Tom Clyde: The first 100 days
More Dogs on Main
Park Record columnist
We’ve reached the 100-day point in the Trump presidency. It’s a completely arbitrary milestone.
Franklin Roosevelt invented it in very different times.
The country was on the brink of collapse. Everybody assumed he would crush Hoover in the 1932 election. He carried 42 of the then 48 states. There had been plenty of time to lay the groundwork and enter office prepared. Congress was also ready for action. Roosevelt’s first 100 days were very active and a lot got done.
Every president since then has felt some obligation to emulate that 100-day challenge, and every president since then has fallen flat for the most part. But still, we look at this first three months as if the remaining three years and nine months of their term doesn’t matter.
Trump put out a laundry list of ambitious things he was going to get done in his first 100 days during the campaign. Top of the list was repealing and (sometimes) replacing Obamacare with something “terrific.” We all know how that went. There was no replacement plan produced by the White House. So the “replacement” plan came from the wing of the Republican party that doesn’t think there is any government role in the health care business. Even with control of both houses of Congress, the Republican plan couldn’t get any traction. They never let it come to a vote.
To quote Trump himself, “Who knew health care could be so complicated?” Pretty much everybody. That, of course, is the problem with everything on the governmental policy plate. It’s all complicated. There aren’t any good solutions, let alone simple ones. Syria is a terrible mess. But I don’t hear anybody saying it would be a great place to put American troops to referee somebody else’s civil war. Our success rate with that kind of thing isn’t good.
It’s pretty tempting to lob a missile through the bedroom window of the little twerp running North Korea. It seems like a practical (if illegal) solution to that problem, as long as you don’t consider what happens to roughly 20 million people in South Korea’s Seoul. Seoul is about the same distance from North Korea’s artillery and nukes as Park City is from the Salt Lake Airport. So maybe a little strategic patience is in order.
The annual ritual of the federal government running out of money is also upon us. Congress has very few actual jobs under the constitution. One of them is to adopt an annual budget. They never do it. They get to the end of the fiscal year, and without a budget, it is illegal for agencies to spend money. Technically, until Congress gives it to them, they don’t have it to spend. So we have the government shut-down show-down. Then after looking like idiots (typecasting, if you ask me) Congress passes a “continuing resolution” which says, “this is too hard for us, so just keep doing what you did last year.”
The plan was to force $1 billion of funding for the wall on the Mexican border into the continuing resolution. “Build the wall or the national parks close.” Congress, which isn’t really sold on the wall, said that would be OK. Turn out the lights. So now Trump’s campaign icon will not get funded as part of the stop-gap funding patch. It will get funded someday, maybe later this year. But wasn’t Mexico going to pay for it? I guess that’s now going to be a reimbursement of some kind after we build it. Or not. But it will, like the health care replacement, be “terrific.”
I don’t think anybody, including Trump, expected him to win. The groundwork for a Roosevelt-like 100-day legislative blitz simply didn’t get done because they didn’t expect to be here. The long list of political appointees at the upper level of the bureaucracy remains to be filled. There have been missteps, like the whole Michael Flynn fiasco, and the multiple connections to Russian operatives cast doubts on the whole operation. Hokey smoke! Bullwinkle, Boris and Natasha have moved into the White House.
It would all be hilarious if it didn’t matter. But it does matter. On big things, whether it’s health care or North Korea, it would be a lot better if we had some sense that the people calling the shots understood the complexity of the problems, or had the capacity to analyze difficult situations on a level more sophisticated than a tweet. I never thought I’d say it, but there is some comfort in knowing that he has packed the cabinet with Goldman Sachs executives. There’s some analytical ability there, even if it is all focused on plunder.
The singular accomplishment of the first 100 days is that Trump hasn’t started a new war. It’s a low bar, but maybe all we can ask.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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