Q of the Week: How Would You Assess Trump's First 100 Days?

Saul Loeb / Pool Photo / AP
Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Since the 1930s, a president’s first 100 days in office have been used to measure the new administration’s progress and potential success—for example, by his 100th day, former President Franklin D. Roosevelt had signed 76 bills into law and pushed for new federal jobs programs. President Trump will reach his 100-day mark on April 29. This week, we asked our Politics & Policy Daily readers to share their assessments of his early days in office.

Against the standard set by FDR and other presidents, reader Sean described Trump as a “deadbeat,” and Maria Melnick said she could sum up his first 100 days in one word: “Sad!”

Jim Young offered a more thorough examination of the president’s performance, looking at Trump’s early days from several perspectives:

Let’s be clear: The 100-day standard is simply a journalistic attempt to benchmark progress of a presidency. It is a simplistic but reasonable attempt to judge a leader's impact.  On that basis, Trump has to be a failure judged by answers to the question: “Are we as a country better off now than 3-4 months ago?”

From a security perspective, all polls show anxiety and uncertainty at a much higher level largely due to the president's decision making. From an economic perspective, the economy is doing better than public impression would have it, but that is largely due to the rhetoric of the administration that is still in campaign mode. From a political perspective, there is no cooperation at all at the federal level, and almost all institutions are in “lockdown” mode. Lastly, from a cultural perspective, Trump’s scapegoating of so many groups in the country (Muslims, liberals, reporters, Democrats) is divisive, and the very slogan “America First” contradicts many of our national values.

Tom Lucas isn’t surprised by Trump’s performance so far; he thinks it’s a pretty accurate reflection of the Republican’s campaign:

There is no consistent focus, advisers are dropping in and out of favor, and Trump claims everything good that happens (good January job numbers) is a result of his greatness, while things that fail (AHCA) are somebody else’s fault. Overall he is showing terrible leadership attributes. He also seems to have a desperate need for approval, evidenced by the fact that he is already holding campaign events where he can bask in the glow of those that see him as the solution to their problems.

Michael Porcaro, on the other hand, would give Trump an A for effort:

I feel he is doing his very best to carry out his agenda. Congress has to make adjustments to meet his demands. He won due to what he ran on. It's what the majority of working people want. He has more to do.

Ken Smith echoed that assessment: “Considering that the mainstream media is STILL against him and the Dems are doing everything in their power to deter his progress, I’d say he is doing a great uphill job.”

Martha Thompson was a more strict grader:

Health Care Bill: F
Ethics: F
Immigration: F
Trade: F
Honesty: F
World Affairs: D
Administration: C
Final grade = 0.234 = F plus a little bit.

Reader Pat Bindrim came to the conclusion that the White House is “not the place for on-the-job training”:

It is painfully clear to anyone who has had a career in business that even his experience there has provided little in the way of transferable skills. He’s not truly an entrepreneur, nor is he a “creator.” He has no shareholders, no board of directors to answer to. He hasn’t surrounded himself with the best and the brightest, and he doesn’t have the confidence to let other strong-minded individuals, who have more expertise than he, run their shows.

For Isabel Bass, the Trump administration has performed “better than expected” because of its response to the chemical attack in Syria. She said she “approved the clarity of the Syrian initiative.”

Gerry Fitzgerald pointed out that Trump has appeared to flip-flop on several of his key campaign issues, but that those policy changes are “generally for the better.” Perhaps, he said, the president should be commended for refraining from action in some cases:

President Trump is doing nothing to change the nuclear control deal with Iran and has concluded that Iran is meeting its end of the agreement. His ban on immigrants from most Muslim countries, including desperate Syrian refugees, is being blocked by the courts so far and is upsetting friendly Muslim countries. His budget proposal to make drastic cuts in all departments and agencies not involved with national security or enforcement of immigration laws is being ignored by Congress. Trump has continued his non-presidential practices, mostly tweeting and getting fact-checked for inaccuracies and apparent lies.

After eliminating some questionable appointees, he has finally appointed a responsible and experienced national security team. That team seems to have convinced him to moderated his views about China and he is now giving priority to convincing China to get North Korea to halt its nuclear missile development. He seems to be backing away from his friendship with dictator Putin and Russia based on Russia's actions in Syria and perhaps the opposition of Congress to Russian interference in our 2016 election and cyber attacks.  

Although Trump’s first days in office have been as “dismal” as Christina Kopp feared, she said she has gained a new appreciation for the Washington establishment:

Don’t get me wrong: Congress is as dysfunctional as ever, and lobbyists and monied interests continue to hold too much power in the decision-making processes in our country.

But the people who work in our government day in and day out—our civil servants—deserve recognition. At their best, these are people who put in the messy work of dealing with logistics and details; they know how our systems work and don’t work, which is a lot more than can be said for the members of the Trump administration, who arrogantly assumed they could ride into town and “make America great again” without any real thought or preparation. Acting on whims may work when you’re a billionaire who acquired your wealth through inheritance, luck, and the hard work of others, but I think most Americans—our civil servants included—understand that real change comes through thoughtful and consistent effort.

For his part, Joe Berger offered a line from Shakespeare’s Macbeth: “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Howard Cohen put it a different way: “All hat and no cattle.”