TOPICS > Politics

What a president’s first 100 days actually tells us

April 29, 2017 at 5:44 PM EDT
April 29 marks President Donald Trump’s 100th day in office, a common benchmark for measuring the achievements of incoming presidents. The standard was set by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, whose leadership in 1933 pushed a flurry of major legislation through Congress. NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Jeff Greenfield joins Megan Thompson for analysis on the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency.
LISTENSEE PODCASTS

MEGAN THOMPSON, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: Though 100 days in office equals a mere 7 percent of a full four-year term, the measurement has dominated the conversation about the Trump administration this week. The standard was set by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, whose leadership in 1933 pushed a flurry of major legislation through Congress to combat the Great Depression.

Joining me now from Santa Barbara, California, to talk about Mr. Trump’s first 14 weeks on the job is “NewsHour Weekend” special correspondent, Jeff Greenfield.

Jeff, it’s good to see you.

So here we are, 100 days in. But you’ve said on this program and you’ve written that you don’t really think this 100-days measurement is a very reliable way to measure a president. But didn’t Trump invite this measurement in the speech he gave right before the election in Gettysburg?

JEFF GREENFIELD, NEWSHOUR WEEKEND SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, October 22nd, he set down a 100-day action plan. He later released a contract with 28 specific proposals covering everything from legislation to executive orders to appointments to treaty policy. And if you judge him by that metric, it is very much a mixed bag. He did get a conservative justice not only nominated but confirmed, pulled out of the Trans Pacific Partnership, is set to renegotiate NAFTA, has put a flurry of executive orders out that severely change the environmental policy.

On the other hand, on some issues, he’s just simply backed off. No, China is not a currency manipulator, which he said he would declare them on day one. No, NATO is not obsolete. And on the legislative front, nothing has been passed, even the desperate effort to get some kind of health care bill through the House before 100 days died.

THOMPSON: So, the White House has dismissed this 100-day measurement, but it’s also simultaneously claimed to have made more achievements than any president since FDR? I mean, is this part of a pattern?

GREENFIELD: Well, you’re absolutely right, it’s double think. On the one hand, they say and I happen they’re right, this is a ludicrous metric, and on the other hand, they have — they have tried to cobble together this claim of a record set of achievements. The kindest way to describe that is over-reach and the less kind way is to channel John McEnroe and say, “You cannot be serious.”

I mean, at this point, Barack Obama had his massive stimulus bill passed. Ronald Reagan’s tax cuts were well on the way through the legislative process. George W. Bush’s tax cuts and education plans were as well.

I think they would have been better and I think they would have been on better historical grounds to say, “Look, we’re not playing this media game. It’s a ridiculous measurement. Come back to us in a few months. Let’s see where we are.”

THOMPSON: So, given your skepticism about what 100 days can tell us, what have we learned?

GREENFIELD: Yes. I think there are two things. One, in economic terms, the idea that Trump was going to be a populist president just has to be cleared off the board. He said during the campaign, yes, there are going to be higher taxes on the rich. It’s going to hurt me. Every proposal in that one-page set of bullet points, points the other way.

What remains of the, quote, “populist” approach is, for instance, his attitude towards trade, those wicked foreign countries that are eating our lunch, and on immigration. But on economic grounds, this is a classic conservative Republican presidency.

The other thing I think we can see is that the idea that Trump was going to radically change how he decides is also, I think, a nonstarter. This is a unique president in terms of his skepticism about detailed policy proposals, his impatience with detail, his reliance on his own instincts, how he gathers information — from friends on late-night telephone calls and watching morning cable news shows.

This is who Donald Trump is. And I think those who thought the White House is going to change him, I don’t think that’s right. I think what you see is what you get, and what we’re going to get for the next 93 percent of the term.

THOMPSON: All right. “NewsHour Weekend” special correspondent Jeff Greenfield — thank you so much for joining us.

GREENFIELD: Pleasure, Megan.

SHARE VIA TEXT