Friday Talking Points [434] -- 99 Days And Counting...

04/28/2017 08:24 pm ET Updated Apr 30, 2017
Alex Wong via Getty Images

Tomorrow, in case you hadn’t heard, will be Donald Trump’s 100th day as president. Grading his performance has been a weeklong event in the media. Rather than our normal Friday format, what follows is our honest evaluation of Trump’s first 100 days, which might be summed up as: “Coulda been better, coulda been a lot worse.”

The most heartening conclusion for liberals, after 99 days, is that Trump’s incompetence is his saving grace. Imagine how much worse things could have been right now if Trump really did have his act together, in other words.

The most obvious conclusion to be drawn is one that everyone should know already ― Trump likes style a lot more than he has ever cared about substance. He loves signing things in media photo opportunities, not caring in the slightest what is actually on the papers he’s signing. The media attention is what he craves, not making actual policy changes. Which, as previously mentioned, is a huge relief to his political opponents.

Most presidents pay attention to the voters they didn’t convince, in their first 100 days. Some sort of effort at reaching out to the other side of the aisle normally gives an incoming president a “honeymoon” period with the public, as even those who hadn’t voted for him decide to give him the benefit of the doubt. Trump ― again, unsurprisingly ― didn’t do any such thing, and the concrete result was the complete absence of a honeymoon. The highest job approval average he’s managed yet has been 46 percent ― which is smaller than the percent that actually voted for him.

Trump has lurched between trying to please his base by making good on promises he made on the campaign trail and smacking his base in their metaphorical face by either completely flip-flopping on other promises or just going along with anything Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell put on his desk, no matter how bad the impact of such actions among his own base is going to be.

A perfect example of this is Trump now bragging about how many executive orders he’s signed. All throughout the campaign, Trump excoriated President Obama for doing exactly the same thing. “Tyranny!” was the cry, or “He thinks he’s an emperor, not a president!” Concerns about tyrannical imperialism are heard no more, however, because Trump is now downright proud of doing exactly what he supposedly disapproved of when Obama was doing it. Such a reversal has been par for the course for Trump. Everything he said on the campaign trail was some sort of performance art, as far as Trump is concerned, and he will be held to none of it now that he’s in office. On balance, this is a good thing, because it allows him to disavow all sorts of inane things he promised he’d do.

In fact, Trump has seemed to get into the most trouble when he actually tries to follow through on his promises. Perhaps he’s learning the lesson “don’t even try,” one would like to think.

But we do try to be fair, so let’s take a realistic look at what Donald Trump has and has not accomplished during his first 99 days in office. These can be broken down into four main categories: stuff he’s undone, stuff he’s done, stuff he’s tried but failed at, and stuff he hasn’t done at all.

Stuff Trump has undone

Republicans in Congress have ― very quietly ― been undoing all they can of Barack Obama’s legacy. They discovered a law that had only been used once before, which allowed them to undo Obama’s final actions as president. They’ve only got a few more weeks of this legislative window being open, though, so this will soon cease to be even a possibility. But the larger impact of their frenzied undoing may be that it becomes a regular event. Congresses in future may go through similar “tear it all down” periods at the start of future presidents’ terms, in other words. Time will tell.

The reason they (and Trump) have been very quiet about all this is that most of the regulations they’ve been so busy overturning were actually good ones that poll very favorably with the public. There simply was no outcry to undo this stuff ― in some cases, exactly the opposite was true. What possible constituency of actual voters were demanding that everyone’s browser history be sold to the highest bidder? If the media hadn’t been so distracted by all of Trump’s tweets and other bumbling, this would have been an incredibly unpopular thing to do, but Congress snuck it by while most people weren’t even looking.

The other Obama actions that Republicans overturned were almost as breathtaking as the browser history fire sale. Who was demanding that mentally unfit people be given easier access to purchase guns, after all? Other rules overturned (that few noticed) have resulted in the following: making it easier for coal companies to destroy streams and rivers with toxic pollution, making savings for retirement harder, letting Wall Street completely off the leash again, allowing Trump to “take back” designations of National Monuments from previous presidents, not requiring federal contractors to disclose violations of labor regulations, getting rid of a rule requiring records of worker injuries, and allowing bears to be shot while hibernating. Other than a few small interest groups (and a few large corporate interests), who was clamoring for any of this to happen?

