I’ve always felt that the 100-day marker is a bizarre metric by which to evaluate a President. Historically, the 100 days has been an uncertain barometer for the success of an administration. In the first 100 days of the Lincoln presidency, the country had descended into civil war. JFK spent most of his first 100 days bogged down in the Cuban fiasco that would lead to a missile crisis. By the same token, Reagan set in motion the policies that would come to define his administration in that time frame, Obama had already passed a stimulus package and had set the stage for a reversal of America’s economic fortunes.
It seems that the way a President’s first 100 days are viewed has a lot more to do with their legacy, and how a particular reader interprets said legacy, than with that metric being a real indicator of their time in office. I’d be in favor of scrapping it altogether. It’s a conceit that now seems more adapted to awakening a sleepy news cycle than actually assessing the Commander in Chief’s performance.
But – that’s not how Donald Trump sees things. Or at least not how he used to.
Before he called the 100-day metric “ridiculous” in a tweet, he tweeted the promise of a 100-day plan. The plan, outlined in the vague bullet points with which we are all now familiar, pledged ten pieces of legislation to be signed and done with by April 29. He encouraged voters to judge the success of his presidency by that plan, and by that metric he has fallen ludicrously short.
Of the ten pieces of legislation promised, only one has made it to the legislature: the abortive attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. While there are rumblings of the House wanting to take a second stab at it in the coming weeks – it seems that any meaningful progress on this issue is a long way off.
I refuse to count the ways in which Trump’s record-setting 32 executive orders have addressed his promises as legitimate successes. For example, the President credits his travel bans and ‘super-vetting’ – in this highly entertaining, if dangerously deluded, op-ed piece congratulating himself on a job well done – for the “73%” decrease in illegal entries into the U.S. While the real number is closer to 40% since the President took office, the downturn has been attributed to a surge of illegal crossings in November and December 2016, in conjunction with the typical seasonal lull in immigration mid-spring. Hardly a success story.
Additionally, if the legacy of the Obama presidency has taught us anything, executive orders are not efficient agents of change. It takes one pen stroke to change official policy. Trump lauding himself for achieving a number of executive orders “not surpassed in the first 100 days since Harry S. Truman” is so patently absurd I almost admire it. Truman inherited a world war in two theaters and the task of returning the United States to a peacetime status quo. Trump finds himself the President of two Republican majority houses who is still too inept to pass legislation.
Nor should Trump be believed when he makes the claim that he has surrounded himself with the “best people” or that he is in any way “draining the swamp.” Trump has surrounded himself with the least qualified, richest, most deeply nepotistic cabinet in history. He has taken the old boys club and made it more exclusive, doubling down on the old and the boys.
He has taken the unprecedented move of appointing both his daughter and son-in-law to high powered positions within the White House, a move usually reserved for despots and absolute monarchs. Who else could get away with behavior of this kind?In foreign policy, Trump has wasted no time in alienating liberal democratic world leaders – think Merkel or Trudeau – and lauding the successes of dictators like el-Sissi and Erdogan. He has presided over two ineffectual bombing raids which did more to emphasize his total unfamiliarity with geopolitics than they did to win the war against ISIS or stop human rights abuses in Syria.
Let’s not even talk about his relationship with Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin, as I have neither the word count nor the inclination to outline every accusation in that quagmire of corrupt nonsense.
He has pulled out of TPP, leaving room for China to dominate in Pacific trade, and has criticized NAFTA for being unfair to Americans and taking away valuable manufacturing jobs. Jobs which, in every expert opinion, are never coming back no matter how many trade deals the President decides to slash and burn.
Trump has been proud of his achievements – his piece in the Washington Post tells us. He is proud of the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch, a process in which he had almost no involvement and resulted in a change of procedure that will complicate the nomination and confirmation of justices and discourage bipartisanship for years to come.
He is proud of his rollback on Obama’s environmental protections, allowing coal dumps in rivers and lead bullets in National Parks. His continued denial of climate change, approval of the Keystone pipeline and removal of the word “science” from the EPA’s mission statement have lead the Sierra Club’s president to issue a statement saying, “There’s nothing to point a finger at on the positive side of the ledger.”
So, at the end of 100 days, what are President Trump’s achievements?
Well, he won the electoral college, there’s no disputing that. In fact, he’ll be the first to remind you, as three Reuters reporters found out last week when the President gave them unsolicited maps of the electoral college midway through an interview about his meeting with the Chinese President.
The man is woefully out of his depth, by his own admission he “thought this would be easier.” He has been capitalizing on his historic win with four puzzling campaign-style rallies and beginning fundraising for his 2020 campaign instead of trying to go about the business of governance. Clearly, for this President, holding the office is more important than executing its duties.
But, as with all stories, there is a silver lining. Donald Trump has managed to golf more in the first 100 days than any President in U.S. history, hitting the links a record 19 times (compared to Obama’s one, Bush’s none and Clinton’s six). Based on his performance in the first 100 days, the back nine might be the best place for him.