On the surface Bill Clinton and Barack Obama seem to have a great deal in common. They are/were both young Democratic presidents who also have/had Democratic controlled Congresses, who inherited recessions, but each president’s first 100 days took different paths.
Here are the legislative accomplishments of the first 100 days of the Clinton administration:
1). Family and Medical Leave Act – On February 5, 1993 Bill Clinton signed the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). FMLA would be one of the lasting legacies of the Clinton administration. The act allows employees to take unpaid leave for a pregnancy or a serious medical condition. The bill had languished in Congress when George H.W. Bush refused to sign it.
2). Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was compromise that Bill Clinton made with the Congress on the issue of gays serving in the military. The president originally sought to repeal the ban on homosexual service, while Congress opposed allowing gays to serve in the military. This issue would not be settled until August 1993.
3). Health Care Reform – President Clinton created the national task force on health care in 1993. He appointed his wife First Lady Hillary Clinton as chair. The plan was fought about for a year and a half before it died in 1994.
4). Aid to Russia – In response to Russian President Boris Yetsin’s request for help, Clinton got a $1.6 billion aid package passed. The package was designed to help Russia stabilize its economy, and help Russia provide humanitarian aid to it citizens, and to dismantle nuclear weapons.
Clinton’s first one hundred days that were caught up in the gays in the military debate, the first WTC bombing, and the Branch Davidian/ATF standoff in Waco, TX. Clinton also lost his first two attorney general nominees to scandals. To say that Clinton struggled in his first 100 days would be an understatement. His is the rare presidency that got more popular with age. At the hundred day mark, President Clinton’s approval rating was 55%.
Here are the major accomplishments of Obama’s first 100 Days:
1). Economic Stimulus Plan – Obama got Congress to pass a $787 billion economic stimulus plan.
2). Expanded SCHIP – Obama signed a law that expanded the State Children’s Health Insurance Plan to cover an additional 4 million children.
3). Lilly Ledbetter Act -Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Act which requires equal pay for women.
4). Ethics Guidelines– Obama implemented new ethics guidelines that are designed to curtail the influence of lobbyists.
5). Iraq and Afghanistan – Obama announced the phased withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq, while sending an additional 4,000 troops to Afghanistan.
6). Budget and Healthcare– Obama got his budget passed, which paves the way for healthcare reform later this year.
Obama is enjoying an approval rating which is around 10% higher than Clinton’s in 1993. The ex-Clinton people in the Obama administration have learned their lessons well. Obama has avoided controversial issues and scandals. Obama also hasn’t had to deal with anything as severe as the Waco standoff, or the first World Trade Center bombing, so there is a degree of luck also involved.
Bill Clinton was derailed by gridlock within his own party, while Obama has faced little resistance from his fellow Democrats. This has allowed Obama to pass legislation rapidly. Compared to the disorganized chaos that was Clinton’s first one hundred days, things have been smooth sailing for Obama. Clinton and Obama are two presidents from the same party, who faced similar situations, but got different results. It will be interesting to watch if Obama’s popularity will build like Clinton’s did, or does this represent a high point for the new president?