What’s really astonishing about all of this is that this is the area where Trump has actually accomplished the most. Bills passed Congress, Trump signed them, and the new policy became law. The way things are supposed to normally work in Washington, in other words. But due to Trump’s amusing antics (on Twitter and in person), the media largely yawned at all of it. If these new laws had been the only thing happening, more attention would have been paid, and the public may have gotten outraged over at least a few of these extremely unpopular actions.

Trump has been most effective when the media is not paying attention ― a fact which surely must annoy him on some level.

Stuff Trump has done

A recent Saturday Night Live sketch had “Trump” in the Oval Office, demanding to be read a list of his accomplishments in advance of the 100-day milestone. The list consisted of: “Neil Gorsuch is on the Supreme Court,” and nothing else.

It was funny because it’s so close to being the entire truth. Trump has not managed to achieve any major goal at all during his first 100 days beyond getting his nominee confirmed to the highest court in the land. All of those grandiose things he promised while campaigning ― many of which he promised “on Day One” ― simply have not happened. No major bill has even made it through a single chamber of Congress, much less been put on Trump’s desk. The wall remains unbuilt. Obamacare still exists. Muslims are not being banned, nor are they being subjected to “extreme vetting.” China is now our best buddy. There is no magic plan to defeat ISIS.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves ― this category is supposed to be stuff Trump actually has done. And, late-night comedy aside, Trump has managed to score some minor victories even while his major promises remain almost completely unfulfilled.

To accurately measure Trump’s 100 days, we started with his own explicit 100-days promises. Trump, very late in the campaign, gave a speech in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It was in many ways the most concrete speech he ever gave as a candidate, because it made 28 solid promises that Trump said he would achieve in his first 100 days. Read off a TelePrompTer (rather than ad-libbed), Trump pledged to the public that these things would all be quickly accomplished.

Trump has successfully done five of them, and partially done at least seven more. Here are the things Trump promised that he achieved, in some fashion or another [Note: in all of the below lists, many items have been reworded for brevity, but the ones in quotes are taken directly from Trump’s speech]:

  • Federal workforce hiring freeze (this was temporary and has already been lifted, but Trump did follow through on his promise early in his term).
  • Requirement that every new regulation requires getting rid of two other regulations (Trump signed this into being, but the effects of it have yet to be seen, really).
  • Allowing the Keystone XL pipeline (and other pipeline projects) to move forward.
  • Withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal (largely symbolic, since it was dead on arrival in Congress, but Trump did formally withdraw very early on in his presidency).
  • Nominate a Supreme Court justice.

On that last one, Trump was even more successful than he promised, since he couched it as “begin the process of selecting a replacement,” but he not only named Gorsuch, he also got the Senate to confirm him. So on the one big thing he’s achieved, he actually did better than he promised.

Trump has at least partially succeeded on several other promises:

  • Lift restrictions on oil and coal.
  • “Cancel every unconstitutional executive action, memorandum and order issued by President Obama” (Trump has certainly tried his best to live up to this one).

The other three on this list all deal with lobbying. Trump promised a 5-year ban on White House and congressional officials becoming lobbyists, a lifetime ban on White House officials lobbying on behalf of a foreign government, and a complete ban on foreign lobbyists raising money for elections. While some of this was announced by the White House, there also have been stories of “waivers” being issued already, so that Trump White House officials can indeed move right into a cushy lobbying job. Also, all that insistence on stopping foreign influence has to be seen as more than a little ironic, given all the problems Trump and his team have been having over Russian influence in his own campaign. So Trump may have achieved some sort of Potemkin-village “lobbyist ban” (to use an appropriate Russian metaphor), but in reality the swamp has not been drained one tiny bit.

There are two other items that Trump could claim at least partial credit on as well:

  • “I will direct the Secretary of Commerce and U.S. Trade Representative to identify all foreign trading abuses that unfairly impact American workers and direct them to use every tool under American and international law to end those abuses immediately.”
  • “Begin removing the more than 2 million criminal illegal immigrants from the country and cancel visas to foreign countries that won’t take them back.”

On the first, Trump just announced a new tariff on Canadian softwoods. But all Trump really promised was to begin the process, so perhaps other tariffs will be forthcoming in the next 100 days. On the second, Trump has indeed created a much more aggressive deportation policy, but he hasn’t gone nearly as far as many of his supporters had hoped. This too will be a developing story, but in all fairness Trump has to be given some sort of credit for at least starting the processes he said he would.

