November 10th, 2008
05:45 PM ET

The first 100 days

Katrina vanden Heuvel | BIO
AC360° Contributor
Editor, The Nation

We're starting to look ahead to the First 100 Days of the Obama presidency. Already, we're hearing calls in the mainstream media warning the new administration "not to overreach." And working overtime, the Inside-the-Beltway Punditocracy continues to reveal its ability to ignore reality–even while describing itself as "realist"–with its claims that this is still a center-right nation, despite all evidence to the contrary.

But as Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman writes in the New York Times, "Let's hope that Mr. Obama has the good sense to ignore this advice...this year's presidential election was a clear referendum on political philosophies–and the progressive philosophy won."

Obama himself his talked about needing to measure his accomplishments over the first 1,000 Days, rather than 100, given the problems he has inherited from arguably the worst president ever (my words, not Obama's). Indeed, it will take years to undo the damage of the Bush administration and the conservative ideology that has dominated this country for nearly thirty years. But the First 100 Days are still crucial–not only in signaling to the American people and the world that the administration will take determined steps to repair this nation–but there is a historical precedent for the need to move forward expeditiously in order to seize the moment and the mandate.

President Obama will need to be bold to deal with the challenges he faces: a cratering economy, broken healthcare system, two wars, poverty and inequality, and the stained US reputation in the world. The millions who were mobilized and inspired by Obama's campaign and candidacy also have their work cut out for them–continuing to drive a bold agenda to respond to these crises–just as progressives have in recent years on the war, energy independence, trade, healthcare, and other issues that are defining the new "center" of American politics and hearts and minds.

Here is a list of actions–ones I care deeply about–that President Obama can take in the First 100 Days to immediately achieve real and significant change. Some of these he can literally achieve on Day 1 with the stroke of a pen, others will demand coalition building and an inside-outside strategy to push legislation. Many of these ideas are drawn from good groups like the Center for Constitutional Rights, Amnesty International USA, the Apollo Alliance, and Public Citizen. You may have others and I'd welcome hearing yours – just post a comment.

Bush Executive Orders: As Obama himself said of his first 100 days when campaigning in Denver, "I would call my attorney general in and review every single executive order issued by George Bush and overturn those laws or executive decisions that I feel violate the constitution."

Economic Stimulus: Stop the bleeding–through expanded health and unemployment benefits and providing real aid to beleaguered state and local governments so they can sustain essential public services.

Iraq: Present plan and hold to your time line for withdrawal.

Health Care Reform: Begin immediately by expanding health insurance to kids and passing the State Children's Health Insurance Program legislation vetoed by Bush.

Women's Health and Reproductive Rights: Repeal the Global Gag Rule that requires NGOs receiving federal funding to neither promote nor perform abortions in other countries.

Energy and the Economy: Announce a clean energy strategy that will reduce oil dependence, address global warming, create thousands of green jobs, and improve national security. Groups like the Apollo Alliance, Center for American Progress, and Natural Resources Defense Council have strong and concrete plans in this regard. Incorporate elements of this plan into stimulus package.


soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. Michael Barker

    I think Mr. Obama is a great choice by the American people. Please stop using African American to describe him. He bi racial, and this is all the adjective that you need. The fact that the sperm donor was black does not automatically put him in the camp of African American. The media seems to forget that his mom was white and a Kansan.

    If you must be continent centrist, call him an African English American.

    an English German American

    November 11, 2008 at 11:20 pm |
  2. peter tithof

    Support the troops with more then words . Pass a bill that will cut the suicide rate of current wars vets from 18 a day to 18 a year ... Build one less fighter jet and save 1,800 vets from suicide... Just say no to suicide is not going to fix PDS ...

    November 11, 2008 at 1:28 pm |
  3. Bob Weber

    You don't suppose that Obama's rush to save the Auto industry has anything to do with Labor unions supporting him?
    I am all for helping the auto industry after the unions give up some of the ridiculous benefits they get.
    They are the ones who put the BIG 3 in the condition they are in.

    November 11, 2008 at 10:25 am |
  4. Larry L.

