Wednesday, April 29, 2009

100 Days: Closing the "God Gap" but not shaking the world

A Gallup poll taken on this the 100th day of his presidency shows Barack Obama with a 65% approval rate on average -- higher among African Americans (96%) and Hispanics (85%).

What is most extraordinary, however, is that Obama is making major strides in closing the so-called "God Gap", winning over faith voters. "According to Gallup Daily tracking right before the election, 61% of infrequent church attenders supported Obama, compared with only 41% of weekly attenders. However, since Obama became president, a solid majority of weekly church attenders have said they approve of the job he is doing. At the 100-day mark, that figure is 57%, compared with 69% of infrequent churchgoers."

And some in the Catholic Church are even concluding that President Obama might not be as extreme as the Church had feared. Below is a translation I have made of an assessment of Obama's first 100 days from today's L'Osservatore Romano:

One hundred days that did not shake the world
by Giuseppe Fiorentino
L’Osservatore Romano
April 29, 2009

Barack Obama is 1,361 days away from the expiration of his term. It is not known, nor can be imagined, what will happen in this time. Many analysts in fact describe the "job" of president as reactive. Planned political strategy cedes to choices dictated by events - and the case of the Bush presidency after Spetember 11, 2001 proves it.

From another perspective, this April 29th marks the one hundred days of the first African American president in the White House, a traditionally much-awaited date for an initial, but inevitably partial, assessment. Rivers of ink have already been spilled, however, on these weeks that, according to many comments, have marked a decisive break from the past and redefined the image of the United States in the world.

Maybe the ability to communicate is one of the great talents of the President, which recalls that of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Like the creator of the New Deal, Obama uses modern media - the radio then, the Internet today - to spread the message of hope that the nation needs. You can not compare the great crisis of 1929 to the present. And yet the imprint seems to be the same. So is the ability to focus the attention of the public in a pragmatic and functional way.

In recent months Obama has seen his popularity grow for even voicing his decisions to break with the past: he has proposed direct talks with Iran to resolve the issue of Tehran's nuclear program and has called on Russia to begin new talks on reducing strategic arsenals. Above all, he has suggested a different role for the United States in the Americas, even initiating a new relationship with Cuba.

But in other, more concrete international scenarios, the continuity with the past is not compromised -- like in Iraq, where the Administration is implementing the strategy of withdrawal initiated by Bush, and Afghanistan. Here – Obama has said - is the new frontier in the fight against terrorism -- new only up to a point, since the first U.S. military intervention after September 11 took place in Afghanistan. And there is not that much desire for discontinuity, as can be seen from the confirmation of Robert Gates as the head of the Pentagon.

Even though he has broken a taboo in opening up to Cuba, Obama has not deviated much from his predecessors in the request for tangible signs by Havana.

Similar assessments can be made of the economic stimulus action initiated by the President. While he has been accused by some of excessive statism, he has not really made the country slide toward socialism. Through a calmer analysis, however, one notices that Obama has moved with caution: very reluctant to face the idea of nationalizing of banking institutions, he has supported a private rescue plan for credit institutions. According to the International Herald Tribune, he is showing an unexpected resemblance to Ronald Reagan, the president who waved a flag of retreat for the state before the private sector. And the Bush-Paulson combination was revealed to be much more statist in recent months with the partial nationalization of the real estate mortgage giants, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,

Also on ethical issues - which have been the major concern of the Catholic episcopate since the election campaign - Obama does not seem to have gone through with the radical innovations he voiced. The new guidelines regarding research on embryonic stem cells do not in fact follow the change of course planned months ago. They do not allow the creation of new embryos for research purposes or therapeutic cloning for reproductive purposes, and federal funds may only be used for experimentation with redundant embryos. This does not remove the grounds for criticism in the face of unacceptable forms of bioengineering that run counter to the very human identity of the embryo, but the new regulation is not so very permissive.

Another cause for surprise in recent days has been the introduction of a bill by the Democratic Party, the Pregnant Women Support Act, aimed at restricting the number of abortions in the United States through initiatives to help pregnant women. It is not a denial of the doctrine so far expressed by Obama in regard to abortion, but the draft legislation could be a shift in support of motherhood.

Signs of the new from Obama are undeniable, especially in the field of environmental protection and in particular the partnership that seems to have been born with Beijing. But it would probably be too early to talk about revolution or to commit oneself to judgments, positive or negative. These were not one hundred days that shook the world. Better to wait for the next 1,361.

No comments:

Post a Comment