Thursday, April 30th, 2009.
The United States President Barack Obama has marked his first 100 days in office by sketching out the future direction of his administration.
At a primetime TV news conference, he took questions on a wide range of issues from torture, swine flu, the economy and foreign policy.
He said he was “pleased” with his administration’s progress so far but “not satisfied”. Latest polls suggest Mr Obama continues to enjoy a high level of popularity.
Traditionally, commentators have used the 100-day milestone to assess presidents’ early successes and failures.
At a news conference broadcast live on most US TV networks, the president said that his first 100 days in office had been successful, but freely admitted more needed to be done.
He told reporters he had not anticipated finding himself in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. “I am surprised, compared to where I started, when we first announced for this race, by the number of critical issues that appear to be coming to a head all at the same time,” he said.
Mr Obama took questions on many of the key issues his administration has begun to grapple with, both at home and abroad.
The US Congress capped Mr Obama’s 100th day in office by approving a $3.4 trillion budget for 2010, a move Obama said would help to move the economy from recession to recovery. Welcoming the news, the president said he was gratified that Congress passed the budget “so quickly and effectively”.
However, he also said that as the US tried to recover from the recession, it had to lay “a new foundation for growth.” “We can’t go back to an economy that is built on a pile of sand – on inflated home prices and maxed-out credit cards; on overleveraged banks and outdated regulations” were his scathing words.
Since taking office on 20 January, Mr Obama has, among other things, passed an economic stimulus package, ordered the closure of the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, set a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and signalled a willingness to open up a diplomatic dialogue with countries like Iran and Cuba.
But as the president entered his 100th day in office, he faced a major domestic emergency in the form of the swine flu outbreak. Plus, the economic turmoil that has engulfed America since before Mr Obama entered the White House shows little sign of abating. Apart from the stimulus package, Mr Obama has also attempted to shore up the economy with plans to recapitalise US banks and salvage failing car firms.
Mr Obama swept to victory in last year’s presidential election with 53% of the vote. The latest Gallup poll gives him an approval rating of 65%, virtually unchanged from his level of support on the day of his inauguration.