least didn't disappear.
In foreign affairs, President Obama has spent the past 100 days radiating his considerable charm and ingratiating himself to our present and former enemies, reassuring them that he neither bullies nor tortures and is quite willing to apologize for American mistakes. Whether this approach will successfully disarm Iran, the Taliban, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Hamas, nations and groups that tend to favor jihads and beheadings over grace and charisma and often misread quiet diplomacy as a weakness rather than as an opportunity, is an open question. At least Obama should be mindful that that any concessions Iranian President Ahmandinejad is likely to offer in tempering his nuclear ambitions should be regarded as no more reliable than a pig in a poke.
When it comes to the cold warriors of America's past, we don't seem to be too concerned anymore about blinking first. Of all places to normalize relations and retreat from taking hard-line positions, the president has initiated indirect talks with Cuba. And the Cuban-Americans of Miami, who typically vote Republican and loathe any conciliatory gestures toward Castro's Cuba, most surprisingly seem to be supporting the new president's efforts.
Now I have seen everything: Obama really is that convincing. Could this mean that an enemy island best known for the Bay of Pigs debacle may soon become a vacation spot for Americans looking for an alternative to Cancun?
Speaking of Mexico, President Obama discovered this week that his Hurricane Katrina moment has arrived far sooner than he would have hoped--indeed, it came right in under the wire of his first 100 days in office. The young president is, apparently, being tested from every direction.
What is shaping up as the Year of the Pig is now manifesting itself as a possible global pandemic known as the Swine Flu. And, yet, President Obama remains calm, exuding confidence, keeping this crisis under control, as well.
And then day 101 arrived with news of the retirement of Supreme Court Justice David Souter.
As if he didn't already have enough on his mind, the president will have to make his first Supreme Court appointment before the next term of the Supreme Court begins in October.
But given the solid majority that the Democratic Party possesses in the Senate, and the considerable leeway Obama received in passing his economic stimulus package, it isn't likely that a confirmation battle is in the president's future.
It does seem as if the Obama administration is managing through this newly warped world at warped speed. In an age of digitalized compression, sound bites, and tweets that barely extend beyond the length of a complete sentence, Obama is being forced to pack it all in sooner than most, as if his term is coming to an end rather than just beginning.
After a mere 100 days he has fashioned a most impressive highlight reel. Things are likely to get worse, and the love affair with the new president will no doubt grow dim, with all things Obama one day becoming boring.
But for now, given the enormity of the challenge, the scale of ambition and the scope of his responsibility, there hasn't been room for him to piggyback on others, or any time to complain about being a guinea pig in navigating this democracy through a time of great crisis.
Contact: Thane Rosenbaum