It’s Only One Hundred Days

It’s Only One Hundred Days

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

As has been discussed everywhere of late, presidents historically have had a desire to hit the road running. Since the days of F.D.R, president have created a meaningless goal to demonstrate their leadership ability by trying to score major accomplishments during their first 100 days in office. No president, however, ever appears to have been so obsessed with this marker as has President Trump.  As is so much with this President, the precision of the date is foolhardy for anyone and  the judgement of the president should be based on what the president achieved and not in how fast he met his goals.

According to many of the studies of the presidency of John Kennedy, he either had great successes or exceedingly few accomplishments during his 1000 days in office.  Many presidential scholars defend him as having perceived of his agenda to be stretched out over two terms.  J.F.K. had many goals and projects which he did not see to fruition.  Nevertheless, his successor, Lyndon Johnson, the brilliant legislator and president, accomplished more in his early months and the first year of the Great Society than did J.F.K.  Admittedly, some of the L.B.J triumphs actually were the fulfillment of some of Kennedy’s aspirations, which curiously Kennedy himself might not actually have accomplished.  

Trump’s problem with the 100 days fixation is that within his total operating system he has no mechanism for moderation, for compromise (despite being the big deal maker), or for losing; not reaching a goal. Failure is never Trump’s fault. Here again with the 100 days obsession, it is Congress, or the Democrats, or the media who caused him not to achieve his goals. There never was anything magical about the target except that Trump set the marker and then blew it. Everyone else on his staff had to explain away the failure but not the President himself.

The really important question looking ahead is whether Trump will or is even capable of learning from this experience. As important as his objectives may be and his policy wish list, accomplishing them—as he already was forced to learn with the first effort to repeal of Obamacare—does not work like buying and selling real estate. There are too many outside forces and variables which need to be considered in every decision.  One wonders whether any of Trump’s construction projects came in on time and within budget, or whether that too is a Trump myth? 

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