Harper greets Obama

Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper greets U.S. President Barack Obama upon his arrival on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

Here we are 100 days into the Barack Obama presidency and it's time for pundits and knowledgeable people to give a report card.

Obama has been a busy guy since his inauguration on Jan. 20, leading up to April 29, so there's plenty to consider. He's shaken hands with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (causing some, even in his own Democratic party, to cringe), broken down some barriers with Cuba, mandated the closure of the infamous Guantanamo Bay detention centre and spoken directly to Muslims around the world, telling them it's a new era for the United States.

He's even visited Canada, where he cemented relations with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and captured the attention of many by stopping at a stand to sample a BeaverTail, a uniquely Canadian snack.

He's made moves on the war front as well, following up on his campaign pledge to set firm dates to withdraw troops from Iraq and bolster forces in Afghanistan, a move which has led some to dub the fight on that front as "Obama's War."

There is, of course, the albatross of the broken and crumbling worldwide economy hanging around Obama's neck, an albatross that grew heavier and heavier as his young presidency moved along, with plenty of bad news about banks, car companies and the jobless.

The new president has stumbled slightly along the way and he had problems getting his message out about what he is doing to fix the financial crisis, but his presence on the world stage has highlighted his communication abilities.

Some of the Obama lustre has warn off, as is the case when the excitement of a new presidency dies down, but he is still a popular leader who has high approval ratings in the United States and around the world. The images of a young African-American family in the White House are still intriguing to most, and the Obamas still have star power.

So, minus the hugely covered event of the arrival of the Obamas' Portuguese water dog Bo to the White House, we give you some of the highlights, and lowlights, of the first 100 days:

Jan. 20: On inauguration day, Obama talks about the troubles facing his country and hints of a new day: "Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age."

Later, he issues a request that military trials at Guantanamo Bay be suspended for 120 days.

Jan. 21: New ethics rules are introduced for lobbyists and salaries are frozen for some White House employees, as Obama makes some moves in the opening days of his administration. On the same day, treasury secretary-designate Tim Geithner calls his failure to pay social security and medicare taxes "careless mistakes" and unavoidable ones.


U.S. President Barack Obama is shown with Budget Director Peter Orszag, right, and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, while talking about his proposed 2010 federal budget in Washington. ((Charles Dharapak/Associated Press))

Jan. 22: The president signs an executive order to close the controversial detention centre at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba within a year. Details are light as to what will happen to detainees, including Canadian Omar Khadr, the last remaining Western detainee at the facility. Some countries later say they are willing to take some of the detainees.

Jan. 23: Harper and Obama speak on the phone. The economy, the president's upcoming trip to Canada, energy, environment and the war in Afghanistan are among the topics.

Jan. 26: The U.S. government will push for allowing states to implement stricter vehicle emissions, Obama announces, following through on an issue that came up during the election campaign.

Jan. 27: Obama tells an Arabic television audience that a hand of friendship is out to them. The address is an about-face of the way the previous Republican administration dealt with the Arab world. "My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy," says the president.

Feb. 17: In an interview with Peter Mansbridge of CBC News at the White House, Obama says his country will respect trade pacts "as we always have." Obama says Canadians should not be too concerned that a "Buy American" clause is still included in the $787-billion US recovery plan that he signs into law later in the day.

The stimulus package includes funds for green energy, infrastructure and school investments, along with tax cuts. It does not get the bi-partisan support that the president had been hoping for, as Republicans criticize it for not having enough tax cuts and for including wasteful spending. "We have begun the essential work of keeping the American dream alive," Obama says.

On what was a busy day, it is revealed that the Obama administration has decided to send an additional 17,000 troops to Afghanistan, a country where Canada has more than 2,500 troops stationed.

Feb. 18: Obama unveils a $75-billion plan to deal with the housing crisis in the U.S. The rescue plan, as it's called, is designed to help up to five million people refinance their mortgages on properties that are worth less than the amount owed on the mortgage. Critics point out that billions of dollars of tax money gathered from people who paid their mortgages on time is being used to help those who didn't keep up their end of the mortgage deal.

Feb. 19: The big visit takes place, as Obama takes Ottawa by storm. Canadians watch closely as the U.S. president, on his first foreign visit, gets rock star treatment. Harper and Obama talk economics, the environment and Afghanistan, among other topics, but people look closely at the body language the two leaders display.

