BY ATANAS SPASOV
The notion of an administration’s first 100 days as a measure of a new president’s success was born out of the Great Depression, as Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 73rd Congress battled with the New Deal. The first 100 days has come to define a period when a newly elected president is most influential, and with Trump that window closed last Saturday. The results: the worst approval ratings around the 100-day mark of any president since 1953, when the data first became available. The threat of a government shutdown under a congress and a presidency held by one party, something which hasn’t happened since 1979, makes his performance even more appalling. The lack of any prominent policy is, frankly, surprising and should leave his supporters enraged, and his detractors cheering.
In late November of last year, the president’s then-transition team released a video covering all policies they hoped to accomplish by the 100-day mark. These include a ban on former politicians from lobbying, an American withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the appointment of Justice Scalia’s replacement, among others. Notably, President Trump did not include any mention of his desire to repeal Obamacare, nor anything about his now twice-implemented and twice-overturned travel ban – his two biggest points of action.
On his first day in office, Trump signed an executive order to retreat from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and, as such, contracted America’s influence in Asia by allowing China’s undisturbed economic dominance in the region. Now, flirting with our withdrawal from NAFTA, his overtly protectionist ideals could mark the first time the United States has removed itself from a trade deal in 150 years. Comparative advantage be damned! Yet, on more and more issues, establishment whispers have beckoned his impressionable ear. Last month Trump bowed to reality, no longer naming China as a currency manipulator, reaffirming his commitment to NATO, and making clear his position on chemical weapons through the U.S. strikes in Syria.
The most promising sign of stabilization was when Trump relieved Steve Bannon from his role on the National Security Council and then embracing a more centrist tone. Here enter a few unlikely heroes, albeit their slogan reading, “continuity with change.” Bannon’s notable opposition, senior white house advisor and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner and chief economic advisor Gary Cohn – both crucially aided by Trump’s daughter Ivanka – make up an unlikely coalition to push the White House in a more establishment-friendly direction. Kushner and Cohn have been successful by keeping the Bannonites from holding major influence in the oval office. And through a combination of their efforts and the federal courts, one can only hope that the infighting does not deteriorate. And if all diplomacy fails, maybe we can have them duke it out on the South Lawn.
Depending on who you ask, President Trump’s first 100 days in office are either a supreme failure or a middling success. It is not to say he has not accomplished much, as he has promoted his anti-trade commitments and a whole slew of environmental regulation cuts, as well as his appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court – an installation that could influence American policy for decades after Trump leaves the White House. However, plenty of failures have plagued the Trump administration, mired in scandal like no other, such as the American Health Care Act parts I and II, immigration restrictions, and the upcoming investigation of ties with Russia. All I can say is, 100 down, 1,300 more to go. Keep the bucket of Prozac by the bedside table and maybe a Costco membership to go along with it.