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Trump’s First 100 Days Mostly Lags Predecessors

A look at the 45th president’s report card, compared to the five before him

The White House planned a flurry of activities for the week leading up to President Donald Trump’s 100th day in office. One event he attended was on the Hill — a Days of Remembrance ceremony to commemorate the Holocaust. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
The White House planned a flurry of activities for the week leading up to President Donald Trump’s 100th day in office. One event he attended was on the Hill — a Days of Remembrance ceremony to commemorate the Holocaust. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The first 100 days benchmark that President Donald Trump will pass on Saturday, in so many ways, sums up his presidency to date: he has both dismissed it as “ridiculous” while also endorsing its value through planned events, policy announcements and even a statement regarding his accomplishments.

In the week leading up to his 100th day, the 45th president signed executive actions aimed at rolling back Obama-era federal monument designations, and ones that aim to crack down on other countries’ steel and aluminum “dumping” into U.S. markets. He ratcheted up his tough talk on Canada’s trade practices, threatened to withdraw from NATO and rolled out a tax plan.

Yet, many of the executive actions so far merely instructed review — ordering certain federal agencies to study specific things with recommendations on possible actions due 120 or even 300 days down the road. And his tax plan featured so few details that his chief economic adviser and Commerce secretary were unable to explain to reporters which income levels would fit into the the three revised tax brackets it proposes. It was so vague that New York Rep. Joseph Crowley, the House Democratic caucus chairman, called it “far from a tenable plan for tax reform.”

Trump’s top aides briefed reporters all week in a push to slap a fresh coat of paint on what was a turbulent first few months in office.

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus on Tuesday evening described to a small group of reporters that his boss has been “working at breakneck speed” to check off “the punch list of promises he made during the campaign.” Trump himself has tried to make his first three months appear to be more productive than they have actually been.

“No administration has accomplished more in the first 90 days — that includes on military, on the border, on trade, on regulation, on law enforcement … and on government reform,” he said on April 18 during remarks at a tool plant in Wisconsin.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said Thursday he thought Trump made several policy moves over the last week seeking to get a big win before the 100 day mark.

“I think what happened here is the president got very worried about his hundred days. That I think was his motivation to push the wall into the appropriations process,” the New York Democrat said. “That failed.”

An examination of the data behind the bluster and bold talk of Trump’s first 100 days shows his opening three months fail to meet his own assessment. Yet, an analysis of recent presidents’ actions during their first 100 days shows that Trump compares favorably on some measures – such as total laws signed – but trails on other metrics – such as approval rating.

Trump has signed his share of bills

Trump has yet to score a signature legislative victory like President Barack Obama did in early months of 2009 with the signing of five major bills, including the stimulus package and an omnibus spending deal. But Trump has signed more laws than his other recent predecessors — Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

Twenty-three of the 28 bills Trump signed during his “honeymoon” period have been substantive, meaning they did more than name a post office or bridge. Trump trails only Clinton’s 30 substantive early bills:

Trump rallies on nominations

When it comes to nominations for federal jobs, critics for months noted Trump’s lack of nominations for a long list of civilian posts within the federal apparatus. Most of his 263 nominations came this week, but he still has only gotten 29 confirmed by the Senate. That’s 15 less than the next lowest recent president, George Bush (44):

Trump’s top aides are quick to correct reporters who say the president lacks a legislative win. They point to Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, whom Trump nominated and got confirmed during his first 100 days, as a congressional victory.

Trump makes use of CRAs and executive orders

Critics have also slammed Trump and congressional Republicans’ use of the seldom-employed Congressional Review Act to undo 13, so far, major Obama-era regulations, arguing that is not new action.

When a reporter pressed a senior White House official on April 25 about whether the CRAs constitute a collective achievement, the official sharply noted that the 13 measures “are laws, by definition.” And the official said the White House estimates that those Obama-era reversals could help the U.S. economy to the tune of nearly $20 billion a year.

The president has also been criticized for his use of executive action. By Friday afternoon, the White House says he will have put pen to paper on 32 executive orders. That will drive his total orders and memoranda to 51 (as of this posting Friday morning, he’s at 50). That’s just ahead of Obama’s 38:

Trump meets with foreign leaders at home

When it comes to meeting with foreign leaders, Trump’s 10 — he huddled with his Argentinian counterpart on Thursday at the White House — is on par with Obama (9), Clinton (10) and the elder Bush (12). Reagan had only met four at this point. But Trump has yet to leave the country, something his five predecessors had done by this point.

Trump trails his peers on polling

The piece of data that might matter most to Trump himself, given his image consciousness, and despite his public blasting of polls, is his approval ratings.

Comparing his approval numbers, which the Gallup organization’s data show has consistently been below 50 percent, to his most recent predecessors is striking. Trump has mostly hovered just above 40 percent, with a low of 35 percent on March 28. As of Wednesday, three days shy of his 100th day, Trump’s approval stood at 40 percent, according to Gallup.

Other polls show conservative and Republican voters sticking with the president.

“I think there’s a willingness to conservatives to let him work toward the things he’s promised,” said Tommy Binion, policy outreach director at The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. “We’ve seen a commitment to keep the campaign promises that he made. More than any sort of flip-flopping, I see a commitment to keep those promises.”

But Elaine Kamarck, who worked in the Clinton White House for four years and is now with the left-leaning Brookings Institution, calls Trump’s first 100 days “the most amazing rollout of a president I’ve ever seen.” She sees a presidency that is “mercurial” with “no grounding in world affairs or how to do things.”

“His Cabinet agencies say one thing and his White House says another,” she said. “It’s all baloney. … This is the way someone acts who doesn’t know what he’s doing.”

Sean McMinn, Ryan Kelly, Larry Nista and Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.

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