Obama has a loose and easy style that marked his election campaign and when he flashes his million-dollar grin even reporters covering the one-day visit seem to swoon.

Obama says he loves Canada and mentions that he has a brother-in-law that is Canadian.

Harper makes some strong points during the visit, especially on security, as the leaders appear to get along in front of the cameras. After a quick, unscheduled visit to the Byward Market to get some BeaverTails and other items, Obama boards Air Force One and is gone.

Feb. 26: The number is staggering: Obama unveils a $3.55-trillion budget, a spending measure that will boost the deficit by an additional $250 billion in 2009. The president predicts a $1.75-trillion deficit in the current budget year. The Republicans go ballistic, and point fingers at the president, calling him a big-time spender. Democrats remind them that Obama inherited the economic mess and that the administration of George W. Bush led one of the biggest spending administrations in U.S. history, driving up the deficit. Some conservatives agree with the assessment of Bush but say Obama's spending is out of control.

March 19: Obama's treasury secretary Timothy Geithner faces plenty of heat after it was revealed that executives at AIG, which had been given billions of dollars of government money to stay afloat, was giving out millions in bonuses to executives. Obama expresses confidence in Geithner, who later tells CNN that he takes responsibility for the bonuses.

It could be considered by some as the low point of the first 100 days as the Obama administration is accused of being out of touch with Americans, who are angry about the AIG bonuses.

The Tonight Show makes history as Obama is the first sitting president to make an appearance on the talk show. But Obama makes a joke about the Special Olympics and bowling which draws criticism. A White House spokesman clarifies the remarks but does not offer a full apology.

March 20: Iran, a long-time foe of the United States, is extended an olive branch by the president. Obama says the U.S. wants to engage with the people of Iran, noting the differences, but saying it is time for a new beginning. The response from Iran is lukewarm at best.


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, right, speaks with U.S. President Barack Obama at the Summit of the Americas in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. ((Alfonso Ocando/Associated Press))

March 30: General Motors, desperate and in need of financial assistance, is given 60 additional days by Obama to come up with a restructuring plan. After saying Chrysler is not viable on its own, the president gives the Big Three automakers 30 days to come up with a technology transfer agreement with European automaker Fiat. If an agreement can be reached, the U.S. government says it will consider providing Chrysler with the $6 billion in requested financing.

April 2: At the G20 meetings in London, Obama says the summit will mark an economic turnaround for the world. Michelle Obama makes a splash with the British, with her style and her hug of the Queen, who was given an iPod by the Obamas as a gift.

April 4: The president captures the award for biography of the year at the Galaxy British Book Awards for his book Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance.

April 7: Troops in Iraq are treated to a surprise four-hour visit by their Commander in Chief. Obama, making his first visit to the country as president, tells them he will get troops out of the country by 2011, an announcement that is met with joy by the soldiers. "It is time for us to transition to the Iraqis. They need to take responsibility for their country," he says to cheers.

April 16: The Obama administration releases memos that graphically detail some of the techniques used by interrogators on 28 terror suspects, including details on the infamous tactic of waterboarding. Obama faces criticism over the release by some who say the release endangers future operations, but the president says he wants to move past a dark chapter in the country's history.

April 17: The U.S. envisions a new relationship and direct talks with Cuba, Obama says at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago. The infamous handshake with noted U.S.-hater Chavez takes place at the summit. Three days earlier, Obama had announced the easing of travel restrictions to Cuba.

April 27: Saying it's time to put the U.S. at the forefront of science, Obama tells Americans the country will spend more than three per cent of GDP on research and development. "I believe it is not in our character, American character, to follow — but to lead. And it is time for us to lead once again," Obama says in a speech at a meeting of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. He also urges the country not to panic in the face of the spread of the swine flu.

April 28: An angry and likely embarrassed Obama tells residents of New York City it was a mistake to allow a presidential jet to fly low over the city during a photo shoot, alarming hundreds of people. The director of the White House military office says he is sorry for the incident.

April 28: Obama calls for $2 billion to fight the spread of swine flu. He says the money will help fund a plan to build drug stockpiles and monitor future cases of the flu.