President Trump fired off a tweet Friday morning deriding the “ridiculous standard” of measuring a new administration’s accomplishments over its first 100 days in office.
Trump is right: The idea of measuring the progress of a presidency by what happens in its first 100 days is utterly arbitrary and arguably “ridiculous.” But throughout his campaign, Trump himself had set accomplishments in that time frame as his own personal benchmark. He did it both on the stump and in his social media posts and campaign advertising.
On October 25, for example, he blasted out a tweet to his millions of followers asking for donations, and illustrated it with a short video clip outlining “Trump’s 100 Day Plan.” It contained a wide-ranging list of things then-candidate Trump promised to accomplish by April 29:
What these all have in common, as Trump’s 100th day in office approaches, is that none of them got done. And that’s just on the legislative side. The tweet included a link to Trump’s website for donations, and following it led to another raft of promises that, again, would happen within the first 100 days. (Among them: BUILD THE WALL, Renegotiate ALL unfair trade deals, CANCEL orders sending US jobs overseas, END our dependence on foreign oil.”
“You are going to be amazed what we will accomplish during those First 100 Days -- I promise you that you will be proud of your President again,” it concluded.
Trump at one point during the campaign issued a two-page “Contract with the American Voter” that he described as “my 100-day action plan to Make America Great Again.” In addition to the list of legislative priorities, he added 18 more actions that he would take, using the authority of the president.
On those, he can boast a slightly higher rate of success, though on the whole he has delivered only about half of what he promised.
For example, Trump pledged to “clean up” what he described as a culture of corruption in Washington. But his promise of a proposed Constitutional amendment imposing term limits on members of Congress never materialized. His vow to institute a lifetime ban on White House officials lobbying for foreign governments was undercut by the revelation that his first National Security Advisor was actively representing a foreign government while working on the Trump campaign. A promise to make White House staff forgo lobbying for five years after leaving was undercut almost immediately, as advisers who left the administration in its early days were granted exceptions to become lobbyists.
Trump did follow through on a pledge to require that for every new federal regulation, two existing regulations must be eliminated.
He also promised to take a number of actions to “protect American workers.” In that area, Trump has been a little more reliable about keeping his promises. As advertised, he announced the country’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal immediately upon taking office and announced his intention to re-consider other treaty obligations such as those under the North American Free Trade Agreement. He approved the construction of the Keystone Pipeline and had taken promised steps to reduce regulation on the energy industry.
However, he notably flip-flopped on his promise to label China a currency manipulator, something he explicitly said that country was not just last week.
Finally, in the area of “restoring national security and the rule of law” Trump has also been a bit of a mixed bag. His appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court kept a campaign promise to choose a judge from a list he made public. He has also taken steps to crack down on illegal immigration and to step up deportations. However, his vow to ban immigration from certain countries is being held up in the courts, and he has so far been only partly successful in cutting off federal funds to “sanctuary cities.”
In all, as his 100th day in office approaches, Trump’s presidency is not without accomplishments, but few of them are of the lasting kind enshrined in federal law. In fact, Trump’s only real “accomplishments” on the legislative front have been largely negative in nature, signing bills passed under the Congressional Review Act that rescinds regulations and, in some cases, prevent agencies from re-issuing them.
The president’s one major legislative effort -- the attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with the American Health Care Act -- appears to have ended in failure, though there is a movement under way to try to revive it.
His accomplishments with the pen have been more notable, immediately putting his stamp on some elements of the federal government — particularly immigration, trade, and energy policy — that he campaigned heavily on changing.
In the end, while Trump may not have had the most impressive first 100 days in office, he hasn’t been completely inconsequential, either. And amid the expected hiccups of any first term president, he could very credibly argue that judging him by his first 100 days is a silly, media-driven convention.
That is, if he hadn’t set the benchmark for himself.