Yesterday, President Trump signed the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commemorative Coin Act. The effect of this law is self-explanatory — it creates a coin to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, ratifying women’s suffrage. Or, at least, it is self-explanatory to everybody except Donald Trump, who was mystified as to why the 100th anniversary was not recognized earlier.
After working his way through the prepared remarks, Trump interjected with his own riff. “They’ve been working on this for years and years,” he said, suddenly wondering, “And I’m curious, why wasn’t it done a long time ago, and also — well, I guess the answer to that is because now I’m president, and we get things done. We get a lot of things done that nobody else got done.”
The task of explaining to Trump that “centennial” means “100th anniversary” fell to Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn. Blackburn gently recounted that the bill worked its way through both chambers of Congress. As is usually the case with symbolic bills observing now-uncontroversial events, this one met with no opposition whatsoever. “We passed it out of the Senate with every single senator voting for it in June,” she noted, at which point Trump — apparently unfamiliar with the common practice of unanimous votes for these kinds of things — interjected, “Wow.” She proceeded to note that “August 18th, 1920 is when the 19th Amendment was ratified.”
Mystery solved! They’re observing the women’s suffrage centennial now because next year is the centennial. That is how time works.
Even after this clear accounting, Trump nonetheless was still confused. “So why wasn’t this done a long time ago — years ago?,” he asked again. At this point, one of Trump’s appointees told him that “it started out with you nominating Kay Coles James and myself as the U.S. treasurer on the commission.”
Another attendee attempted to provide a more satisfying and ego-flattering answer. “You asked why this hadn’t gotten done before,” said Independent Women’s Forum chairman Heather Higgins, “Jovita basically took a page from the Wollman Rink in New York” — the building of this skating rink on time and under budget is one of Trump’s most notable noncriminal business triumphs — “and overcame an awful lot of the process and obstacles to make sure that something happened on time and in the right way.”
The truth is, there aren’t a lot of obstacles to minting commemorative coins to celebrate uncontroversial historic milestones. We do them all the time — at least one a year for more than 30 years, and often many a year. But emphasizing that this commemorative coin was only accomplished due to Trump’s inspiring example probably seemed like a better answer than explaining to Trump that nobody commemorated the women’s suffrage centennial years ago because it wasn’t the centennial yet.