Stuff Trump tried but failed to do

There are three big items in this category. Two of which failed (so far) in the courts, and one of which failed (so far) in the House of Representatives. Here they are, in Trump’s language from the Gettysburg speech:

  • “Suspend immigration from terror-prone regions where vetting cannot safely occur. All vetting of people coming into our country will be considered extreme vetting.”
  • “Cancel all federal funding to Sanctuary Cities.”
  • “Repeal and Replace Obamacare Act. Fully repeals Obamacare and replaces it with Health Savings Accounts, the ability to purchase health insurance across state lines, and lets states manage Medicaid funds. Reforms will also include cutting the red tape at the FDA: there are over 4,000 drugs awaiting approval, and we especially want to speed the approval of life-saving medications.”

Trump has tried to do the first one twice now, and both times federal judges have stopped him. Trump made it pathetically easy for judges to rule against him because all the judges have to do is to listen to Trump’s announcement of the policy idea on the campaign trail to see how unconstitutional the intent behind it truly is. Trump wasn’t helped by a Chris Christie interview, either, where Christie admitted that Trump directed him to “make a Muslim ban legal” somehow.

Just last week, another federal judge halted Trump’s policy towards sanctuary cities as well. The federal government is not supposed to blackmail states or cities in this fashion, to put it bluntly.

But while Trump has so far been stymied, liberals shouldn’t get complacent about the status quo quite yet. Yes, Trump has been blocked. But Trump can appeal, and he just put a staunch conservative on the Supreme Court ― so he might just win these cases in the end.

As for repealing and replacing Obamacare, Trump doesn’t even get partial credit. All throughout the campaign, Trump promised voters the moon, the sun, and the stars on healthcare reform. His plan would be wonderful. He knew how to fix everything. Everyone would be covered. Everyone’s costs would go down. It would be far, far better than Obamacare in every conceivable way. Trust him, he knew exactly what to do.

Once in office, Trump did nothing. Not a thing. He had no plan. He couldn’t come up with even the bare-bones outline of a plan. Not even a one-page memo on what his goals were. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Trump never had a plan and couldn’t create one if his life depended on it (as indeed many Americans’ lives do).

Then Trump thought he was saved by Paul Ryan’s hastily-assembled trainwreck of a bill. “Aha!” Trump thought, “I’ll just get behind this and sign it and then I can say I repealed Obamacare!”

But Ryancare was (and continues to be) nothing short of a spectacular failure. When the public learned what was in it (and how many of them would lose health insurance), only 17 percent backed the Ryancare plan. During the same period a rather astonishing thing happened ― Obamacare suddenly became very popular, for the first time since the law’s passage. Obamacare began polling at higher than 50 percent approval, something it had never managed previously, as the public finally learned what all of the components of it were (all of which were under threat of removal in Ryancare). So the only thing Paul Ryan achieved was to make Obamacare a success. That’s gotta hurt ― but don’t worry, Obamacare covers that pain.

The White House increased the pressure on Ryan as the 100-days marker approached, and there was supposed to be a last-minute push to revive Ryancare ― after making it even worse in an attempt to get Tea Partiers to vote for it. No vote has happened, because by making it worse Ryan alienated moderate members of his own party. All of Trump’s pressure tactics have not even moved the bill through the Republican House.

So not only did Trump fail to come up with his own big, beautiful healthcare plan (as he had promised), the one he got behind is a total Dumpster fire and will not pass even one house in Congress. That is an abject failure, any way you look at it.

Stuff Trump hasn’t done

The first eighteen points on Trump’s Gettysburg agenda were actions he was going to personally take as president. He has failed to deliver on four of them:

  • Propose a constitutional amendment to impose term limits on Congress.
  • Label China a currency manipulator (Trump completely flip-flopped on this one).
  • Renegotiate or withdraw from NAFTA (this one is somewhat of an embarrassment for Trump, since he was all set to announce he was withdrawing on his 100th day, but then some advisors talked him down off the ledge, so now he’s merely promising to renegotiate at some unspecified future point).
  • “Cancel billions in payments to U.N. climate change programs and use the money to fix America’s water and environmental infrastructure.”

Anyone think that last one is going to happen? Billions for water and environmental infrastructure? Yeah, right. Trump has (so far) not backed out of the Paris agreement on climate change, but could do so at any time.

But the big list of things Trump has not even attempted yet is the last ten items in his Gettysburg speech. This was a list of all the wonderful bills Trump was going to personally propose to Congress, and “fight for their passage within the first 100 days.” Not a single one of them has happened. Trump has gone zero-for-ten, on a list he created.

