Tankers and Speedboats

While we’re all caught up in first hundred days fever, it probably makes sense to take a deep breath and realize that President Obama still has a full four years ahead of him (minus 100 days, of course). Time magazine has an article on the president and his staff’s “first semester grades”, a ridiculous piece that jumps the gun on judging this administration. There’s a little write-up for each, but here’s a quick snapshot:

Obama, Biden, Clinton, Gibbs, Axelrod all come in with A minuses
Michelle Obama and Robert Gates both get an A+
Geithner, Holder, and Nancy Pelosi range from C- to B-
Republican congressmen and 2012 candidates are in the Bs and Cs as well.

Trying to grade anyone three months in is a mistake. The only person we have enough information about to rate at this point is Robert Gates (who I think is appropriately ranked). For everyone else, Time is basically converting approval ratings into grades, which tells us nothing. We have no idea whether any of the Obama adminstrations policies will actually work. I’m inclined to think that just about everyone is graded too high, and for Geithner in particular, we haven’t seen enough to make an educated analysis.
An Obama quote summarizes our current state pretty well: “Moving the ship of state is a slow process. States are like big tankers; they’re not like speedboats. You can’t whip them around and go in a new direction.” I don’t think we’ve completely changed directions yet, and our biggest problems will take the longest to judge. The economy, in particular, is harder to move than the rest of the state. Foreign policy can change quickly because so much of it is simply about the tone you use with the rest of the world (though still difficult to see results). The economy, however, cannot be changed by shaking hands with Hugo Chavez and making some trips around the globe. It is the biggest ship we have, and more concerning, we don’t even know how to turn it in a new direction. Geithner is tinkering with the steering wheel and an assortment of cranks and levers…and that’s about all we know at this point.
Anyhow, considering the 100th day as a significant milestone is obviously arbitrary, and we really have no idea how the next four years are going to turn out. The one thing that I do feel confident in is the tone of this administration, but while that certainly helps, it does not create results in itself. We’re still in 2 wars, the economy is still a mess, we’re no closer to resolving our healthcare problems, and a variety of other challenges loom ahead of us. I’m not saying that the Obama administration should have fixed these by now. I’m just saying it’s a little early to give any of them an A (and I’m as big of an Obama apologist as anyone). While we’ve seen a lot of quick moves out of the administration’s speedboats, the big tanker is still turning and it’s impossible to yet say that it is going in the right direction. The best we can say is that the captain and crew seem to be keeping calm amidst a storm.

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