Ordinarily, the first 100 days of a presidency don't mean much. But these are not ordinary times.

President Obama took office just as the nation realized the full extent of the economic crisis. No longer was recession in doubt; experts feared another Great Depression. Meanwhile, improvements in Iraq called for a new approach, deteriorating conditions in Afghanistan screamed for more attention, and the rest of the world criticized America as being so blinded by 9/11 that it forgot it was supposed to be the champion of human rights.

Coloring these issues and others was the public's utter lack of confidence in government, which the Bush administration itself helped to cultivate by continually touting the virtues of a private sector that turned out to be not only venal, but also dumb - its financial arm having put too much money in risky derivatives, while government watchdogs slept.

Obama hasn't solved any of these problems yet. Who could in only 100 days? But like a skilled physician, he appears to have stopped the bleeding, and restored confidence that a president can make the nation better. That's an accomplishment worth noting.

Indeed, Obama's approval rating has averaged 63 percent in his first three months. Not since Jimmy Carter 30 years ago has a president polled that well in his first 100 days. Yes, Carter was nowhere near those heights by the end of his presidency, but Obama's performance thus far suggests that won't be his fate. The former governor of Georgia was lambasted as being weak and unsophisticated in dealing with Congress, but the former Illinois senator knows how Washington works - and he has a very skilled team.

Better early comparisons of Obama would be to Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson. FDR created Social Security and got America through the Depression with an ambitious agenda that he hit the ground running with in his first 100 days; he later led the nation through World War II. After President Kennedy's assassination, LBJ pushed through key civil-rights laws and created Medicare while making agonizing decisions about the war in Vietnam.

What BHO has in common with LBJ and FDR is their belief that government can help people; it has flaws, but it can help. That Obama is challenging a central pillar of Republican orthodoxy since Ronald Reagan was president - that government is the enemy - has the GOP running scared. Thus, its chief spokesmen seem to oppose the president every time he speaks, no matter the issue.

But the polls suggest the public wants more than nattering nabobs of negativism. The people want positive results, and they believe Obama can provide that.

A bonus: The election of the first African American president has doubled the percentage of blacks who believe race relations in the nation are good. Whites think they're better, too. That's something to build on, and Obama is proving to be a good architect.