Commentary: Obama has had a solid start

This editorial appeared in The (Raleigh) News & Observer.

So much for honeymoons. President Obama has passed the 100-day point of his White House term, a moment that generally is more symbolic than profoundly meaningful. In the case of this president, however, that's not exactly true. The challenges facing Obama when he succeeded President George W. Bush required virtually immediate action. Obama was like a firefighter airlifted and dropped into a blaze.

Some flames still burn. The recession remains serious and far from unresolved. The war in Afghanistan is growing as a crisis even as Iraq appears to be calming. The president has seen some early stumbles regarding Cabinet choices, and his treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, has rubbed a few congressional heads the wrong way. Obama's fellow Democrats who control both houses of Congress on occasion have displayed an unhelpful brand of partisanship.

The president's economic stimulus package and his plan to shore up automobile companies are big bets that will drive the nation's debt skyward. Obama's hope is that both will prove to be investments that pay dividends in the long term, he hopes not too long a term. Deficit reduction seems a daunting challenge, but the administration is standing by assurances that there will be a way to do it.

But in other ways, the president has managed to turn some crises into embers. There are early signs of more confidence in the economy's future. And, he has exerted a needed strong hand to guide that economy into a more orderly era, with responsible regulation that will at least stem some of the recklessness of the last decade. The president's message has been: We want the free market to thrive, but not without oversight that will separate true prosperity from phony prosperity, that will curb the wretched excesses of greed that have depleted the savings and crushed the hopes of so many Americans.

Obama also has insisted that despite the need to focus on the economic crisis, there remains an urgency to health-care reform that will result in all Americans having access to affordable, quality care. His suggestion that there might be a need for a government-run insurance alternative to the private system horrifies private insurers. But the people, many of them facing loss of coverage through jobs or because of illness, are ready for change.

To read the complete editorial, visit The (Raleigh) News & Observer.