Trump lowers the bar on his 100-day debacle

     President Donald Trump poses for a portrait in the Oval Office in Washington, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

    President Donald Trump poses for a portrait in the Oval Office in Washington, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

    The poseur’s presence in the White House has long ceased being funny, but on occasion he can still deliver a thigh-slapper. And he did so on Friday, while talking to the media he professes to hate.

    An Associated Press reporter brought up the fact that Trump will mark his 100th day in office at the end of this week. It has been a tradition since FDR to assess a president at that juncture, because the first 100 days are typically synonymous with the honeymoon phase when a new leader has maximum clout with the public and Congress. So AP asked, and Trump responded:

    “I think the 100 days is, you know, it’s an artificial barrier. It’s not very meaningful … The 100 days is just an artificial barrier. The press keeps talking about the 100 days.”

    Hang on, it’s “the press” that keeps talking about 100 days? He’s the one who’s talked about it. He’s the one who set the bar at 100 days. During the autumn campaign — on Oct. 22, to be precise — he unveiled a “Contract with the American Voter” that featured a “100-day action plan” on health care (killing Obamacare), tax reform, ethics reform, infrastructure spending, immigration, school choice, trade, The Wall, ending drug cartels, and much more.

    • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

    Anyone tethered to the real world knows that he has accomplished virtually nothing on his 100-day list. His big immigration initiative, the travel ban has been repeatedly smacked down in federal court. He hasn’t even begun the promised process of renegotiating NAFTA. He said he’d go after China as a currency manupulator, now he says China is not a currency manipulator. His administration is an ethics-challenged swamp. He hasn’t gotten to square one on tax reform or infrastructure spending. His kill-Obamacare effort died without a House vote, and a second effort is currently sputtering. Indeed, he hasn’t notched a single legislative victory despite all-Republican control on Capitol Hill. And his poll standing at the 100-day mark is by far the lowest of any president since the dawn of polling.

    So. When he insisted on Friday that 100 days was just a press-driven artificial barrier – and this was shortly after he tweeted that 100 days was a “ridiculous standard” – the AP followed up with this question: “As a candidate you put out a 100-day plan. Do you feel like you should be held accountable to that plan?”

    His response (I kid you not): “Somebody, yeah, somebody put out the concept of a 100-day plan.”

    This guy is incorrigible (although I can think of stronger adjectives). When he can’t blame specific people for his serial failures, he simply hides behind “somebody.” Right, it’s the fault of “somebody” that he publicly touted the 100-day metric. How low the presidency has sunk since Harry Truman brandished his desk sign that said “The BUCK STOPS here!

    Trump sent his minions to the Sunday shows, hoping to spin away his failures. Reince Priebus, the beleaguered chief of staff, told “Meet the Press” that Trump is actually achieving stuff “at breakneck speed” (a lie), that “the president won overwhelmingly” in the election (a lie), and that “health care may happen next week” (a fantasy; new kill-Obamacare legislation is nowhere on the horizon). And Priebus, channelling Trumpspeak, claimed that senators are slowing Trump’s executive branch nominees “because of “historical unbelievable obstruction,” but the truth is, they can’t obstruct people who haven’t even been nominated. Trump has failed to fill 475 of the 554 key positions that require Senate confirmation, a stat unmatched by any contemporary predecessor.

    This regime isn’t even in sync with its own spin. Priebus complained about “unbelievable obstruction” just two days after Trump boasted to the AP that “I have great relationships with Congress. I think we’re doing very well.” In fact, he said, “I shouldn’t tell you this, but we’re going to be announcing, probably on Wednesday, tax reform.” That was news to his own Treasury officials, who quickly signaled that no specifics will be offered this Wednesday on tax reform.

    Rhetorical cons are common in the real estate business, but they don’t work for long in the White House. Cons tend to bleed a presidency’s credibility. Not only did Trump (or “somebody”) craft a 100-day agenda, he actually went one better by offering a Day One agenda.

    The stuff he said he’d do on his first day in office is too copious to list, but I well recall this one: “These international gangs of thugs and drug cartels will be, I promise you from the first day in office, the first thing I’m going to do, the first piece of paper I’m going to sign is, we are going to get rid of these people on day one.” Ditto this doozy: “On my first day of my term in office, my administration will immediately pursue (measures) to clean up the corruption and special interests collusion in Washington.” Turns out, his special-interest swamp is so deep, you’d need breathing gas to hit bottom.

    And now he thinks he can get the Democrats to OK federal money for The Wall, in order to avert a government shutdown on his 100th day. The Wall that Mexico was supposedly going to pay for.

    As David Gergen, a past adviser to four presidents of both parties, wrote this weekend, “The secrecy, the deception, the hype, the internal struggles, the slow-moving appointments process, the sliming of opponents, the lack of strategy, on and on … Not just for their sake but for the country’s, it is important that Trump and his team now seize upon this 100-day landmark, stop being so defensive, and quietly learn from these early months how to govern effectively.”

    But is he capable of learning? The AP intervewer asked Trump what he’s learned about the presidency. Trump replied: “I never realized how big it was … There’s great responsibility.”

    How about that. Give the student a gold star.

    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1, and on Facebook.

    WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal