Measuring Obama by FDR's yardstick

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Since [FDR] journalists and political analysts have embraced the 100-day report card for new presidents. But for most leaders since FDR, the first three months have been an unreliable guide to the years that followed.

In 1993, Bill Clinton's 100 days were a chaotic period of trial and error, beginning with a stymied attempt to allow gays to serve openly in the military and ending with the defeat in Congress of a $16-billion stimulus bill (an amount that seemed high at the time). At this point 16 years ago, conventional wisdom held that Clinton would probably limp through a single term in office.

In 2001, George W. Bush's 100 days were proclaimed a solid success, especially for a president who came to the White House on the strength of a Supreme Court ruling after losing the popular vote. In this newspaper, I wrote that Bush was running a careful, well-focused administration, praised by one leading scholar for its "astonishing professionalism."

So much for predictions. In both cases, events -- and the presidents' own decisions -- led to far different presidencies than anyone would have predicted at the outset.

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