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Not Since FDR

It is pretty amusing to read the anti-Obama attacks on this blog. Some of you seem to think this is some sort of payback for all the anti-Bush attacks of the last 8 years. But you keep overlooking one critical difference: Obama is not Bush. He’s smart. He’s intelligent. And despite a few rookie stumbles, he’s actually getting the job done. If he can do this in three weeks, think about one year from now.

Case in point: Here’s the first part of the analysis of Obama’s stimulus victory from Sunday’s Washington Post. I think it provides a pretty good historical perspective. It’s great to have a real President back in the White House. It’s great to have a President we can be proud of again.

“Twenty-four days into his presidency, Barack Obama recorded last night a legislative achievement of the sort that few of his predecessors achieved at any point in their tenure.

In size and scope, there is almost nothing in history to rival the economic stimulus legislation that Obama shepherded through Congress in just over three weeks. And the result — produced largely without Republican participation — was remarkably similar to the terms Obama’s team outlined even before he was inaugurated: a package of tax cuts and spending totaling about $775 billion.

As Obama urged passage of the plan, he and his still-incomplete team demonstrated a single-mindedness that was familiar from the campaign trail. That intensity may have contributed to missteps in other areas, as the president’s White House stumbled repeatedly in the vetting of his Cabinet and staff nominees. And high-minded promises of bipartisanship evaporated as Republicans accused the president and his Democratic allies in Congress of the same heavy-handed tactics that Obama, in his campaign, had often demanded be changed.

But even before the plan passed the Senate last night, the president’s top advisers were crowing. “We’ve been in office, what, 2 1/2 , three weeks? We’ve passed the most major sweeping comprehensive legislation as relates to economic activity ever in a three-week period of time,” White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said Thursday evening in the West Wing.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) credited Obama’s leadership on the legislation yesterday, saying, “The American people know, and historians are judging, that this is one remarkable president.”

The feat compares only with President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s banking system overhaul in 1933, which cleared Congress within days of his inauguration.

Long before the end of the 100 days that, since FDR’s feat, have been used to measure the opening act of a presidency, Obama and his allies who control Congress can point to a major legislative victory earlier than most new administrations.

At about this point in Bill Clinton’s administration, the president and his new team were putting the final touches on an economic plan that had yet to be publicly announced.

That economic plan ultimately passed in August, giving the young president a victory. But his $19 billion stimulus plan — one-fortieth of the current legislation — was too controversial to survive the partisan battles.

By the end of three weeks, Clinton had named an envoy to Bosnia and announced rules to limit corporate tax deductions for executive pay. And he had announced a plan to save $35 billion in Medicare costs by cutting payments to hospitals and raising premiums for the wealthier elderly. He railed at the cost of prescription drugs. But none of those issues was resolved within that time.

President George W. Bush was similarly without a major achievement by the week of Feb. 8, 2001, three weeks after his inauguration.

Bush had begun selling his $1.6 trillion plan to cut taxes, and he had announced a plan for a big investment in new weaponry for the military. He was preparing for his first international trip, to Mexico, and gave a speech to military units warning against “overdeployment.”

Unlike Obama, by this point Bush had not yet held a prime-time news conference. Like Obama, Bush made an early gesture to encourage bipartisanship: inviting members of the Kennedy family to the White House to see the movie “Thirteen Days.”

Bush’s efforts at bipartisanship largely failed, but not until after he had launched a war in Iraq and pursued controversial efforts to expand the power of the executive branch.

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