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On 100th day of presidency, Obama shows strengths

WASHINGTON - Forced to come to account on his 100th day in the White House, President Barack Obama last night displayed a mastery of a wide range of issues but also surprisingly admitted that he wishes he'd been dealt an easier hand.

In the nationally televised prime-time news conference from the East Room of the White House, Obama gave a performance that he has made familiar with his frequent appearances and interviews.

It is a performance that has earned him high ratings in the polls and it appears that last night he did little to shake his overall popularity.

As he reached the 100-day mark of his presidency, the measuring stick created in 1933 by Franklin D. Roosevelt, Obama still had to accomplish at least three key tasks as he faced reporters for the third time last night.

Here is how he did.

Still in charge

The American people turn to the president in a time of crisis, looking for a strong leader.

Last night, Obama may have reinforced the confidence polls by the way he addressed the swine flu scare, Pakistan, Iraq and a few other issues.

On the flu, Obama sounded almost paternal, reminding people several times to wash their hands, for example. But he also stressed he's in the loop: "I've consulted with our public health officials . . . in some cases an hour-to-hour basis."

He also knowledgeably discussed Pakistan's struggle with the Taliban, saying he was confident Pakistan's nuclear arsenal can remain secure. "We've got strong military-to-military consultation and cooperation."

But his admissions to the limit of the presidency's power, and twice saying he wishes he had a lighter load, might give some people pause.

"I would love a nice, lean portfolio to deal with, but that's not the hand that's been dealt us," he said about GOP criticism that he wants to grow government.

Making progress

The first 100 days are all about progress, and Obama touted his several legislative accomplishments with the help of a Congress controlled by his party and promoted with an eye on the ailing economy.

He defended the $787 billion stimulus package and the budget Congress passed Wednesday from GOP charges they are "radical," arguing they're necessary and had to be passed fast.

"The typical president, I think, has two or three big problems; we've got seven or eight big problems," he said. "And so we've had to move very quickly."

Yet he acknowledged he has failed so far to break the Washington culture he campaigned against, and he put off two hot-button, highly partisan issues.

He promised only to start the legislative process on immigration. On abortion, despite a campaign promise to move more quickly, he said, "the Freedom of Choice Act is not my highest legislative priority."

Better future

The actions of the first 100 days are only successful if they bring about a more promising future, and there Obama pleaded for time.

He urged the American people not to get caught up in the "day to day" news coverage, but to look to the future for the real benefits of his plans to build a "new foundation."

"The ship of state is an ocean liner. It's not a speed boat," he said. "If we can move this big battleship a few degrees in a different direction, we may not see all the consequences of that change a week from now . . . but 10 years from now or 20 years from now."

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