Trump’s First 100 Days

Of course the main news event of the moment is that Saturday April 29 marks Donald Trump’s first hundred days as President, which is remarkable first because we’re all still alive.

But as historians know, the reason we use “the 100 days” as a benchmark is that during the first one hundred days of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first term as president, he addressed the 1933 bank crisis by establishing the first federal deposit insurance system, started the Tennessee Valley Authority and created an emergency relief system for the poor during the Depression (which eventually led to the Social Security Administration). Since then American media have used FDR’s example, where the start of his administration set the stage for modern government, to compare to every other president’s opening days, especially when a president like Trump comes in promising to shake things up.

As it turns out, Trump has stated (on Twitter, naturally) that the 100-day benchmark is a “ridiculous standard.” I would say that Trump has a point there, but it turns out this is yet another case where he directly contradicted something he said as part of his campaign statements.  In any case, he did indeed promise much. And while he has until either the end of his term or the end of his impeachment trial to make his final mark, the general consensus is that not only has he not accomplished much compared to other presidents at this point, he certainly has not accomplished much compared to his own boastful agenda leading up to inauguration.

As they did during the 2016 campaign, Democrats perhaps overstate the case for how uniquely awful Trump is compared to the rest of the Republican Party. Any other Republican would have presented a tax reform that favored rich individuals and corporations over the middle class and working poor. Any other Republican would have nominated a technically qualified but politically conservative judge like Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, and the Democrats would have still acted like it was the end of the world.

(The fact is, even pragmatic conservatives have to skew to the extreme to get the kind of Justice they want. After all, everybody expected John Roberts to be a hardcore conservative, and he ended up saving Obamacare. Twice. )

But it was Trump who demanded an immediate plan for a border wall that nobody else wanted and nobody else wanted to pay for. Including Congress.  It was Trump who proactively decided to threaten North Korea with a carrier group that apparently wasn’t even near Korea.  And while all the Republicans in Congress yelled about doing “repeal and replace” on Obamacare, Trump attached himself to an immediate repeal effort before a replacement was finalized (or apparently even conceived) resulting in conflict within the Republican party over whether the new health plan should remove Obamacare restrictions (and thus cost more money) or be that much more restrictive and save money (and thus defeat the purpose of covering the previously uninsured). That in turn led to Trump setting up a threat to vote for a repeal or face reprisal in the midterms. The fact that Republicans were willing to let the bill die rather than vote for it indicates they were more afraid of reprisal from voters if they HAD approved it. Which ultimately demonstrated, on an issue of vital importance to both Trump and his party, that his power to negotiate a deal is practically nil.

This basically is of a piece with the mindset of a flim-flam man who promises the moon and doesn’t even have moon rocks. The real reason Trump is found wanting in the first hundred days is because his ambitions are far in excess of his capacity to achieve them, which has to do with the mindset he brings to the situation. As the milestone date came near, Trump did a much-quoted interview with Reuters and said  “This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.”

Now, nobody actually knows what it’s like to be President until they assume the office. But some presidents, like Reagan and George W. Bush, were former governors. Some, like Obama and LBJ, were former senators. So they had some idea of how this “government” thing works. But Trump not only didn’t have that experience, he didn’t seem to think it was necessary. It probably explains why he has such a rapport with his support base. “Hey, I have a bunch of belligerent opinions and I don’t know what I’m talking about either! This Trump guy, that’s ME!!!”

So again, there is one real and substantial achievement of the first hundred days, and that was Trump’s nomination of Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, though as any liberal will tell you, that’s only because the Republican Senate left the seat open for him. And other than that nomination, it’s unclear whether Republicans regret their allegiance. As it stands, the best things about the start of the Trump Administration are entirely negative:

He hasn’t deprived the previously uninsurable of health coverage. Yet.

He hasn’t been able to fully deprive the rights of legal immigrants. Yet.

And he hasn’t started World War III because the dictator of North Korea hit his hands.


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