U.S. President Donald Trump listens during a joint news conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg hold in the East Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 12, 2017. 
JONATHAN ERNST

It’s a little late for Trump to say the 100-day metric is ‘ridiculous’

We still have a week to go before Donald Trump’s presidency reaches the 100-day mark, but the Republican president is apparently coming to terms with the fact that he’s off to a dreadful start, and the 100-day coverage will be unflattering.

And so, Trump is doing something that, at first blush, seems quite rational: he’s telling everyone to ignore the metric, which he now sees as unimportant.
Donald Trump just called using his first 100 days in office to judge him a “ridiculous standard,” but he repeatedly boasted about what he would achieve in that exact time frame before he took office.

Trump tweeted Friday morning that “no matter what I accomplish during this ridiculous standard of the first 100 days,” media organizations “will kill!” He said he has accomplished “a lot,” including the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.
Note, the one accomplishment the president pointed to is the one that required him to do practically no work: he was encouraged to nominate Gorsuch; he did; and then Senate Republicans did the heavy lifting.

Nevertheless, there are basically three angles to Trump’s whining: (1) the broader significance of a president’s first 100 days in office; (2) what this president has to show for his first 100 days of effort; and (3) why it’s too late for Trump to pretend the standard is, as he put it, “ridiculous.”

On the first point, Trump’s argument is not entirely without merit. At the start of every new presidency, many historians are quick to remind the political world that the importance of the 100-day metric is exaggerated a bit, and I’m generally sympathetic to the argument. A handful of presidents, facing extraordinary crises – FDR and Obama, for example - managed to complete some historic tasks in their first 100 days, but as a rule, it’s better to evaluate presidencies over whole terms, not the first few months.

It’s not completely meaningless – the 100-day standard tells us something useful about an administration’s preparedness and ability to hit the ground running – but there’s nothing inherently magical about this standard.

And for Trump, that’s good news, because his first 92 days have been a national embarrassment.

The president has signed no major pieces of legislation; his top priorities have either already failed or face daunting odds; his highest-priority executive action failed in the courts; he’s the least popular new president since the dawn of modern American polling; and his list of foreign-policy fiascoes seems to grow every day.

For those who place any significance on the 100-day standard at all, it’s fair to say Trump’s early presidency is among the most cringe-worthy in the nation’s history. It’s honestly difficult to imagine things going much worse.

But perhaps most problematic of all, at least from the White House’s perspective, is the fact Trump can’t dismiss the 100-day standard as “ridiculous” because he’s already invested so much energy making the opposite argument.

Shortly before Election Day, Trump declared with great pride – and in writing – that he’d do all kinds amazing things in the first 100 days of his presidency. It became a key point of his candidacy: elect him and we’d see immediate action, all before April 29, 2017. “This is my pledge to you,” Trump said in a “Contract with the American Voter.”

After the election, he kept embracing the same metric as important. “There are those that say I’ve done more than anybody in 100 days,” Trump said two months ago, quoting people who don’t exist. The president made similar boasts two weeks ago.

In effect, Trump placed a risky bet. He apparently believed, with great sincerity, that being president was so easy that he could take office and immediately rack up impressive accomplishments. Trump told Americans, repeatedly and explicitly, that evidence of his greatness would unfold within his first 100 days in the White House.

If he’d said all along, “This is a marathon, not a sprint, so let’s not focus too much on arbitrary measurements,” that would’ve at least been fair. But Trump did the opposite, telling us to focus on his first 100 days.

It’s a little late for him to change his mind.

* Postscript: A Washington Post report added an interesting historical point: “Presidents who failed to sign any major piece of legislation in the first 100 days – especially presidents whose parties also controlled Congress – have sputtered in their first couple of years, too, said Brooklyn College history professor and presidential scholar Robert David Johnson. And that should be a major warning sign to President Trump, who on Friday tacitly acknowledged he has had a lackluster start.”

Donald Trump and White House

It's a little late for Trump to say the 100-day metric is 'ridiculous'