    Everyone that is looking for "something" to be given to them did vote for Obama,and why not,his campaign was promising that he will give "you" the rich peoples money-He said whatever you wanted to hear,and it worked-sad but true.

    November 11, 2008 at 9:31 am |
  5. JV

    Well stated by Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman in the New York Times, “Let’s hope that Mr. Obama has the good sense to ignore this advice…this year’s presidential election was a clear referendum on political philosophies–and the progressive philosophy won.” Mr. Obama is realistic with a 1,000 day plan.

    November 11, 2008 at 9:26 am |
  6. Angel

    You all need to quit. You self-righteous hypocrits haven't even give this man a chance. You're sitting back hoping for his failure so you won't look anymore like the fools you are. He's in office...you deal with that because the mess your current president made for this country is the mess your dumb rears are dealing with too.

    The media didn't get him elected people got him elected. Unlike the current that got elected by, what, oh yeah cheating and stayed elected by lying to, what, oh a bunch of self-righteous horrifically stupid people. You know there are actually trees in the forest. No you don't know that...no more than you all could get that Joe the Plumber was no plumber at all and was a welfare recipient. No more than you can get that the republican party has robbed the country blind and made themselves richer and most of you poor or poorer. No more than you can get that Sarah Palin's looks don't make her 1. smart nor 2. presidential material. And while I could go on I'll just say, no more than you can get that you all lost and you need to deal with that and practice that word patriotism by supporting the man God put in office over, who, you all and the rest of us.

    November 11, 2008 at 7:56 am |
  7. Martina Ilstad Germany

    Hey Katrina
    There a just few days ago of election,and you whant starting to watch what B.Obama presidency will bring in the first 100 days.I think thats a little bit to early.Give him time to breath,because he will have to do so much.

    November 11, 2008 at 7:36 am |
  8. GreatGoogilyMoogily

    Bush: "Here's a list of all the maniacs that want to destroy OUR nation! I didn't have time to reverse NAFTA or take away China's Most Favored Nation status, etc, etc, etc."

    November 11, 2008 at 6:59 am |
  9. Dwayne

    Some of you that have commented here "GAIL Centre,Al" and "lampe" seem to think that either the media, young people, or African Americans (AA's) got President-Elect Obama elected. I would say that there is partial truths to that. What both of you forgot to mention is blacks, whites, latinos, hispanics, old, young, chrisitians, catholics, and a host of others voted overwhelmingly in support of him. Additionally, you all don't seem to realize or understand why this happened, I'll tell you WHY! This country has been abused in the last eight years by the current administration, it really didn't matter who the democratic presidential nominee was, he/she would have won. The people of this country was ready for a change and just so happen that change was electing a Democrat, who happens to be a black man. Oh, by the way, his name isn't of Arabic descent, but Swaheli. He will be your President for the next four years and you will have to live with the decisions he makes, whether you agree with him or not, just as you had to do with President Bush for the past eight years, surely you did not agree with every decision he made. GET OVER IT!!!!!

    November 11, 2008 at 6:54 am |
  10. Peter Charles

    I’m an Englishman who travels the world extensively and listens to opinions from people from many countries. A strong consensus of an America problem and how Barack Omaba can solve it could be summed up as follows:
    1. America’s foreign policies under George W. Bush and his administration’s insensitivity and indifference for all things foreign and different is the root cause of America’s woeful standing in the world.
    2. Having Barack Obama as President will, contrary to the belief of many Republicans, make America safer as he will reach out, build bridges and de-alienate the country. America will have more friends in the world and receive acceptance of its (fully justified) leadership role.
    3. This will reduce radicalism and the “hatred of America” which has long been the gospel for extremist preaching and a fertile ground for the breeders of terrorists.
    4. It takes much more courage to talk with your enemy, than it takes to fight them.

