Columns, Opinion

BERMAN: Trump’s first 100 days

The first 100 days of the Trump presidency are coming to an end. President Donald Trump has miraculously repealed and replaced Obamacare with a much better alternative, managed to get Mexico to pay for a border wall, passed a $10-trillion infrastructure bill and stopped worldwide hunger. Obviously, none of this is true, but it’s not like anyone — possibly including Trump himself — expected to pass some, let alone any, of the above “achievements.”

The first 100 days’ standard was set by perhaps the most influential United States president: Franklin D. Roosevelt. FDR assumed the presidency amid the worst economic crisis the United States has ever faced. Unemployment was more than 20 percent, banks were crumbling and millions of people lost their homes. FDR was able to swear in his entire cabinet, sign 76 bills into law and began the famous New Deal program into fruition all in the first 100 days of his presidency.

Counting as only about seven percent of a one-term presidency (God-willing), the first 100 days will matter little in the grand scheme of the Trump years. The only significant lasting change Trump has made was the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court. But credit belongs to the Washington insider — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — for “nuking” the filibuster. Repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act failed dramatically. The American Health Care Act was so atrocious; it would have caused more people to lose their health insurance compared to a complete repeal of Obamacare.

But who was expecting Trump to have a smooth sailing of his first 100 days? There has been the Russian scandal that in part led to the shortest tenure of a national security advisor, a Twitter war with Arnold Schwarzenegger, legislative failures, that awkward non-handshake with Angela Merkel and intense infighting between Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon.

Considering Trump’s life experience is centered around running a real estate empire, the first 100 days could have been worse. We could’ve threatened to attack North Korea — oh wait we did that — alright, we could’ve attacked North Korea, causing a nuclear war. But Trump has continuously made it seem like he just learned what politics is. He said, “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated” when literally everyone knows that. Trump also said, “After listening for 10 minutes, I realized it’s not so easy. I felt pretty strongly that [China] had a tremendous power over North Korea. But it’s not what you would think.” Every foreign policy expert knew that; why are you learning that from the Chinese chairman?

Yet the first 100 days’ standard means little historically: “I think what history tells us is that it’s an arbitrary benchmark,” said Fredrik Logevall, a presidential historian and an international affairs professor at Harvard University. “It hasn’t correlated very much with subsequent success or failure. Whether an administration has success or not really depends on the four years, or eight years if you have two terms.”

The only tangible effect on the presidency is current poll numbers. In an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, which I take with many grains of salt, 64 percent of U.S. adults believe the Trump presidency is off to “only a fair” or “poor” start; this including a plurality — 45 percent — believing in the poor start column. Honestly, those numbers aren’t as bad as I thought. The only truly negative poll number was that, among U.S. adults, a whole 25 percent believe Trump is honest or trustworthy. Can you believe it’s that high? Of course, I’m (kind of) joking.

While Trump has had a love-hate relationship with “the first 100 days” standard, he is planning a huge rally in Pennsylvania this upcoming Saturday to commemorate it. No doubt, Trump will lie and exaggerate about how much he has accomplished. But don’t worry President Trump, the first 100 days don’t mean much, unless you have a big ego or something.

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