First 100 Days: A Presidential Honeymoon


In his first 100 days, F.D.R. signed the Beer Bill, the first relaxation of Prohibition (AP Photo).
In his first 100 days, F.D.R. signed the Beer Bill, the first relaxation of Prohibition (AP Photo).
In his first 100 days, FDR signs the Beer Bill, the first relaxation of Prohibition (AP Photo).

People in the media have been making a lot of references to Barack Obama's first 100 days in office. CNN even keeps a progress report of how he's doing during this crucial period. But, what's so special about this span of time? For Obama especially, it is a significant, symbolic throwback to one of his ideological predecessors, Franklin D. Roosevelt.

F.D.R. took the helm of the nation when it was grappling with the Great Depression -- an economic crisis of epic proportions that President Obama has been evoking of late to draw parallels to today's problems. Immediately after taking office, F.D.R. rushed bills through Congress that expanded the role of the federal government in order to establish programs to create jobs. Kenneth Walsh over at US News & World Report offers a nice summary of all these programs put in place in a time of roughly 100 days after F.D.R. 's inauguration.

So why did this seemingly arbitrary 100-days concept became a popular tool for assessing the commanders-in-chief who followed F.D.R. ? According to Walsh, presidents seem to be especially effective during this "honeymoon phase" because everyone is hopeful about new policies. However, others point to how L.B. Johnson simply used this time to ingratiate himself with John Kennedy's admirers and how Jimmy Carter proved especially ineffective during his honeymoon phase [source: Zelizer]. New presidents are no doubt aware that the public and media are closely watching them during the days of their presidential infancy. So, perhaps the first 100 days is simply the time when the public is forming their all-important first impressions.

Related HowStuffWorks Aritcles:

How Recessions Work Roosevelt's New Deal How lame is a lame-duck president?