Taylor Armerding

Taylor Armerding is an independent columnist. Contact him at t.armerding@verizon.net.

CNHI News Service

This is a thanksgiving weekend for me. I’m thankful that President Trump’s first 100 days are over. After we slog through yet another week or so of spin, and counter spin, and counter-counter spin, we can finally stop talking about his first 100 days.

There may be sillier benchmarks about a president’s tenure, but right now I can’t think of any because I’m so sick of this one.

It is, if anything, even sillier when it comes to Trump. Some of that is, of course, due to his own recklessness, instability and endless self-promotion. But plenty is because, at least coming into office, he was truly an outsider, and the Washington establishment – the press, Congress and the courts – doesn’t like outsiders.

ONLINE POLL: Trump's First 100 Days

Presidents are often graded for their performance after their first 100 days in office. President Trump will mark his 100th day in office Saturday. How would you rate his performance during this time?

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The 100-day window has become such a big deal because supposedly a new president comes into office with a measure of voter and congressional goodwill that lead to the approval of “landmark” initiatives. Then, after the 100-day “honeymoon,” everybody stops pretending and reverts to reality, which these days is the hyper-partisanship that yields what everyone claims to abhor – gridlock.

There has been no honeymoon for Trump. Months before he took office, being part of the “resistance” became the super-cool thing. Since he took office, just about everything he has accomplished has been done through executive orders, and some of those have been blocked, as well. An attempt to suspend immigration from six Middle Eastern nations was smacked down by the courts. In the case of his nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, it took upending decades of Senate tradition.

The effort to “repeal and replace” Obamacare is showing some signs of revival, having crashed and burned on the first try. That didn’t even get to a vote, due not just to opposition from Democrats but the Republican Freedom Caucus, as well.

Democrats have been the ferocious, hostile opposition out of the gate – forget that antiquated “loyal” stuff. After being soft on Russia for decades, and mocking Republicans who took a harder line, they have suddenly discovered that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a brutal, dishonest tyrant. Now they hope they can find enough connections between Trump and Russian efforts to interfere in the election to bring down the president.

Which is fine. No president should get a honeymoon. If the opposition party thinks an initiative is bad for the country, why let it happen during the first 100 days? Does that window of time confer some magical pixie dust on bad policy?

As noted above, Trump deserves the heat he’s getting on the issue, since he couldn’t stop bragging before he took office about all that he was going to accomplish in 90 days, never mind 100.

But now that those boasts have been confronted by reality, he has finally come around to the Armerding philosophy – the 100-day standard is “ridiculous.”

Thanks, Mr. President.

Seriously, he’s not the only one to have had trouble coming out of the gate.

A couple of historians have noted a New York Times editorial that said in spite of efforts by the White House “PR apparatus” to spin the president’s first 100 days as a success, it had been plagued by “many missteps” including a “bungled sales job” on his first major legislative initiative and a “snakebit” confirmation process, which had spawned “a flurry of articles bemoaning the lack of focus in the White House.”

That editorial was not about Trump. It was published in April 1993, about the first 100 days of Bill Clinton’s presidency.

And we all know how that turned out. In spite of his inability to tell the truth and to control his libido, he is revered as a great president and Democratic royalty.

Or you could look at Trump’s immediate predecessor, Barack Obama, whom I suspect hopes that people have forgotten the declaration he made in his first 100 days about his $800 billion-plus stimulus package – that it would create millions of jobs with “shovel-ready” projects. Not so much.

PolitiFact noted, as Obama’s 100th day approached, that he’d already broken a half-dozen key campaign promises including tougher rules about former government officials moving to the lobbying side of the street; allowing five days of public comment before signing bills; and eliminating income tax on seniors making less than $50,000.

Nobody remembers those, either. What they do remember is Obama’s signature achievement – the hilariously named Affordable Care Act. That didn’t make it through Congress until the end of 2009 and wasn’t signed into law until the following February.

According to multiple surveys, hardly any presidents since FDR have been able to get “landmark” legislation passed within the first 100 days.

This is a good thing. No matter how experienced a new president is, it takes much more than 100 days to learn how to do the job effectively. It takes time to staff an administration, assemble an effective cabinet and figure out how to make the transition from, as the saying goes, “campaigning in poetry to governing in prose.”

And, yes, it takes time to craft legislation that will accomplish something meaningful without generating a long list of toxic, unintended side effects.

In spite of what you’re allowed to read and hear, a lot of Americans support core elements of Trump’s agenda on major things like immigration, health care, over-regulation and tax reform. The biggest mistake he could make is to rush them.

Unfortunately, that is exactly what he’s doing, thanks to the ridiculous focus on the first 100 days.

How about swapping it for the first two years and forgetting a faux honeymoon? That would make some sense for any president.

Taylor Armerding is an independent columnist. Contact him at t.armerding@verizon.net.

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