• 63°

First hundred days were successful

By By SONNY CALLAHAN
U.S. Representative
Personally, I don't know why the first 100 days of a new administration in Washington is all that magical or important.  
But ever since the administration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, it has become a time-honored tradition of marking the days down, using the past as some type of benchmark for any future successes a new president might enjoy.
Comparatively speaking, the administration of President George W. Bush appears to be off to a good start.  
Not only have the first few months been fairly smooth, notwithstanding a few bumps in the road, but Mr. Bush and his team continue to draw high marks from the American people.  
In fact, most, if not all of the major polling firms indicate the new president is enjoying a popularity rate of around 62 or 63 percent, a level that in this day and age is certainly nothing at which to sneeze.
Even as the president approached completion of his first 100 days in office last week, he once again had demonstrated that he is a strong leader who is doing what he said he would do.  
Among other things, President Bush is earning accolades for his willingness to create a constructive spirit of bipartisanship and respect between the two political parties.
Perhaps that is why, earlier this year, the president's budget was passed by the House with bipartisan support, much earlier than some prognosticators had indicated.
In the evenly-divided Senate, Mr. Bush compromised on some of his priorities.  He is continuing this spirit of bipartisan negotiation as the budget is finalized.  
This ability to get both sides to sit down at the same table and hammer out a reasonable compromise on an important piece of legislation became one of Mr. Bush's trademarks while he was governor of Texas.  
As has been reported previously in this column, Mr. Bush has personally met with more members of the opposing political party in the opening days of his administration than any other modern-day president.  
Moreover, he has taken his message of reform outside the "beltway," having visited more than 26 states during the first 100 days, compared with seven such trips for President Carter, two for President Reagan, 15 for his father and 15 for President Clinton.
Unlike others who have come before him, Mr. Bush speaks in a plain-spoken, straightforward way that demands respect and is drawing attention.
No major legislation has actually been signed into law.  Only once during the past four presidencies has this feat occurred.  Mr. Bush has focused on his self-described "compassionate conservative" agenda of improving schools, cutting taxes, empowering faith and community-based organizations and laying the foundation for Medicare and Social Security reform.  
He has also made rebuilding our military a top priority.
At the same time, the president has tasked his administration to find solutions to some of the pressing problems that he inherited from the previous administration in Washington, namely the economic slowdown and a national energy crisis.  
Along the way, he also had to deal with a testy situation in China.
One notable area that distinguishes Mr. Bush from his immediate predecessor is his willingness to compromise.
While some people believe compromise is a sign of weakness, in politics, as in life, you have to realize you're not always going to get everything you want.
Take, for instance, the president's message last week to Senate Democrats.  In recent days it has become fairly obvious that Senate Democrats aren't going to budge any more off their objections to the president's $1.6 trillion tax cut.  Rather than go home empty-handed, Mr. Bush signaled he was willing to remain open to modestly scaling back the tax cut, at least for the time being.
Make no mistake, Mr. Bush would like nothing more than to have his entire tax package intact, sitting on his desk, awaiting his signature.
But the realities of life have helped to make our new president a realistic, pragmatic man.  
And with a 50-50 split in the Senate and only a narrow majority in the House, the president is wise to remain focused on the big picture.  I believe he understands better than most people that he doesn't have to get his entire agenda implemented during these first 100 days.
Will the first 100 days provide an omen of things to come for the Bush administration?  Probably not, if history is any reference.  But if your choice is to get off to a good start or get off to a bad start, a good start beats a bad start any day.
Until next week, take care and God Bless.