Speed Reads

first 100 days

Don't judge Trump on his feckless first 100 days, Yale political scientist says. It wasn't his fault.

President Trump has been both dismissive of the first-100-day framework for his presidency and eager to notch any tangible accomplishments he can point to on Day 100, which is Saturday. No president has been able to match up to Franklin D. Roosevelt, who came up with the 100-days idea and had amazing legislative and executive-order successes, says David R. Mayhew, a Yale political science professor emeritus, at The Washington Post. And FDR had what appeared to be the two crucial ingredients for a 100-day legislative binge; Trump has only one.

The first factor successful presidents have, a congressional majority for their party, is "an obvious consideration" but "it hasn't made as much difference as one might think," Mayhew says. In fact, since the 1930s, "only one enactment stands out as particularly important — President Barack Obama's stimulus legislation," signed less than a month into his first term. Where Trump falls short, he explains, is the lack of "a national emergency or some other spur to action." FDR had a "a triple whammy of conditions that made the era legislatively exceptional," Mayhew notes, but Lyndon B. Johnson got a lot done after John F. Kennedy's assassination, Ronald Reagan had an economic crisis, and Obama had the Great Recession. He continues:

The problem for today's Republicans is that the social and economic context is relatively calm. There is no recession, bank crisis, terrorist attack, or war. An election by itself is not enough. A 100-days legislative binge would have been astonishing. Trump's goals — such as tax reform, trade, infrastructure, health care, and immigration, are not short-fuse topics. Major changes on these issues require months of congressional fussing. Eisenhower won his tax reform in his second year; Reagan won it in his sixth year. [Mayhew, The Washington Post]

Like FDR, Trump is accomplishing some things through executive fiat, Mayhew says, "but in eras with no background crisis, it might be time to retire the expectation that any new president will go on a first-100-days lawmaking binge." You can read more at The Washington Post.