If you’ve done anything more than stream Netflix this week, you know we are approaching a milestone. April 29 marks what the French* would call les cents jours du Trump. (Translation: a friggin’ eternity.) The first 100 days of a presidency have become an arbitrarily significant measure of a new administration’s impact. The media seems to love the neatness of framing a President’s activities and achievements in this storyline. In fact, the media hating/loving Trump embraced it even more enthusiastically. These final days before the 29th promise to be fraught for the President and the Republican Congress as they bicker over what priorities, if any, to try to jam through.
Starting with an impossibly momentous Day 1, this initial three-plus months was the gift box into which Candidate, President-Elect, and Rookie President Trump shoveled his promises to his base. A couple weeks before the election, he released a document titled, “Donald Trump’s Contract with the American Voter,” which touted 60 promises in a “100-day action plan to Make America Great Again.” The fact that only a small handful of these promises have been kept or even look promising by now has been met by Trump with characteristic humility and equanimity. Ha, just kidding. Met, that is, with a characteristic tweet:
No, nothing unexpected here. But, the coming week could be an opportunity to recalibrate our perspective after three months and focus on the things that make this administration a unique threat.
Whether he is now downplaying the 100 day mark, Trump & staff, along with Congress, will be very active this week. Revive the House healthcare bill? Tax reform legislation, i.e. tax cuts for guess who? Allow the government to shut down? Should be some interesting debate about funding that wall.
So, while they are trying to sort that out, the rest of us could be doing some sorting of our own. First off, is it fair to say that Trump is a threat to our democracy? After all, neither side typically likes most of the policies of the opposing party. But even Richard Nixon does not hold a candle to Trump in matters of the truth, ethics and conflicts of interest, ignorance in public and foreign policy, and more.
A shorthand method I’m using to test my own view of the Trump threat is to read what conservative writers have to say about it. We get the impression from Trump’s base and most of the polarized, paralyzed DC Republican delegation that they are OK with him. But, listen to or read some of those on the right and a different picture emerges. Just a few that I appreciate are David Brooks and Russ Douthat in the NY Times, David Frum of the Atlantic, George Will of the Washington Post, and Stephen Hayes, editor of the Weekly Standard.
By now, we are recognizing that the frenetic and often chaotic jumble of news and pronouncements are likely to be a hallmark of these next four years. Trump’s obvious strategy is to keep the noise at a level and timing to distract from the things that deserve our attention and resistance. We need first to identify what issues matter, focus on those, and let all the noise go, regardless of how outrageous it might be.
Commemorating the 100 days, this blog is going to try to follow its own advice this week with a series of posts. As one of our favorite cable commentators says, “Watch this space.”
*Note: The use of French in the first paragraph above was prompted by a couple of things. As you may already know, the “first 100 days” standard traces back to Napoleon Bonaparte, who left Elba, raised an army, and waged an extensive military campaign before being defeated at Waterloo, all in less than four months. The other thing was today’s French presidential election, where Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen emerged to qualify for the runoff on May 7. Gardez les doigts croisés.