While officials in the Obama White House dismissed yesterday's "100 Days" anniversary as a "Hallmark Holiday," they understood it was what sociologist Daniel J. Boorstin called a "pseudo-event." By that, Boorstin meant an occasion that is not spontaneous but planned for the purpose of being reported -- an event that is important because someone says so, not because it is.
What happens in a president's first 100 days rarely characterizes the arc of the 1,361 that follow. Jimmy Carter had a very good first 100 days. Bill Clinton did not.
Still, a president would rather start well than poorly -- and Mr. Obama has a job approval of 63%. That leaves him tied with Mr. Carter, one point ahead of George W. Bush, and behind only Ronald Reagan's 67%. Four of the past six presidents had approval ratings that ranged between 62% and 67%, a statistically insignificant spread.
Mr. Obama is popular because he is a historic figure, has an attractive personality, has passed key legislation, and receives adoring press coverage.
However, there are cautionary signs. Mr. Obama's policies are less popular than his personality, the pace of polarization with Republicans has proceeded faster than ever in history, and independents are thinking more like Republicans on the issues and less like Democrats.
The first 100 days can reveal a pattern of behavior that comes to characterize a presidency. In this respect, there are two emerging habits of Team Obama worth watching.
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