With the marathon November election behind him, President Bush set out to unify the nation with his calls to \build a single nation of justice and opportunity"" in his inaugural address in Washington, D.C., Jan. 20.
The first 100 days of President Bush's term will be closely scrutinized for any convincing indicators as to how the new administration will delegate 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, according to UW-Madison history professor John Sharpless. He said the emphasis on the president's first 100 days in office began with the inauguration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1933.
""FDR introduced a whole flurry of legislation to give people a sense that things are going to change,"" Sharpless said.
In contrast, Sharpless said he doesn't expect any earth-shaking legislative action from the Bush administration in the first 100 days.
""We will see a president that slowly tries to feel out Congress and get some of the things he promised in his campaign done,"" Sharpless said.
Charles Jones, emeritus professor of political science at UW-Madison, echoed Sharpless' sentiments.
""I don't think there's anything magical about the first 100 days,"" Jones said.
While more accountability in education, restructuring the military, tax cuts, reforming Social Security and Medicare and drafting a new prescription drug policy were Bush's campaign promises, Jones said he is skeptical of any legislative changes on these issues.
""As far as his own major priorities are concerned, I don't expect any major progress,"" Jones said. ""It will be important to get [Bush's] major issues in bill form in the first three to four months.""
Graham Wilson, UW-Madison political science professor, thinks Bush's first 100 days will be instrumental in establishing his identity as a strong leader and shifting focus away from his loss in the popular vote to former vice president Al Gore.
""Mainly, what he's trying to establish is his power and authority,"" Wilson said.
Wilson said Bush should be careful not to push his policies through too soon and behave as though he won the popular election.
""In the presidency, success feeds on success,"" Wilson said.
Sharpless said past presidents have had varying degrees of success in making impacts within their first few months in office.
""Eisenhower doesn't pass much legislation in his first 100 days, but Kennedy embraces the idea because he wants to link himself to FDR and the liberal tradition,"" Sharpless said. ""The concept of the first 100 days is less a part of the Republican tradition.""
Sharpless also noted that former President Bill Clinton was the most recent exception to the ""first 100 days"" concept.
""Clinton was muddled very early in his presidency with other issues to introduce much new legislation,"" Sharpless said.
He also said Vice President Dick Cheney will be a vital component of President Bush's success in his first 100 days in office.
""I think [Cheney's] going to be the pit bull,"" Sharpless said. ""I think he will go to [Senate Majority Leader] Trent Lott and say 'don't embarrass our president.'""
Wilson said he agreed the Vice President will be very active in passing the President's legislative agenda.
""I think [President Bush] is going to give a lot of scope to Cheney,"" Wilson said.