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?
Seems that like the woman in the back at that Obama rally, everyone is “Fired Up! Ready to Go!”
Hundreds of thousands of people have been attending rallies and demonstrations and protests. Congressional phones have been clogged with calls. And it’s been working. The House gave up on its plan to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics thanks to public outrage. Other House plans have been put on the back burner. Presidential appointments are facing a much tougher road to confirmation than expected. Members of the House of Representatives recently had a meeting to talk about how do deal with angry constituents when they go back home to their districts.
This is all very good, but one must keep up the pressure.
A few things to keep in mind….
The thought has been bandied about that we should be a little lenient with our new President, especially since he has no political experience at all, and we should actually see what his policies are once he’s in office and not on the campaign trail.
New presidents usually get a “honeymoon” period of a few months while they settle in to office and the new Congress gets used to working together. They get to coast a little on the wave of optimism that swept them into office, and spend the political capital they earned on the campaign trail on pushing through the key items in their agenda.
But our new president takes office with historically awful approval ratings after an extremely close and contentious election, with clouds of scandal lurking over him.
Do we still give him a chance to at least try to be a good president?
People are still trying to come to grips with the concept of a Trump presidency. And it’s not a pretty sight. Even if he somehow manages to be sane and rational, surrounds himself with sane and rational advisers, moderates his political agenda, and doesn’t embarrass the nation any further, there are still some things that are going to happen no matter what.
He has already emboldened racists and bigots, and the GOP pretty much has free rein to do what they want in Congress.
It doesn’t look good for us.
But there are things we can do to at least mitigate the damage.
It boggles the minds of some how Donald Trump still has support among the electorate. After all the things that have come out about him, from being beholden to foreign banks to the bragging about committing sexual assault, surely at this point his support should be in the single digits…. But there’s still a significant portion of America that still wants the least suitable major party candidate we’ve ever had to be President.
Why? What are they thinking? What can their reasons possibly be?
Let me try to put myself in their shoes.
I’m not talking about the Deplorables – those who agree with his racist and xenophobic demagoguery. One hopes that their numbers really are an insignificant component of his supporters. There are also the die-hard Republican loyalists. These people would vote for a dead squirrel if it was a GOP candidate. There’s nothing that can be done to convince them to vote otherwise. Nor can anyone really do something about the rabid Clinton haters. They’ve been brainwashed by the “Right Wing Conspiracy Machine” and have totally fallen for the Anti-Clinton line. Nothing you can say to promote Clinton as even just a worthy candidate will change their minds.
But that cannot account for all of Trump’s support. There’s got to be something more going on here.
We’re just a couple of days away from the first Presidential Debate. They’ve become a regular feature of the campaign. They’re not just good theater, and a flub in one can ruin a candidate – but they provide the only direct comparison between the main candidates. In the rest of the campaign, they don’t face each other. It’s all speeches and ads.
True, they are formal and stage-managed. But consider them to be the “job interview” portion of the task of applying for the job of President. Just like a job interview, you get to see the candidates in person, in a format where they aren’t the ones in control of the situation.
As always, I have questions I’d love to ask the candidates if I ever had the chance.
First, some questions for both of them:
This past weekend, while the press was once again ignoring all the many scandals surrounding and – to put it mildly – all the “misstatements” from Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton decided that being at a 9/11 memorial ceremony was worth toughing out a mild case of pneumonia.
She wasn’t able to do so and had to be helped off the scene, leading to yet another round of questions about her health and “fitness” for the Office of President.
In all the hubbub, shouldn’t one be asking why we care about a candidate’s health in the first place?
I was away for a while last week (and early this week), so I haven’t been able to closely follow the goings-on at the political conventions. But I have seen enough to have some thoughts and comments.
First, RepubliCon 2016:
I have to give Ted Cruz some credit for having at least a bit of honor. Whatever you think of his political views, not coming out in full support of Trump was a daring move. But since Trump insulted Cruz’s wife and slandered his father, did you honestly expect him to do otherwise?
I caught the last half of Trump’s acceptance speech. Yes, it was scary and “dark” in tone, but it wasn’t anything we hadn’t been hearing all along from him. It was basically the “cask strength” version of his views.
Donald Trump’s default expression seems to be one of self-satisfied smugness. Head tilted slightly back, with something like a cross between an inverted smile and a dismissive scowl. Most of the rare times he smiled, it was fake.
And, um, was it really a good idea to have as the closing song for the entire convention – the one bit of music you want to wrap up and summarize the entire mood of the convention – “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”?
Back in the late 1840s, a growing nativist movement coalesced into a political faction. Calling themselves the “Native American” Party, they were vehemently anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic – which were at the time pretty much the same thing, given that the largest influx of immigrants were Catholics from Ireland. The party almost always met in secret, and when asked about their activities usually responded with “I know nothing.”
Naturally, they became known as the Know-Nothing Party.
This can be applied to Trump and his followers, in more ways than one. Not only are they staunchly nativist and anti-immigrant, but Trump himself seems unashamed of his ignorance.
Being the first in a series of posts and commentaries on the 2016 Presidential Campaign
I’ve been holding off here on commenting on the presidential campaign since so far, it’s been too uncertain with candidates coming and going, and the standings in the polls changing so often. But now as the primaries are starting, things are getting serious, and it’s time to take a look at the main candidates.
Personally, I consider myself to be a little “left of center”, a moderate liberal or a liberal moderate if you will. I’m not registered as one, but I almost always vote Democratic. So all my thoughts will be colored that way, despite my efforts to be as fair and even-handed as I can.
In alphabetical order, here’s what I have to say on the four main candidates: