Trump, number 45, got one thing right about the media-hyped, first-hundred-days presidential measuring stick. It’s a silly measure. In fact, presidents from John F. Kennedy to Obama have derided the hundred-day fetish and correctly noted that the far better to gauge how effective or bumbling an incoming president is is the first thousand days.
A quick look at the presidency of Clinton and Bush is enough to prove that. Clinton bombed badly in pushing Congress for a $16 billion stimulus package; he bungled the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy regarding gays in the military, and he got flack on his health care reform plan. Yet, the Clinton presidency is regarded as one of the most successful, popular and enduring presidencies in modern times.
Then there’s the Bush presidency. He got off to a fast start. At the hundred-day mark in April 2001, his approval ratings matched Obama’s. He was widely applauded for his trillion-dollar tax cutting program, his “faith-based” and disabled Americans initiatives and for talking up education, health care reform and slashing the national debt. But aside from the momentary adulation he got after the 9/11 terror attack, his presidency is rated as one of the worst in modern times.
But while Trump, like Kennedy and Obama, got it right in ridiculing the hundred-day time span as being way too short to call a new presidential administration a success or failure, it’s not too short a period to call his White House stint the worst hundred days ever.
It’s not his consistent bottom-wallowing popularity rating that tags his administration the worst first-time start ever. It’s not even his record of non-accomplishment, which amounts to a slew of inconsequential executive orders that mostly attempt to torpedo some of Obama’s executive orders, and his disastrous, court derailed Muslim immigrant ban. It’s the utter lack of any hint that things will get any better during his next hundred, or even thousand days in the White House.
The tip-offs of his future cluelessness are everywhere. He’s the least politically equipped winning presidential candidate to ever sit behind the desk in the Oval Office. Now that was the great asset that got him elected, since so many Americans were supposedly so fed up with the insular, corrupt, deal making, corporate dominated, politics of Beltway Washington. Trump was supposedly the remedy for that. This delusion should have been shattered with the parade of Goldman Sachs-tied, Pentagon-connected generals, and Trump corporate cronies that he plopped into his cabinet and top staff positions. This could only mean one thing, the corporate and political regulars that Trump pretended to sneer at would do what they always do, and that’s run the government show for him, as they have for other GOP presidents.
The flop on the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and the polarizing vote on his Supreme Court pick Neil Gorsuch did two seemingly impossible things. It turned off legions of hard right GOP House conservatives and moderate Senate Democrats who had made some soundings about trying to work out an accommodation with Trump on some legislative and policy issues. The future here is going to be one of never-ending, time consuming, get-nothing-done rancor and in-fighting between Trump and Congress.
The Russia election meddling scandal, Trump’s refusal to disclose his taxes, and his dubious conflict of interest business dealings insure that the screams for congressional investigations will only get louder in the days and months to come. This will continue to keep the tens of millions who want Trump bounced from office revved up. They’ll continue to turn up at GOP and Democratic congresspersons town halls and shout them down on any defense they try to make of Trump’s policies and actions.
Trump’s weak defense against prolonged and guaranteed failure is to toss a few missiles or drop a bomb every now and then or saber rattle the usual suspect villains: ISIS, Assad, the Taliban and the North Koreans. The media will run with this for a time, and some commentators who should know better will even call his acts forceful and presidential. This will wipe his political and legislative flops off the front page for a day or so, and give him a point or two bump up in the polls. But even here, he can only go to the well so often with the military tough guy act before this starts to wear thin, and some begin to catch on to his wag-the-dog game.
The thousand-day mark that Obama, Kennedy and other presidents cited as the more realistic time frame is not an arbitrary number. That marks the near end of a president’s first White House term. The honeymoon is over, and the president has fought major battles over his policies, initiatives, executive orders, court appointments and programs with Congress, the courts, interest groups and the media. Battles that by then have been won or lost, or fought to a draw, and there’s enough time to gauge their impact and the president’s effectiveness. In Trump’s case, it won’t matter. His first thousand days will be like his first hundred, the worst presidency ever.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of the new ebook How the Democrats Can Win in The Trump Era (Amazon Kindle). He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.