White House Reports Trump Has Used His Pen a Lot in First 100 Days

It may not amount to much substantively, but Trump sure has signed a lot of bills and orders, as the White House is boasting. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

He hasn’t been able to repeal and replace Obamacare; indeed, his January attack on Paul Ryan’s “repeal and delay” strategy for health care is probably what screwed everything up on that front. His legislative timetable is a shambles. The courts have stymied his efforts to keep Muslims out of the country. His administration is still debating which basic approach to take on tax reform, on the eve of a planned presidential announcement. His budget proposal has been pronounced “dead on arrival” in Congress. His attempt to take Obamacare insurer subsidies hostage in order to force Democrats to the table on health-care legislation backfired. Having threatened to risk a government shutdown to get money for his Wall, he’s now backpedaling frantically. He’s done nothing on many of his “100-day” campaign promises, and has moved in the opposite direction on others (China, NATO, Syria, Wall Street regulation). In part that’s because he’s moved at a snail’s pace in filling key positions in his own administration.

Even on the areas where Donald Trump can claim some success, there are large asterisks. Confirmation of his Supreme Court nominee required that his party nuke the SCOTUS filibuster, a rather extreme measure. Beltway pundits cheered his launch of missiles in Syria, but there has yet to be any indication of the strategy the attack served or what we might expect next.

So it’s no wonder the image-obsessed White House is flummoxed by the task of trumpeting Trump’s accomplishments in his first 100 days. They’ve created a special section on the White House web page where random positive developments during the Trump presidency are collected. But the most telling evidence of the struggle to tell the president’s terrific story is a document released today that boasts of the sheer number of things he’s done, as compared to his predecessors.

The main data point is this dubious boast: Trump has signed 30 executive orders and 28 bills in his first 100 days, and that’s more than anybody since FDR (with the exception of Harry Truman’s 55 signed bills). In case you fail to grasp the magnitude of this accomplishment, the document explains that the 28 bills represent a “slew of legislation.” A “slew” is a lot, folks.

Trump’s hand must be getting tired, and White House pen supplies are probably running low.

This purely quantitative approach to Trump’s accomplishments falls somewhere on the scale that runs from meaninglessness to stupidity. In football, a quarterback who completes a “slew” of passes for little yardage and no touchdowns would not be considered successful.

The list of 28 signed bills double-counts 13 Congressional Review Act resolutions that are a supposedly separate source of presidential pride. Of the remaining 15, you’ve got three resolutions appointing members to the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution. And then there’s this yuge legislative accomplishment:

H.R.1362 - An Act to name the Department of Veterans Affairs community-based outpatient clinic in Pago Pago, American Samoa, the Faleomavaega Eni Fa’aua’a Hunkin VA Clinic.

There’s also a bill naming a VA health center in Pennsylvania.

And while Trump’s executive orders included some modestly significant items and others the courts have blocked (e.g., the two travel bans), there’s a lot of filler, too, like the three orders designating March 2017 as Women’s History Month, American Red Cross Month, and Irish-American Heritage Month.

All in all, Trump and his flacks would be well-advised to come up with a different take on his first 100 days than to pretend it has been a historic triumph. Perhaps he should retreat to the theme of his Inaugural Address, and argue that it will take more than 100 days to overcome the entrenched interests dominating both parties in Washington and give the people the policies they deserve. It would have the benefit of helping to explain why a president and Congress controlled by the same party seem to be struggling with the basic tasks of governance 100 days in.

Trump Has Used His Pen a Lot in First 100 Days