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04.29.09

Obama as Muhammad Ali

After 100 days, I think I’ve figured it out. Obama is Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. (Muhammad Ali to the more recently born.) Always above the fray, he floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee.

First 100 days? Really? Has it only been that long?

Let me begin by saying, thank God, Allah, and Zeus that they’re over.

As a recovering obsessive-compulsive, the past 100 days have been a torture of quantification. How’s he doing SO far? Is he the change we’ve been waiting for? Is Barack Obama really a centrist, as so many (including I) had hoped? Or is he one of them dadgum fascist-Marxist-commie-Moozlems?!

Obama is who he said he is—a pragmatist. It just so happens that pragmatism under present circumstances demands/justifies/warrants what are rather socialist solutions. The president is in the unique position of being able to say with face straight and heart true: I’m not a lefty ideologue. It’s just that Republican leadership has left us in the sort of economic free fall that only Big Government can rescue.

Thus, the first 100 days have been brisk, if entirely too long. And action-packed. Obama has done so much, so fast, that our heads spin. If this is not a tactic, it should be. He seems blessed with the immaculate timing in which events don’t just open a window, but nuke the building. In breezes Obama with his team of carpenters. While Americans were distracted with lost jobs and decimated savings, Team Obama re-landscaped the American Dream with spending and future debts that are beyond our comprehension. Now comes the perfect storm of avian, swine, and human flu, just in time for a national health plan. Timing really is everything.

Here’s the thing about Obama: He’s a completely new deal. We’ve never see this character before. Each day is a new play and we’re not quite sure how this particular narrative arcs. All of that makes us a bit uneasy, as it should. But my truest sense of Obama is that he thinks hard about each issue and that his mind is open. He is still finding out how to be president, listening instead of talking; watching and measuring, as children from disrupted childhoods learn to do.

The task for conservatives is not so much to oppose the president, but to help him see. Show him a better idea and he will consider it. I’m not sure Republicans are temperamentally capable of working with Obama, however. His style confounds them. He’s the left-handed pitcher; the river that flows upstream; the slight fellow who fells the giant with a slingshot. And he never breaks a sweat. Who IS this dude?

After 100 days, I think I’ve figured it out. Obama is Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. (Muhammad Ali to the more recently born.) Always above the fray, he floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee. So far, the Obama presidency is a rope-a-dope.

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group and author of Save the Males.

Xtra Insight: Read other takes on the first 100 days from The Daily Beast's all-star team of analysts.