    November 11, 2008 at 3:11 am |
  11. A. Torres East Coast

    Forecasting the next presidents jobs. # 1 End the war in Iraq. We will never leave Iraq ,we have 700 military bases all over the world and some are still in countries like Japan and Germany . #2 End the financial & Job Crisis . The only way to end both crisis is to read my lips " More New And Higher Taxes " . The # 1 employer in the country is the federal government etc. # 3 Restore confidence in the world , wall street and banking . Nearly impossible these orginizations and foreign relations is and has always been gouverned by crooks and liars . ( Wolfs with sheep shin ) . By the time the president handles the countires issues there will not be any time left to fix the world's issues and problems . ( I personaly think that President Obama is the chief in command and we as a nation must support that ). The object of the White House is to keep the public and country busy no matter what the occupation may be . Thank You & God Bless

    November 11, 2008 at 1:43 am |
  12. angie

    obama won we as a nation need to support him let hido the job i voted for the republic canidate but now we to seee what he does give him some transition time

    November 11, 2008 at 1:35 am |
  13. J.V.Hodgson

    Lets put to bed the idea of 100 days. It took almost 3000 days to get into this mess Economically, Socially and Militarily and Diplomatically.
    QED to make anything like progress will take a lot of time and a complete change in style.
    Your list is reasonable but leaves out Afghanistan/Pakistan and the middle east ( mainly Israel Palestine) which are the home of what has beed dubbed the global war on terror, which is a misnomer anyway created by a refusal to talk to the other combatants, or with pre-conditions they were never publicly going to agree!
    Its not a war on terror it is a war based on different Religious fervour ( of which America has more than its fair share) and ideology i.e. theocracy versus democracy.
    Finally, America needs to come into the 21st Century in respect of the Constitutional right of Sovreignty. I believe in the founding fathers minds they meant that only when there was a "clear and present danger" to the American soil and homeland, to restrict religion or threat of invasion on home territory, could the right of "defensive "military action be undertaken.
    The key is to widen the influence of the UN and eliminate vetoes and bring in other nations to the security council If economic blackmail (oil) or Nuclear missile threats are made, which affect the homeland,
    but those threats are global and relevant to all nations.
    Domestically it is fixing the economy and how much of the presidential edicts of bush that Obama can reverse in the first 100 days and that will only be a start not a complete solution.

    November 11, 2008 at 1:06 am |
  14. Jamal Bolden

    Hey, do you think I could get a basket ball court in here?

    November 11, 2008 at 12:05 am |
  15. jim

    The mainstream media is not my concern. It is what Obama will do in his first 100 days in office. I understand he will give amnesty and driver's licenses to 12 million illegal aliens. I am sure everybody who voted for him will be glad to know that. The 95% of taxpayers shouldn't hold their breathe waiting for the tax cut he promised. He will be the second worstr president in history. The worst president goes to Jimmy carter with a economic crisis like the current one look mild. There is an old saying when it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn't. That goes for Obama and all his campaign promises. The people that voted for him will be in for a rude awakening.

    November 10, 2008 at 11:40 pm |
  16. EJ (USA)

    365 Electoral votes...

    November 10, 2008 at 11:32 pm |
  17. Jess from VA


    The fact that Treasury is hushed up about where the money is going goes against democracy.

    Banks are winning on this one as is AIG. The level of wealth transfer is unacceptable.

    Paulson needs to come clean and explain what's going on.

    November 10, 2008 at 11:28 pm |
  18. Steven Shaner

    Hey lampe,
    Sorry to tell you the world is changing. The college kids who are "wet behind the ears" were smart enough to recognize that we needed someone at the top that is really, really smart. I'm not sure what living with Mommy and Daddy has to do with a persons decision making process, but the fact that most of them have to because of the economic times we are currently in may have played a part in their decision. The real difference between you and them though is that they believe that we are all Americans, Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike. They voted for who they thought would best run the country, not who looked like them or had the same kind of name or who believed in abortion or gay rights like they may or may not. He will make mistakes and they will be reported. The thing that is a lock though is that he couldn't screw it up any more than the last guy did.

    November 10, 2008 at 11:18 pm |
  19. Jesse Perez


    That's what this is. Obama has continually captured the American psyche for many reasons.

    Not only is it a historical turning point for African Americans, but people are absolutely intrigued by this guy Obama.

    Smart, articulate, healthy, young and energetic is what Obama is about.

    The country has much to be hopeful for now and moving forward.

