Bob Franken

Days 641 and 1376

Pity the poor news media. Their hysteria over the Swine Flu disrupted all their elaborate plans for over-covering Barack Obama’s first hundred days.

Not that it put a stop to them but things can get confusing when a contrivance is interrupted, particularly when it doesn’t mean a whole hell of a lot. It’s mainly another drum that cable news can beat relentlessly. Now we have two we can overdo.

Don’t worry, there will be plenty of 100-day analysis, more than enough. After all, it’s the opportunity for all media, credible and wildly incredible, to tell us what it all means…real and wacko.

So on this hundredth day for the new president, in 2009 A.D., which, in the new Obamian calendar is the year 1, A.B., we will all go bonkers dissecting an administration that hasn’t really had a chance to do much more than talk the talk.

We’ll have a much clearer idea how things have gone on Day 641 in 2 A.B., when we come up to that other planned media event – the off-year election. And, of course, Day 1,376, when President Obama presumably runs for a second term.

By that time, we will probably look back at what the pundits said at the 100-day mark and laugh. Actually, we won’t do that because a big advantage of being a pundit is that no one remembers for even a 100 seconds what we said.

We will recall everything that President Obama said, if, for no other reason, than we will be reminded of it ad nauseum in all the campaign adds.

On the 641st day and the 1,376th, we voters get to weigh in on the Obama Administration’s performance, or least how the two sides spin it.

Will he have been able to lead the steep climb out of our economic Hell and gain enough enforcement power to pry the stranglehold that the rich and powerful few have over the rest of us?

Will he have disentangled us from the foreign policy and national security disasters that are not only a result of a bungling previous administration, but misguided jingoism of many decades? Will his early moves end being all talk and no action?

For that matter, will he be able to build on a good start and have any luck rebuilding the burnt bridges with the Muslim world, actually with most of the world?

Will he have presided over desperately needed change in our medical delivery system, or will the nation’s health still be in the hands of uncaring profiteers?

While we’re on the topic of profiteers, will all the polluters finally stop co-opting the word “green” and pretending that their corporation opposed global warming before opposing global warming was cool? Will they now join the administration in ambitious efforts to rescue the environment, and will President Obama have the skill needed to convince Americans we can’t continue destroying the world?

Speaking of a toxic atmosphere, will we have had a chance to force the White House people to release the memos that describe the internal debate over the release of the torture memos?

What about the opposition? Will the Republicans still be screaming “SOCIALISM” and running against the French? Will anybody remember Sarah Palin besides Tina Fey? Will the party have come up with a candidate who doesn’t carry more baggage than a bellman?

What kind of surprises lie ahead? Which is a really dopey question that we can’t really answer because they wouldn’t be surprises, now would they?

Actually, surprises can dominate a presidency, sometimes distort it. 9/11 is the obvious example. And already we’ve seen the piracy mini-crisis, and now Swine Flu, as indicators of how an administration reacts when it’s blindsided.

Also, while Arlen Specter is probably not thrilled at being grouped with Swine Flu, his GOP abandonment-of-expedience will provide a test on how well the Democrats in the White House and Congress can take advantage when something unexpected comes their way…or how they’ll blow it.

The Specter switch certainly was a test of the ability of the White House and Democratic operatives, which they passed with flying colors. They took full advantage of Senator Specter desperate adherence to the two rules of politics: “First get elected” and “Second get re-elected”.

Those are the ultimate tests of a politician’s success. While, obviously, they’re not necessarily the best way to ultimately gauge a government, you can’t govern if you’re not in office. And back to Barack Obama, let’s have a ball with all the huge attention paid to the 100-day marker, even though it’s just fluff.

How bad could it be? It’s not that we’ve had nothing to talk about.
In fact, we’ve been inundated with “All Obama all the Time” coverage.

Is the real importance of the 100-day milestone that it signals an end to such a single focus. I wouldn’t bet on that, but as the days accumulate, the results of this presidency will too, and at some point, we need to spend more time on accountability than personality. Am I right or wrong?

It occurs to me that quite a few are puzzling over what “A.B.” is supposed to mean. It can be whatever you’d like. It can stand for “After Barack”, of course. Or “After Bush”, which is what the Obama people have made the hundred days all about.

As for the Swine Flu, we can only hope we’re not still covering that after 100 days. Given the singular focus on Barack Obama, we should know by then whether he personally ended that crisis so can return to his more mundane problems like the world economic collapse. And we can do our 200-Day stories.

Maybe the White House can mark that occasion by arranging a special photo op flight of Air Force One. What d’ya think?

It’ll certainly be brought up as we approach days 641 and 1376.

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