If you have been paying attention to the news out of Washington in recent days, we recently experienced the end of the first 100 days of Donald Trump’s presidency.
“So what?” you might well ask.
Well, the simple answer is that back in 1933, Franklin Roosevelt and the Democrats found themselves in control of the government charged by the voters with digging us out of the Great Depression. For the next 100 days, they produced an unprecedented flood of legislation meant to turn around the economy and bring prosperity that would make America great again.
Since then, politicians and pundits (i.e. guys like me who write about politics) have sometimes used FDR’s initial success as a standard with which to measure a newly inaugurated president’s performance.
In fact, though, it is unrealistic and unfair to judge any new president against FDR’s 100 days. While there are certainly lessons to be learned from events of 1933, the reality facing subsequent presidents, including Donald Trump, has never been quite like the reality FDR had to confront.
In Trump’s case, however, he focused on FDR’s record, and during his campaign, he issued a plan for what he would do in his first 100 days as president. His wish was to be compared favorably to FDR, so he can brag about making America great again.
Well, he has run into a bit of trouble in that regard: Court decisions stopped him from banning residents from certain nations from entering the U.S.; Congress has balked at his request to fund his Mexican border wall, and landowners whose property would have to be seized by the government to build the wall have threatened lawsuits; his promise to punish the Chinese for undervaluing their currency has not been kept because he has learned they have not been undervaluing their currency in recent years, and anyway, he needs China to help deal with North Korea; and it turns our that he can’t renegotiate the treaty with Iran limiting that nation’s nuclear program because it is a multi-national treaty, and none of the other nations want to change the treaty.
This is why Trump worked so hard to get the House of Representatives to pass a new health care law. He had to have some big accomplishment that he could brag about achieving in his first 100 days.
There is a lot of irony — some might even call it hypocrisy — in the passage of this health-care bill. Eight years ago, Republicans were in full attack mode. During the 2008 election campaign, they made Barack Obama’s inexperience in government a major issue. Then, in our most recent presidential campaign, they gave us Trump, who has even less political experience than Obama, and who, in his campaign speeches, demonstrated little understanding of the powers of the presidency and the separation of powers, among other provisions of the Constitution.
After the election, Obama and the Democrats went to work on the Affordable Care Act. Naturally, Republicans resisted, and when it came time to vote, they complained that the bill had been too hastily constructed, was too complex and “rammed down our throats” before everybody had had a chance to read it, and, just as important, before the Congressional Budget Office could analyze it to determine its economic impact. Quite honestly, the Republicans had a good point. So why, then, did they do the same thing this month, when they “rammed down our throats” a complex, hastily constructed health care bill that no one had had time to read through?
The answer to the question lies with the American people, who put both men in office. In 2009, Obama had promised to provide health insurance for everyone, a promise that he felt had contributed to his win. The result was a law that wasn’t well understood, and which contained a number of flaws. In 2016, Trump credited the problems with Obama’s law for the votes that put him in office. In response, the House of Representatives created a new bill, which I’m quite sure has many flaws that will result in problems if it becomes law.
However, it may not get that far. The Senate is closely divided, and Senators from both parties are talking about constructing a new bill. I don’t know how that will turn out, but I am sure it will remain a political football for years to come.
Maybe if it gets kicked around long enough, a reasonable and much needed health plan will be the result.