Just as the times of Barack Obama defy the easy descriptions and old labels, so too does the man himself.
Indeed, if the first 100 days of President Obama's term have proved anything, it is that he is a hard man to classify. He has confounded, at one time or another, people at just about every spot across the political spectrum. He likes big and activist government, but he isn't a classic liberal. He is more of a social engineer than a guardian of the old welfare state.
He's phenomenally popular among Democrats, but has found the most support for some of his foreign-policy moves among Republicans. He's pulling combat troops out of Iraq, but more slowly than he once promised -- and at the same time has laid plans to add more troops in Afghanistan than the Bush administration envisioned.
Asked whether there is yet a discernible Obama doctrine in foreign affairs, a longtime national security operative pauses and responds: "If there is a doctrine, it would have to be engagement." Which is more a tactic than a doctrine.
He sometimes sounds like a protectionist, but so far has acted mostly like a free-trader. He talks a lot about fiscal discipline, yet is overseeing the nation's first trillion-dollar deficits. He's made history as America's first African-American president, yet probably talks less about race than did the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton.
From Fact Check:
After 100 days in office, we find President Obama is sticking to the facts – mostly.
Nevertheless, we find that the president has occasionally made claims that put him and his policies in a better light than the facts warrant. He has claimed that private economists agreed with the forecast in his budget, when they were really more pessimistic. He's used Bush-like budget-speak trying to sound frugal while raising spending to previously unimagined levels. And he has exaggerated the problems his proposals aim to cure by misstating facts about school drop-out rates and oil imports.
At the same time, there's been no shortage of dubious claims made about the president by his political opponents. Republicans have falsely claimed that Obama planned to spend billions on a levitating train and that his stimulus bill would require doctors to follow government orders on what medical treatments can and can't be prescribed, among other nonsense.
And those whoppers are mild compared with some of the positively deranged claims flying about the Internet. No, the national service bill Obama signed won't prevent anybody from going to church, for example. And no, he's not trying to send Social Security checks to illegal immigrants.
From the Centre for Public Integrity:
From his first day in office, President Obama has spoken about transparency in government. He has added the word accountability to many of the initiatives of his administration. There is indeed a better sense of openness in government that we can all applaud. The Center is happy to have faster responses to our Freedom of Information Requests. However, even as we mark the President's first 100 days in office, the Center for Public Integrity is only too well aware of the many ways that government still misses opportunities for even greater transparency and accountability in the public interest. Our mission and our work remain the same, to make institutional power more transparent and accountable through our original investigative journalism.
The best example of what this means is our recent investigative work: digging into the Climate Lobby funneling money to the Congress and the so-called "Clean Coal" campaign; uncovering the home appraisal bubble pushed by lenders; and revealing the steep drop in Pentagon fraud and corruption cases while the number of federal contracts to private industry soared.
As the economy has worsened in the first three months of this year and credit markets remain sclerotic, complaints are growing from Wall Street to Washington that Obama is doing too much, spreading himself too thin.
Almost in the same breath, though, there has been criticism that he has ducked hard decisions, such as postponing a commission on the social security system in the face of Democrat opposition, or not pushing ahead with a ban on assault weapons after another spate of mass shootings.
The New York Times wrote this week: "His early willingness to deal or fold has left commentators, and some loyal Democrats, wondering: where's the fight?"
"The thing we still don't know about him is what he is willing to fight for," Leonard Burman, an economist at the Urban Institute, and a Treasury department official in the Clinton administration, was quoted as saying. "It's hard to think of a place where he's taken a really hard position."