Ever since FDR became president – and had to push through a lot of things right away as the economy was in free fall, the “first hundred days” of a presidency has become a sort of “meme” for the press. It really is an arbitrary point; it just happens to be a nice round number that sounds better than “three months”. There’s also the idea of a “honeymoon” period, where the new president can ride the wave of popularity that won him the election to trade some of that free political capital on advancing his agenda and fulfilling a campaign promise or two.
It isn’t really fair to judge a presidency on what amounts to a mere seven percent of a full term. And a lot can change in the country and the world over four years. But it is fair to use it as an estimate, a sort of “probationary period”, of what sort of person is living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And if the White House staff itself is fully on board with the “100 days” idea, then it’s fair to judge them on it.
So, what have we got?
Given that Trump won the election despite losing the popular vote by a huge margin, and only narrowly won the Electoral College (his effective margin of victory was a mere 80,000 votes spread out over three states), it’s fair to call him the Least Popular Presidential Winner in history. So he entered office with essentially no political capital to spend.
Trump has tried two major policy initiatives, and they have both tanked. The attempt to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act died before it even came to a vote in the House of Representatives. His immigration ban was held up in the courts – both times. Many of his executive orders to roll back regulations have actually been more on the order of instructions to agencies to review regulations and see which ones can be easily removed. It’s hard to find anything of significance that he’s accomplished. True, he did get a Supreme Court justice approved, but filling a required job hardly counts as an “accomplishment” – especially when the Senate had to rewrite their rules to make it happen.
We’ve seen a lot of flip-flopping on issues and promises. In and of itself, this is not necessarily a bad thing – if it means the President has thought more carefully on the issue, taking into account more information and listening to the demands and concerns of the public at large. But Trump’s pivots have been more like whims; he’s shown precious little interest in learning about the matters at hand.
None of this bodes well for the future. There’s the matter of comprehensive tax reform that he’s promised us, a proposed massive infrastructure program, his utterly ridiculous and impractical “border wall”… And then there’s the normal stuff like a budget – by the way, on Day 99 (April 28), federal funding will expire for a lot of government departments unless Congress comes together to pass a budget extension. Oh, and don’t forget the strong and serious possibility of the collusion with Russia during the campaign coming back to haunt him.
It is still within the realm of possibility that he settles down and becomes, well, if not a Great Statesman, at least an average “caretaker” of the office. A lot depends on things outside of the president’s control. Think of George W. Bush. His was a fairly normal and uninteresting presidency – until 9/11.
But it’s not likely he’s going to change his personality or temperament, especially at his age (at 70, he’s the oldest person to become president). What we’ve seen so far is a president who is much more interested in enjoying the perks of the job (like flying down to Mar-a-Lago every weekend on the public’s dime) than actually doing the work.
And the job is only going to get harder from here…..