    November 10, 2008 at 11:12 pm |
  20. Ron , West Coast

    I guess all of a sudden the mainstream media has gotten a voice.....
    Where was the mainstream media when Dick Cheney held those secret meetings ? Where was the mainstream media when Bush trampled our constitution ? Where was the mainstream media when Bush / Cheney lied us into war in Iraq ? And so on , ........
    Now all of a sudden , " The Mainstream Media ", feels it has to right to dictate what the first 100 days of the Obama / Biden administration , should or should`nt do.
    There can be only one president at a time , Obama was elected , you were`nt ......

    November 10, 2008 at 10:56 pm |
  21. lampe

    Mary V: The media, did play a hugh part in Obama being elected. The reported more negatives about McCain\Palin, then they did against Obama. This man was elected, by young people, mostly college kids, who are still wet behind the ears. Half of them still live at home with mommy and daddy. So what do they know about voting. And the AA's that voted, for him, alot of them never cared about their Country befor, now all of a sudden, they finally cared enough to vote. I wonder why? And you better believe, the people who did not vote, for him, will be watching, and demanding the News, covers all of his mistakes.

    November 10, 2008 at 8:36 pm |
  22. Annie Kate

    One I might suggest is that Obama have his team look at all the regulations Bush and his administration had "tweaked" throughout the last 8 years to weaken the EPA, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, etc. Right now Bush is trying to get some last minute regulation changes through so his buddies in big business will be set to ruin the environment more after he is gone. I hope Obama rolls back all the environmental regulation changes, especially ones done in the last months of Bush's presidency.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    November 10, 2008 at 7:35 pm |
  23. Mary V., Salt Lake City, UT

    @ "GAIL in Centre, AL" NO, the media DID NOT ELECT OBAMA!

    We, the People, ELECTED Barack Obama as our president:

    63% to 55% .......... 364 ELECTORAL VOTES and an HUGE majority of the Popular vote!

    White, black, old, young, Latino, moms, dads, EVERYONE!

    November 10, 2008 at 7:32 pm |
  24. Joy, Fort Gordon, Georgia

    I am so with you on these issues and I very much stand behind the point of pulling back the power of the executive branch which has gone far beyond what it was ever meant too and created such a dangerous situation for the structure of our government, the Bush administration has inparticular proved how dangerous the expanded power of the executive office has gotten.

    November 10, 2008 at 7:30 pm |
  25. Joe

    Forget the first hundred days. I'm looking forward to the first day and the first swipe of his pen.

    November 10, 2008 at 7:19 pm |
  26. Jim

    Come Jan 20th NO EXCUSES- You have a democrat contolled House,Senate-& White house- Failure to do the job your paid to do is NOT an option.

    November 10, 2008 at 7:11 pm |
  27. Rose from Calif

    I believe that President Elect-Obama will need more then 100 days to start fixing this mess thanks to Mr. Bush and Shamey I mean Cheney!

    November 10, 2008 at 6:34 pm |
  28. GAIL Centre,Al;

    The media got him elected. The media wanted him.


    November 10, 2008 at 6:31 pm |
  29. Larry

    Its how he structures his cabinet that will determine his legacy. I find the statement that he is going to govern the country via the inet somewhat disturbing.

    November 10, 2008 at 6:20 pm |
  30. GAIL Centre,Al;

    Obama has always been a whiner, now he is whining about the mess he's getting from Bush. If he didn't want the work, why run for office. Too late now. WHINE, WHINE, WHINE.

    Come jan. 20, do something , stop whining

    November 10, 2008 at 6:19 pm |
  31. Marcia, Warren MI

    The guy isn't even in office yet and everyone is putting pressure on him and looking for what he will accomplish in the first hundred days. Didn't David Gergen suggest that everyone not make such a big deal about the first hundred days, I agree with the President Elect that looking toward the first 1000 days would be more appropriate given the current situation in the United States and the mess the previous administration is leaving the new to deal with.

    Oh and CNN you promised that you would keep a check on the first 100 days of Ray Nagin's current term in office, didn't happen, so I hope you don't drop the ball this time.

    November 10, 2008 at 6:08 pm |
  32. Arachnae

    Can we kill the 'Hundred Days' meme? Please?

    November 10, 2008 at 5:58 pm |