Series Overview: Assessing Obama's Agenda

The Obama Tracker

NPR's Obama Tracker charts significant events, actions and developments for every day of the new administration.

All this week, NPR will be presenting a series of stories assessing the Obama administration's progress toward goals set by the new president himself. Focusing on 10 of the president's own agenda priorities, the series will rely on metrics he suggested during the campaign and in the first weeks after his election.

The series corresponds with the milestone of the president's 100th day in office, much noted in the media and the professional political conversation. The actual 100th day is Wednesday, April 29, if you count Inauguration Day.

It's an occasion for reflection most presidents dislike — the current White House likens it to a "Hallmark holiday" invented by those who might profit from it. But it is also an examination presidents cannot escape, and this president is no exception. He has capitulated to the notion by scheduling his third prime-time news conference for 8 p.m. Wednesday.

A Tradition Dating To FDR

It must be said that the first 100 days do not represent a deadline in any formal or legal sense, and the 100th day has no place in the Constitution, the congressional calendar or the rules of the executive branch.

Still, an interest in the early going has been popular more or less since the historically eventful first few months of Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidency. From March of 1933 to mid-June, FDR managed to calm a banking crisis and pass enormously ambitious programs to address the massive unemployment of the Great Depression. And while the ultimate success of his program remains a great subject of debate, the psychological boost from his first flurry of activity was beyond dispute.

No president has since experienced quite so efficacious a beginning, although Ronald Reagan came close in 1981 by moving tax cuts, new spending priorities and a big defense build-up through Congress in a comparable period.

In this series we want to ask and answer five questions:

Just what were President Obama's stated goals?

How has the Obama team worked toward these goals so far?

What benchmarks did the president himself set for success?

What measurable progress has been made to date?

What effort is being made to improve on that progress?

The idea is to use the occasion of the president's 100th day in office to make a first and, frankly, preliminary report on his direction and momentum. To do much more at this point in his term would be impossible.

The issues to be examined begin, of course, with the economy. On Monday's Morning Edition, NPR's veteran economics correspondent John Ydstie will analyze the president's response to the recession — the deepest since the days of FDR.

Later on All Things Considered, we will turn to the issue that has dominated the national consciousness since 2001 — the wars that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. National security correspondent Mary Louise Kelly will ask whether the new president is moving toward ending these conflicts or being caught in their complexity and momentum.

On Tuesday's Morning Edition, foreign correspondent Jackie Northam, our expert on Guantanamo, looks at whether the new administration can "re-brand" the American image — especially in light of recent revelations about the extreme interrogation regime under the previous administration

Then on All Things Considered, business correspondent Jim Zarroli will extend the analysis to the banking crisis — ground zero for the economic meltdown of 2008 that Obama inherited. While retaining and promoting Timothy Geithner, one of the architects of the bank bailout in September 2008, Obama has also looked for ways to revise and reinvent the financial industry and its relationship to real estate.

On Wednesday morning, health care correspondent Julie Rovner reviews the bidding on another signature issue of the Obama candidacy — a revision of the health care delivery and finance systems.

On Wednesday afternoon, science correspondent Chris Joyce weighs the early commitment of the new president on climate change.

On Thursday morning, education correspondent Claudio Sanchez looks at what the new regime may mean for the schools. And on All Things Considered, Rovner returns with a consideration of early moves by the Obama administration to reverse eight years of policy concerning abortion and stem cell research.

Finally, on Friday, national political correspondent Mara Liasson asks whether Obama has made any progress toward changing the partisan atmosphere in Washington that many consider a contributing cause of the nation's ills. And congressional correspondent Andrea Seabrook assesses the record spending, higher taxes and enormous deficits envisioned by the Obama budget projections.

You can get a summary of the salient points in our assessment of the new president from our reporters in our online Summary Scorecard.

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