Everyone observing politics seems to agree on two things about a president’s first 100 days in office:
1. 100 days is a meaningless, arbitrary marker for a president’s performance that is likely to be more misleading than useful.
2. Let’s treat it like it is important! Reeeeeeee!
The thing that fascinates me the most about this situation is that the so-called “pro-science” people are giving Trump low grades for his first 100 days.
Allow me to connect some dots.
In science, you don’t have much of an experiment unless you have a control case for comparison. For example, you can’t know if a drug helped with a particular disease unless you study the people who didn’t take the drug at the same time as those who did.
But the pro-science people forget this concept when thinking about politics. Where is the control case for Trump’s first 100 days?
Is it George Washington’s first 100 days?
Is it Jimmy Carter’s first 100 days?
And which prior president came to office in 2017 with identical problems and the most polarized political environment in history?
And just how long is it supposed to take to revise Obamacare? Do we compare it to the time Abe Lincoln repealed and replaced Obamacare? Or how about the time those other presidents repealed and replaced Obamacare in the year 2017?
I saw an article in Politico that is too dumb to link to, saying it is objectively true that Trump has had a bad first 100 days. This is a perfect example of what I call the “two movies on one screen effect.”
I’m almost certain that many Trump supporters would say these facts are objectively true too:
Economic confidence is up.
Trump signed a bunch of executive orders. You might not like them, but that’s more about you, not about his job performance.
China is putting the screws on North Korea (finally)
Trump erased the “puppet of Putin” charge by prudent application of Tomahawk missiles. That’s an accomplishment, even if you don’t like it.
Trump erased the “Trump is Hitler” hallucination that the Clinton side spray-painted onto him during the election. (That’s a big deal.)
Trump got a qualified Supreme Court judge, albeit the hard way.
Healthcare is moving along briskly from the first plan that was terrible to something that is approaching feasible. That’s progress, not failure.
Tax reform will probably be slower than we want, but most observers expect something good to come of it.
International relations look fine. The only awkward relationship is with Putin, and that’s the awkward relationship Trump’s detractors want.
Illegal immigration is way down because of Trump’s persuasion.
Now let’s look at the things President Trump did wrong in his first 100 days:
You can criticize Trump’s actions against women’s reproductive rights, both on the topic of Planned Parenthood funding and his Supreme Court pick. But calling those things failures or successes depends on your political views, not on Trump’s job performance.
I think you could make an objective case against Trump for putting economics above the environment. But you’d have to ignore the fact that a stronger economy almost always puts you in a better position to keep the environment clean. (Trump says that.) You don’t see clean air and water in poor countries.
President Trump reversed a bunch of campaign statements from impractical positions to more practical ones. Is that failure?
President Trump said a bunch of things that did not pass the fact-checking, surprising literally no one. And as usual, none of it mattered in any way except that it made us focus on whatever topic he wanted us to focus on.
President Trump’s staff and advisors are reportedly doing a lot of in-fighting for influence. But that sounds more like a healthy situation than a Trump-is-dictator situation. It would be worse if there were no differences of opinion in the group.
President Trump has been slow to fill lots of government positions. But has any of that mattered to your life? I haven’t noticed, personally. Was the Secretary of Whatever supposed to come over and mow my lawn?
President Trump did not release his tax returns, so we imagine there are problems there.
President Trump incorrectly claimed that his staff had been “wiretapped.” It turns out that they were only legally surveilled in an indirect way. Which only sounds different to his critics.
Generally speaking, the criticisms of President Trump’s first 100 days (and in general) are based on imaginary stuff:
Imagined problems on his tax returns.
Imagined blackmail by Russia.
Imagined poor performance based on imagining a control case of another imaginary president doing the same job at the same time, but doing it faster.
Imaginary belief that doing things you prefer he not do is similar to not being competent.
Imagined staff problems that are bigger than they are.
Imagined nuclear holocaust that happens because of Trump’s imaginary insanity.
Imagined problems caused by his ignoring of facts that don’t matter.
Imagined future climate calamity. (They could be right, but for now it is imaginary because complex models have a bad track record.)