Donald Trump has not proposed a single item on this list as a bill Congress could pass. Here are eight of the ten things Trump promised, but has not delivered:

  • “End The Offshoring Act. Establishes tariffs to discourage companies from laying off their workers in order to relocate in other countries and ship their products back to the U.S. tax-free.”
  • “American Energy & Infrastructure Act. Leverages public-private partnerships, and private investments through tax incentives, to spur $1 trillion in infrastructure investment over 10 years. It is revenue neutral.”
  • “School Choice And Education Opportunity Act. Redirects education dollars to give parents the right to send their kid to the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school of their choice. Ends Common Core, brings education supervision to local communities. It expands vocational and technical education, and make 2- and 4-year college more affordable.”
  • “Affordable Childcare and Eldercare Act. Allows Americans to deduct childcare and elder care from their taxes, incentivizes employers to provide on-side childcare services, and creates tax-free Dependent Care Savings Accounts for both young and elderly dependents, with matching contributions for low-income families.”
  • “End Illegal Immigration Act. Fully funds the construction of a wall on our southern border with the full understanding that the country Mexico will be reimbursing the United States for the full cost of such wall; establishes a 2-year mandatory minimum federal prison sentence for illegally re-entering the U.S. after a previous deportation, and a 5-year mandatory minimum for illegally re-entering for those with felony convictions, multiple misdemeanor convictions or two or more prior deportations; also reforms visa rules to enhance penalties for overstaying and to ensure open jobs are offered to American workers first.”
  • “Restoring Community Safety Act. Reduces surging crime, drugs and violence by creating a Task Force On Violent Crime and increasing funding for programs that train and assist local police; increases resources for federal law enforcement agencies and federal prosecutors to dismantle criminal gangs and put violent offenders behind bars.”
  • “Restoring National Security Act. Rebuilds our military by eliminating the defense sequester and expanding military investment; provides veterans with the ability to receive public V.A. treatment or attend the private doctor of their choice; protects our vital infrastructure from cyber-attack; establishes new screening procedures for immigration to ensure those who are admitted to our country support our people and our values.”
  • “Clean up Corruption in Washington Act. Enacts new ethics reforms to Drain the Swamp and reduce the corrupting influence of special interests on our politics.”

Not a single item on that list has appeared from the White House.

The remaining two Trump tried to “accomplish” right before the bell rang, but can’t be counted as any sort of serious efforts towards achievement. The first was:

  • “Repeal and Replace Obamacare Act. Fully repeals Obamacare and replaces it with Health Savings Accounts, the ability to purchase health insurance across state lines, and lets states manage Medicaid funds. Reforms will also include cutting the red tape at the F.D.A.: there are over 4,000 drugs awaiting approval, and we especially want to speed the approval of life-saving medications.”

Trump gets no credit for this, even with the Ryancare bill, because he never came up with even a shadow of his own plan, which is why it’s in both our “tried and failed” and “didn’t even try” categories. The final item is one where Trump thought he could do his homework on the bus and hand it in for some sort of partial credit:

  • “Middle Class Tax Relief And Simplification Act. An economic plan designed to grow the economy 4% per year and create at least 25 million new jobs through massive tax reduction and simplification, in combination with trade reform, regulatory relief, and lifting the restrictions on American energy. The largest tax reductions are for the middle class. A middle-class family with 2 children will get a 35% tax cut. The current number of brackets will be reduced from 7 to 3, and tax forms will likewise be greatly simplified. The business rate will be lowered from 35 to 15 percent, and the trillions of dollars of American corporate money overseas can now be brought back at a 10 percent rate.”

Trump did announce his “tax plan” this week. It was a joke, really ― a one-page document with fewer than 200 words, and only seven actual numbers. All that talk about big benefits for the middle class didn’t make the final cut, although all the goodies for corporations did. But a one-page memo isn’t any sort of “Middle Class Tax Relief And Simplification Act.” It’s a one-page memo, no more. And even Trump advisors aren’t now cheerfully talking about four percent growth rates, instead they’re guardedly speaking of three percent growth. In the first quarter of this year, the American economy grew at 0.7 percent, if anyone wants a reality check.

We wrote yesterday about one glaring conclusion that pretty much everyone in the political and media world has missed, when considering Trump’s tax plan ― with one change, Trump would save himself 81 percent of the taxes he paid on the one form we have for him (from 2005). Thank you, Rachel Maddow and DCReport.

