What Historians Say

President Franklin D. Roosevelt -- who, like President Obama, faced a major economic crisis -- delivers his first radio
President Franklin D. Roosevelt -- who, like President Obama, faced a major economic crisis -- delivers his first radio "fireside chat" in March 1933. (Associated Press)
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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

We surveyed an assortment of presidential historians, who arrived at the same conclusion: President Obama, in both the scope of his legislative achievements and the groundwork he has set for future policy changes, has done more in his first 100 days in the White House than any commander in chief since Franklin D. Roosevelt, who entered office in 1933 amid the throes of the nation's last major economic upheaval. Here are selected quotations from historians and other observers.

INTERNATIONAL APPEAL "I think he's the global president. People all over the world just want to shake his hand, they want to have a photo op with him. There's a sense that he's a historic figure, not just a one-termer. . . . His mettle hasn't really been tested in foreign affairs yet, but he's created a foundation with which to work with other countries in the world quite well."

-- Douglas Brinkley, historian at Rice University and editor of President Ronald Reagan's White House diaries

QUICK SUCCESS "History will judge that he has been astonishingly successful in his first 100 days. The stimulus package helped push major investment in education and health care and seems to have stemmed the collapse of our economy. His push for education reform is going to have a lasting impact on America's education system. The ability to open up and deal directly with adversaries around the world transforms the way we conduct foreign policy and could lead to important breakthroughs, whether in Cuba or Iran. And he has set a tone that is both open yet also persistent in pursuing his goals."

-- Walter Isaacson, president of the Aspen Institute and author of biographies of Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin and Henry Kissinger

TOO EARLY TO TELL "He's done well, but in a lot of areas you just can't tell. . . . On the most important issue facing the country today, which is not just the economy but the banks and how to deal with the banking crisis and the credit crisis, I think we're still a long way from knowing how that will play itself out."

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