Speakers from across the political and media worlds disagreed over how much President Barack Obama helped or hurt America during the first 100 days of his presidency in interviews with The Eagle and at a Kennedy Political Union event in Bender Arena Sunday evening.
Luke Russert, an NBC News correspondent and son of the late Tim Russert, former host of NBC’s Meet the Press, moderated the panel discussion. He was joined by Michelle Bernard, a political analyst on MSNBC, and Mika Brzezinski, a co-host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe. He was also joined by Tucker Carlson, MSNBC’s senior campaign correspondent, and David Plouffe, Obama’s 2008 bid campaign manager.
Russert gave Obama’s first 100 days as president a “B.”
“Where he struggled is with the nominees and the tax issues – that was really surprising to me – for a campaign that was so well disciplined, to have so many people have tax issues at the highest level,” he said during an interview with The Eagle.
While it has been popular since Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidency for analysts to scrutinize each president’s first 100 days in office, the future cannot be generalized from the past, Russert said.
“It is in no way an accurate portrayal of an entire presidency,” Russert said during the event. “Remember, after his first 100 days in office, President George W. Bush had an approval rating of 61 percent. Last January, he had an approval rating of 34 percent.”
Bernard, who is a registered independent and a fiscal conservative, said that while Obama seems to be an effective leader, he faces challenges that will continue to test him.
“His presidency is very different, because not only is he dealing with economic issues, but he’s dealing with one foreign policy crisis after the next,” she said during an interview with The Eagle. “That’s why the next four years will continue to feel like a whirlwind with him,” she said.
Obama has improved America’s image abroad and has done America right by extending “an open hand to all types of countries and all types of regimes,” Brzezinski said.
“The real test will be what happens when one of these countries remains defiant and starts trying to play games,” she told The Eagle. “Right now, I love the approach. I think it’s very hopeful and it’s very open.”
Carlson, who is a libertarian, said that while he likes Obama as a person, he feels that Obama should not have expanded the size and scope of government in his first 100 days as much as he did.
“For boldness, he’d get 100 percent. For political savvy, I’d give him an A as well. For wisdom and restraint, he fails,” Carlson said during an interview with The Eagle. “Obama is in the process of remaking American society and I think that is a very foolish thing to do in such a short period of time.”
Plouffe said that Obama is on the right track.
“I think he’s started a very smart, long-term course for the country,” Plouffe said during an interview with The Eagle. “I think the people in the country are praising his leadership and the direction he’s taking,” he said.
AU students also took the time to reflect on how Obama performed during his first 100 days in office.
Chris Palko, a senior in the School of Public Affairs who voted for Republican presidential candidate John McCain last November, said he is concerned with what he feels is a wave of liberalism that has come with Obama’s presidency.
“Obama’s first 100 days have seen a massive shift towards social democracy,” he said. “He has pursued a straightforward socially liberal agenda. However, I think he made some prudent changes on his previous beliefs in regards to Iraq and Afghanistan, in that he is not going to have a massive pullout in the next year.”
Danielle Lipsman, a freshman in the School of Public Affairs, who voted for Obama, said she approves of Obama’s departure from former President Bush’s policies with regards to torture.
“I was very pleased with his first executive order to close Guantanamo Bay,” she said. “I expect more policies from him that will boost our human rights image around the world.”
The KPU event marked the last in the speaker bureau’s 40th anniversary celebration. The event took place on Obama’s 97th day in office. Obama’s 100th day will occur on Wednesday, April 29.
Eagle Staff Writer Tamar Hallerman contributed to this article.