Trump paid $38.4 million in taxes, on gross earnings of over $150 million. But if the Alternative Minimum Tax is abolished (as Trump’s tax plan calls for), he would only have paid $7.2 million in taxes in 2005. That’s an effective rate of only 4.7 percent, and it would mean Trump would save a whopping 81 percent of his tax bill. Why aren’t Democrats screaming this from the mountaintops? We have no idea, because it’s pretty obvious and pretty egregious. It would make a dandy talking point, in other words, for any Democrat who cares to point it out.

Other Trump promises

All of the items we discussed above come directly from that one Trump speech in Gettysburg. But Trump made plenty of other promises to the voters, and he’s either failed to follow through or completely reversed course on so many of them it’s hard to keep track of them all.

Trump was going to release his tax returns, now he’s not ever going to. He was going to renegotiate the Iran nuclear deal, but has not. He was going to pay off the entire national debt in a few years (sometimes ten, sometimes eight, sometimes “in my first term”), and yet everything he’s even proposed at this point would explode the deficit and debt enormously (his tax plan, by some estimates, would blow a $7-trillion hole in the budget, in the first ten years alone). He was going to appoint a special prosecutor to hound Hillary Clinton, but (thankfully) decided not to. He was going to sue all the women accusing him of sexual misconduct, but (thankfully) decided not to. NATO was obsolete, until it suddenly wasn’t.

First, Trump already had a secret plan to defeat ISIS. Then he was going to have one “in his first 30 days.” Then he punted entirely to “the generals,” who were going to create such a plan in 30 days. It’s been 99 days, and no plan has been announced. Thankfully, he’s largely following the Obama plan, which has been chalking up success after success in the fight against ISIS (especially in Iraq).

Trump was also going to reverse Obama’s Cuba policy, but hasn’t. He was going to sock it to all those nasty hedge fund managers by eliminating the carried interest loophole, but this didn’t make it into his tax memo.

Trump was going to build a wall, deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants, and institute “extreme vetting” in 90 days. None of these have happened. Trump is caught in the fight over what was supposed to be a “temporary travel ban” and apparently forgotten about why it was only going to be temporary (because once the extreme vetting started, it wouldn’t have been necessary).

Here’s a Trump promise for anyone craving a belly laugh: “I would not be a president who took vacations. I would not be a president that takes time off.” Or you could listen to any of the numerous times Trump took Obama to task for playing too much golf ― all real knee-slappers, now.

Trump has followed through on a few of his campaign promises, to be scrupulously fair. He signed a bill allowing states to defund Planned Parenthood. He promised to accept no salary, and donated his first paycheck to the National Park Service (while simultaneously proposing a budget which would severely slash their funding).

Conclusions

On big-picture items, Trump’s first 100 days certainly resembles that SNL list. He got a Supreme Court justice confirmed, and not much else. No big legislative victories at all ― not even if you only count “passed the House of Representatives” (usually a pretty low bar, when your own party controls it).

On smaller-bore stuff, Trump is touting his achievements using the same executive powers he once disparaged Barack Obama for using (Trump even sneered at Obama because he “couldn’t get anything through Congress”). But while Trump gets his signing ceremonies for each of these, most of them don’t really have any effect at all. He signs orders which instruct a cabinet member to, essentially, do their job. “Use the powers of your office to get some stuff done” isn’t really that groundshaking a policy statement, in other words.

The Trump administration’s incompetence is at least partially a self-inflicted wound. Trump has famously disdained staffing the executive branch, letting hundreds of positions remain unfilled. Because of this, he has nobody to go to who has the experience of actually turning policy ideas into legislation. So nothing gets sent to Congress, and the policy goal remains no more than an early-morning Trump tweet. Call it “small government in action” (or, perhaps, “inaction”).

This is good news for liberals, of course, because as we began by pointing out, the first 100 days would have been a lot worse if Trump did actually have a full and experienced staff who knew how to get things done.

On the domestic policy front, Trump has done nothing major. He has not proposed an actual piece of legislation yet. He put out a bare-bones budget paper which is never going to see the light of day in Congress (it’s too brutal for even Republicans to act on), and he put out a one-page memo of bullet points on taxes. That’s it.

On the foreign policy front, Trump has not started World War III or dropped a nuclear weapon on anyone. This normally wouldn’t be seen as much of an achievement, but for Trump it truly is. Sad!

