WASHINGTON — In case anyone was wondering, President Donald Trump wants it known that he does not care about the false judgment of his administration after just 100 days.
“It’s an artificial barrier,” he sniffed the other day. “Not very meaningful,” he scoffed. A “ridiculous standard”, he added on Twitter.
So how is Mr Trump spending his final week before the artificial and ridiculous 100-day point of his presidency?
With a flurry of action on health care, taxes and the border wall to show just how much he has done in the first 100 days – amplified by a White House program of first-100-days briefings, first-100-days receptions, a first-100-days website and a first-100-days rally.
It may not be meaningful, but Mr Trump has invested a lot of meaning in the 100-day grading period, deeply anxious that he be judged a success at this early stage. And not just a success, but one with plenty of superlatives: the most successful president with the most executive orders and bills signed and the best relationships with foreign leaders and the most action taken by any president ever in the first 100 days. Even though it’s an artificial barrier.
“As with so much else, Trump is a study in inconsistency,” said Robert Dallek, the presidential historian. “One minute he says his 100 days have been the best of any president, and the next minute he decries the idea of measuring a president by the 100 days.”
Mr Trump has already told supporters not to believe contrary assessments, anticipating more critical evaluations by journalists, not to mention partisan attacks by Democrats.
“No administration has accomplished more in the first 90 days,” Mr Trump boasted last week, not waiting for the final 10 days to grade himself.
Hoping to pad the report card, he announced suddenly late last week that he would unveil a sweeping tax plan on Wednesday and pressed House Republicans to hold a vote by the end of this week on a revised plan to replace former president Barack Obama’s health care program, even as lawmakers were trying to avert a government shutdown.
If nothing else, Mr Trump’s first 100 days have certainly been eventful. Whether they have accomplished much is more a subject of debate. He nominated a Supreme Court justice and got him confirmed, abandoned the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, launched a missile strike against Syria and reversed many of Mr Obama’s regulations, most notably on the environment.
He has signed a spate of executive orders – 25 are listed on the White House website – numerically surpassing most modern presidents, depending on how they are counted. But some of them are more aspirational: One, for instance, ordered a study on steel dumping without actually taking action on steel dumping yet.
Likewise, he has signed 28 bills into law, according to the White House, the most of any president in nearly seven decades. Some of them were aimed at unraveling regulations enacted late in Mr Obama’s presidency in areas like teacher preparation, land management and federal procurement. Others were less weighty, like one officially naming a veterans’ health center in Butler County, Pa., the “Abie Abraham V.A. Clinic”.
Many of the more high-profile promises he made on the campaign trail are stalled or incomplete, like building a border wall, renegotiating or scrapping the North American Free Trade Agreement, temporarily barring visitors from a number of predominantly Muslim countries and revamping health care.
To the extent that he is being held to a measurement he disdains, he has no one to blame but himself. In October, he issued a “Contract With the American Voter”, which he called “my 100-day action plan to Make America Great Again”. He has begun many of the executive actions he promised in that plan. But of the 10 major pieces of legislation whose passage he vowed to fight for “within the first 100 days”, only one has even been introduced.
“None have been passed – not a single one – and nine haven’t even been sent to the Congress,” said Ronald Klain, who was a top White House aide under Mr Obama and President Bill Clinton. “If Trump finds himself hoisted on the 100-day test, it is a petard that he erected for himself.”
Asked about the 100-day plan by The Associated Press last Friday, Mr Trump brushed it off, saying: “Somebody put out the concept of a 100-day plan.” He seemed to have forgotten that he personally recorded a video during the transition repeating the 100-day promises.
“We feel very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish and fulfill the promises that he made to the American people,” Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said. “But I think it’s got to be kept in context.” The context, he added, “is it’s 100 days, and you’ve got four years in your first term and eight years for two terms”.
Asked why the White House was making such a production if it was an artificial measure, Mr Spicer said it was an inevitable concession to the reality that every news organisation is busily preparing an assessment.
The fixation with the first 100 days traces its history back to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who took office in the Great Depression and passed 15 major pieces of legislation in short order. Ever since, presidents have bristled at what they considered an impossible standard.
– The New York Times