Vol. 4    No. 9
April 30, 2009 Archives
    This past week has been the week to note two 100 milestones, the founding of The Progressive in 1909 and the
first 100 days of the administration of President Barack Obama, which officially ended April 29. Both are worthy to
note.
     Since the 1970s, I have subscribed to The Progressive off and on as resources have allowed. I have always found
The Progressive to be intellectually stimulating and challenging and quite a contrast to the viewpoints and articles
offered by the mainstream press.
     For the past month, I have been perusing their April 2009 issue, which commemorates its 100 years of existence.
This issue contains a selection of stories and graphics from each year that The Progressive has been published. A lot
of water has flown under the bridge in those 100 years. And it shows that the more things change, the more they
remain the same. “They were freeborn, 100 percent American big businessmen who took balk-talk from nobody. Now
they take a handout wherever they can get it. Billions will be ladled into the mouths of the very individualistic big
businessmen who, five years ago, were yelling their heads off about ‘No government interference with business.’” This
was written by Scott Nearing in 1934. He could have been writing it about the Wall Street Bailout of 2008.
     And then there is the continued reference to the civil rights struggle. In 1914, Belle Case La Follette was writing
against racial discrimination in the civil service. She was eulogized by James Weldon Johnson, author of ‘Life Ev’ry
Voice and Sing,’ when she died in 1931.William T. Evjue spoke out against lynching in 1934.  And the writings of A.
Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, Ralph Bunche, James Baldwin and Martin Luther King Jr. graced the pages of The
Progressive over the years. In 1992, Roger Wilkins wrote about the Los Angeles riots sparked by the Rodney King
verdict, “Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater’s assertion that the Los Angeles riot was a result of Great Society programs
went right to the top of the charts of an Administration that has elevated irresponsible talk to a high principle of
governance. This one ranked right up there with the whopper that Clarence Thomas was the best man in the country
for a seat on the Supreme Court.”
     Over the years, The Progressive has pushed many ideas that probably seemed far-fetched at the time. Now those
ideas are a part of every day American life. Congratulations Progressive for remaining true to your ideals over the past
100 years.
***
     The other 100 that we commemorate is President Barack Obama’s first 100 days in office. It was about one year
ago that then candidate Barack Obama was getting hammered by his Democratic opponent about his lack of
experience. And it was just last August that the Republican vice-presidential candidate ridiculed Obama because of
his community organizer background. Well it may just be that Obama’s relatively few years spent in Washington, D.C.
before being elected president and his ability to empower people to make appropriate decisions at each level of the
decision-making process may be two of the essential reasons why Obama had one of the most prolific 100 days in
office since Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
     It has almost been a perfect storm of factors that contributed to Obama’s relatively meteoric rise to win the
presidency: disaffection with the Iraq War, the ascendancy of a new generation into the world of politics and the Wall
Street meltdown last September. And then there is the matter of having a Democratic majority in both the U.S.
Senate and the House of Representatives. It’s a blue moon these days when one party controls the presidency and
both Congressional houses. It’s an alignment that a ruling party best take advantage of while it can.
All of these have given President Obama a pretty good hand to play. And with all of the crises American faces, it is
almost as if the U.S. is in a state of war beyond the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In time of war, Americans tend to
give their president a lot of slack. It’s almost like the bad news is that America is in crisis. The good news is that
America is in crisis.
     Now even before he took office, President Obama has acted as if he had his own Bucket List, things that he
needed to get done before the Republicans or others tried to eliminate his political popularity and power. After all, if
the 2010 elections follow history, the Democrats will lose seats in that election. And so President Obama has seized
the moment quite well.
     And it is his community organizer background that has allowed him to be very effective during these first 100
days. President Obama has placed people in key positions and then has allowed them to make decisions up to the
point where he needs to make a decision. While he tracks the progress of the issues, President Obama doesn’t meddle
— or so it appears — until he needs to. It’s like he has fully informed the people working with him what his
expectations and values are and then allows them to carry it out. President Obama’s management style is more
decentralized than most of the recent presidents. And this has allowed the Obama Administration to tackle so many
issues simultaneously. If he were a strictly top-down administrator, President Obama would not have been able to
attract the talent he has and surely America would be stagnating under the weight of its own problems.
President Obama is off to an incredible start in his presidency. In addition to pushing through the economic stimulus
bill almost before he and the First Family had a chance to rearrange the furniture in the White House, President
Obama has set a new tone in foreign affairs. Troop levels in Iraq are being reduced. There has been a thaw in U.S.
Cuban relations or for that matter between the U.S. and most of Latin America. The Congress has already passed a
budget resolution for the 2010 federal budget. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll have an approved budget before October 1,
the beginning of federal fiscal year. So far, President Obama has set the wheels in motion for the passage of
meaningful healthcare reform. And the list can go on and on.
     President Obama was the right person at the right time at this point in America’s history. And with the decision-
making structure he has created and the talent he has attracted, there is no reason the second 100 days can’t be
better than the first. It is just a wonder to watch it unfold.
Reflections/Jonathan Gramling
                         One Hundreds

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