If there is one political narrative I have always despised it is the importance far too many people place on the “first 100 Days” of our chief executives, whether it is mayor, governor or president.
The surest way to guarantee failure is to rush success. That is not to say success is certain, but by trying to believe we can properly gauge whether an administration will be successful based on the first 100 days is utterly absurd, but absurd seems to be the order of the day.
This week will mark the first 100 days of President Trump’s administration. Trump is playing the media game and has highlighted some of what he believes were his administration’s successes. The simple fact is every day of a chief executive’s tenure is important.
Historians will point to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first term in office as the beginning of the emphasis of judging a president by their first 100 days. Granted, FDR was walking into an economic disaster, but he was not the first president to face a crisis out of the gate, nor the last. Lincoln was walking into the absolute collapse of our country, and Kennedy the Bay of Pigs fiasco and the rising threat of communism. Perspective is important, and many chief executives face numerous known and unknown crises. Nevertheless, we seem to cling to silliness that the first 100 days is worthy of a hyper examination.
Imagine if we applied this same 100-day standard to everything in life. Envision a world where we decided your first semester at college was the determining factor of whether you will be a success or failure in life. How about if society looked at your first 100 days as a new parent to govern whether you should be “allowed” to keep your child? Of course, that would be preposterous. What if we decided the first three-quarters of Super Bowl LI was all the time we needed to crown the 2017 Super Bowl champions? Wouldn’t most of us look like the fools, as many did.
I will concede the first 100 days of any job will in some way set the tone and a pace for the person taking over that new position, but the same could be said for the first 14 days. However, I also know if history taught us anything it’s that the last 100 days of one’s job is far more telling of their true leadership qualities than the first 100. The hoopla surrounding the first 100 days is an unnecessary burden that hinders a balanced approach of evaluating the complete effectiveness of a chief executive. In the case of the presidency, the 100-day standard only seems to serve the media’s self-interest, and allows political pundits to pontificate ad nauseam about a period that essentially only represents less than 7 percent of the president’s time in office (related to a 4-year term).
Governing is no more an exact science than life itself. Granted, misgoverning can have an adverse effect on all our lives. The fact is a chief executive is judged every day. A chief executive faces constant scrutiny, and rightly so. Every day is a new test and a new challenge, and at the end of each day “We the people” pass judgement. I do not know how many of us could withstand that type of daily focus in our lives. This is why many of us do not seek political office, or careers that solely exist to address crises, such as first responders or military. Some people gravitate toward these vocations and some don’t.
I am in no way trying to compare everyday life to the function of governing. Nor should we falsely believe the first 100 days of a new executive administration should carry as much weight in our modern political era as it does. It is a nice round number with which the media can build impressive graphics, compose ominous background music, gather a roundtable of “experts,” and go at the president like a piñata. Yet during this spectacle, are we hearing anything different than we haven’t heard already? Not really. Nothing more than the same tired chatter, just in chronological order. Nothing more than the political versions of American Top 40, but in boring political speak, set to a beat only the media can dance to.
Hindsight is the greatest gift we grant ourselves, and 20 years after a president has left office, maybe a discussion of the first 100 days will have some value. However, I believe we should strive to keep a keen eye on those who serve on our behalf in government each day. It is fair to judge their actions every day, but to believe the first 100 days will be the defining yardstick for the rest of their administration only serves to create a false perception. For every Bay of Pigs, there will be a Cuban Missile Crisis. For every Fort Sumter, there will be a Gettysburg Address.