Snark aside, though, we already wrote about Trump’s first-100-days military actions earlier, where he has had mixed success at best. He launched a botched raid in Yemen, he sent 59 cruise missiles into Syria, and he dropped one whale of a big bomb in Afghanistan. He finally figured out where his aircraft carrier was, and it’s now where he said it was supposed to be a few weeks ago.

More generally in foreign policy, Trump has tried to appear distant from Russia and has fully embraced China. Tensions are at an all-time high with North Korea, but with all the bluster coming from the White House, Trump is seriously constrained by what he can even threaten, due to nobody wanting to see North Korea destroy Seoul.

Trump cleaned out the incompetents he originally hired in the national security area, and the second-stringers he put in are actually sane and know the limits of American military power, so that’s something in his favor. The whole Michael Flynn fiasco may still come back to bite Trump, though, if recent revelations of illegal payments from Russia are any indication. The whole “Russian influence” storyline is not going away any time soon, either, on a more general level.

One thing Trump has been able to achieve success at is keeping his base happy. No matter how many times Trump fails to come through on his promises to the working class, they still solidly support him for now. Over 90 percent of Trump voters say they’d still vote for him, which is kind of astonishing, but has to be seen as a clear win for Trump at this point.

Overall, however, Trump making zero moves towards Democrats or even independents has kept his poll numbers historically low. On job approval, Trump’s average has fluctuated from just under 40 percent to a high of 46 percent. That represents not just the lowest first-100-days ratings since polling began, but a jaw-droppingly-low ceiling of support. Trump likes superlatives (especially about himself), but it’s doubtful he’ll be bragging about being the “Most unpopular president ever!” any time soon. Trump had no honeymoon, because he refused to even attempt reaching out to anyone other than his base, and he hasn’t even gotten a bump in the polls after successful military actions (the traditional “rally ‘round the president” bump for Trump was only two percent ― much lower than usual).

Donald Trump’s first 100 days are almost over. So far, they’ve been pretty unimpressive. Granted, this measure may be a false one to judge the success of any president (nobody remembers George W. Bush’s first 100 days, they remember what happened after 9/11, for instance). But at this point in time, it’s what we’ve got to work with.

The overarching conclusion that has to be drawn is that Trump is an ineffectual president. He doesn’t know much about following through when it comes to governing, which is obvious in many ways. He still loves making news (especially with his tweets), but it usually turns out to be a lot of sound and fury, signifying not very much. The other conclusion worth drawing is that Trump is a very reactive president. His daughter can show him something on cable news, and he is immediately convinced that he should launch a missile attack. He planned on announcing his withdrawal from NAFTA, and then a few phone calls changed his mind. Right or wrong, he makes snap decisions with immediate consequences. He has shown a willingness to ignore just about any of his campaign promises, and his base forgives him for doing so each and every time.

Of course, to be fair, he could always improve. Eventually maybe he’ll staff up the departments under his control with some people with real governing experience. Eventually maybe his “we’re going to study this for the next few months” executive orders may come to fruition, and actual policy may appear. Eventually he may figure out how to work with the Republican Congress to actually pass some bills. Anything’s possible, in other words.

For now, though, liberals are all breathing a lot easier after seeing Trump’s peripatetic first 100 days. Trump can’t seem to get his act together on multiple issues, and the Republican Congress is fast becoming the “can’t-do” Congress. That’s all to the good, when you consider what their stated goals are. Other than confirmation battles, we simply haven’t had a big showdown in the Senate yet ― because the House hasn’t been able to pass any important bills. Today, we avoided a government shutdown, showing (for the time being) that Paul Ryan is fully aware of the futility of letting the Tea Party run rampant over must-pass bills. Democrats are cheerfully embracing the concept of congressional gridlock, in much the same way Republicans did after Barack Obama became president. Nothing getting done is a lot better than seeing them competently pass a Republican agenda, in other words.

Meaning that Trump’s first 100 days were a lot better than any liberal probably hoped for. Trump couldn’t get anything done, Paul Ryan couldn’t get anything done, and this was all good news. The White House spent all their time and energy over internal squabbling and jockeying for access to Trump.

So, realistically, we’ve got to end with an honest statement to sum up Donald Trump’s first 100 days: “It could have been a lot worse.” Let’s hope that he stays just as unfocused and ineffective for his entire term in office, because so far that has been the best restraint on the damage he could be capable of. That’s not exactly a rousing statement for the history books, but it is an honest assessment of Trump’s first 100 days in office. It could have been much, much worse.

Chris Weigant blogs at:

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com

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