Obama would have had to make many mistakes during his first three months of governing for United States public opinion – as well as world opinion – to give him bad grades, as he crosses the 100-day threshold, the timeline symbolically awaited in the U.S. for evaluating a president. The current president not only has maintained a popularity of over 60 percent, but he has, according to polls, improved expectations for the future: Over 48 percent of those surveys believe their country is headed in the right direction – eight points higher than in February.
With this volume of support, the prospects of success for the U.S. president are great, despite the central concern of his fellow citizens, the economy, which fell in growth more than 6 percent in the first quarter and has the world in the worst recession since World War II. In these months, Obama has known how to stay close to the people of the U.S., gaining confidence in sectors that didn’t vote for him. His empathy has helped, so even if he hasn’t done all that was promised in the campaign, it can be assumed that no one will blame him. This honeymoon may be longer than for other presidents, but it will depend on Obama’s not disillusioning the electorate, who well may punish him and his party during the elections in the middle of his term, when part of the Congress, in which he now has a comfortable majority, will have some turnover.
It hasn’t been difficult for commentators to applaud policies that everyone hoped for, like the announcement of gradual withdrawal from Iraq and the increase of troop strength in Afghanistan; the order to close the prison in Guantanamo; the prohibition of “rough methods” of prisoner interrogation – a euphemism for torture – or the alleviation of restrictions on travel and the sending of remissions to Cuba. However, recognizing the value of these measures will not keep anyone from holding the president to his word for measures not completed or those not yet begun.
Management of the economic crisis falls into that category. If no one, indeed, blames Obama for the debacle, everyone will be watching for the results of the decisions he has made – like the stimulus plan of 787 billion dollars – and the actions he must continue to take to encourage growth and stop unemployment, which continues to deepen. Because of this, in a speech last week, Obama bypassed any negative judgment, stating, “Our progress has to be measured in the results that we achieve over many months and years, not minute-by-minute talk in the media.” For now, Obama is calm, because on Thursday, Congress approved his budget of $3.4 trillion, which ensures funding, in large part, for his programs. Nevertheless, Republicans who voted in opposition, have been critical of the measures, because – they contend – they are quite interventionist; they have given borrowed money to rescue the private sector, which will result in future tax increases, and they have increased the deficit, leaving a huge burden for future generations.
The ambitious agenda of Obama – who arrived in Washington with the firm intention to initiate changes beyond the economic complication – has been overshadowed by the crisis, but has not been set aside because of it. Among the priorities of the White House for the next 1,354 days of governing is the struggle against climate change, movement toward reform of the health care system, as well as reform of the educational system, at primary, secondary and university levels.
His own style for dealing with the outside
If, in internal matters Obama maintains high expectations for U.S. citizens, he has already demonstrated that in foreign relations – at least in style – the policy of the U.S. has changed for the better. One of the strongest criticisms made of the George Bush government was his disregard for the opinion of the international community. In his first months in office, Obama has shown an inclination to listen to his allies and a disposition to engage in conversation with traditional rivals, even enemies. This was demonstrated in his two tours abroad, first to Europe, and then to Mexico City and the Summit of the American in Trinidad and Tobago.
For Latin American countries, this summit was an opportunity to assess the new U.S. president and measure his willingness to work together. In retrospect, although Obama was cautious and did not make grand proposals, neither did he close the door to any initiative. Unfortunately, the subject of Cuba and its status in the regional community overshadowed the progress that could have been made in other areas.
Make no mistake about the priorities of Barack Obama’s government: When the U.S. is engaged in two wars, they will continue to profoundly influence fundamental objectives. And in this sense, while other countries in Latin America do not pose a threat, Washington will maintain its current interest in Mexico and Colombia.
In a Washington Post column, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger analyzed the extensive diplomatic agenda of Barack Obama, and concluded, "The possibility of comprehensive solutions is unprecedented.”
Obama will have to take every opportunity offered him by the international community to reach a foreign policy that, without neglecting U.S. interests, gives guarantees to all that he will fight for peace and stability in every part of the world.