Why Donald Trump Has Struggled So Mightily During His First 100 Days

How history punishes every new president

After 100 days in office, President Trump is off to one of the weakest starts in presidential history. His big initiatives are going nowhere and he’s less popular than any president in the modern era.

But his inability to deliver on key campaign promises, or win over a skeptical public, is actually part of a historical norm that has haunted every president since the Roosevelt White House first implemented the First 100 Days marker way back in 1933 as a means to reassure Americans suffering through the Great Depression.

It turns out that every president in the modern era: Trump, Obama and all the rest, walk into the White House unprepared for the massive task at hand.

“One of the things that I think is hard for everyone is the idea that what works well in campaigning rarely transitions to governing,” Terry Sullivan, Executive Director of the White House Transition Project, told GOOD.

Sullivan’s non-partisan organization has spent the last two decades helping new administrations cut through the red tape and newbie mistakes that so often bring new presidencies to a screeching halt. “There just isn’t anything that’s akin to what it’s like to be president,” he said.

In other words, as Trump recently complained, being president is incredibly hard.

It’s a massive challenge even for someone like George W. Bush, whose own father was president. Or Barack Obama, who seemingly had the entire world rooting for him in the aftermath of Bush’s failed presidency.

According to Sullivan, presidents typically struggle through their entire first year in office, not just the first 100 days.

He said that’s because after a successful election, most new administrations assume they have the mechanics of governing figured out. But the federal government is a massive labyrinth of bureaucracy, laws and infighting that often becomes fiercer than the already massive ideological divide between the two parties.

For example, Sullivan says President Obama oversaw the most successful presidential transition in modern history. But even by that measure, the definition of “success” is grim: Out of the 1,100 administration jobs requiring confirmation, Obama had 350 filled at the end of his first year.

“It’s not a very good record and that is the record. We’re an exceptionally slow democracy to get up and running,” Sullivan said. “That’s a big problem in terms of making policy, responding, reacting and realizing democratic choice.”

And after more than a year of listening to the candidate brag on the campaign trail about what a great job they’re going to do, the public is rarely forgiving of a president learning on the job.

It’s true that Trump’s poll numbers are historically bad. But even that is subjective to some degree. For example, George W. Bush’s poll numbers were steadily declining through his first year in office right up until September 11, 2001. In fact, less than nine months in, many were already assuming he would be a weak, one-term president. Bill Clinton fared even worse. By May of 1993, his approval was down to 44 percent and all the way down to 41 percent by July, right on par with Trump. And Ronald Reagan, widely considered one of the most popular presidents ever, spent most of his first term with approval ratings below 50 percent. By the time his re-election campaign started in 1984, Reagan was trailing Democrat Walter Mondale by double digits before experiencing a remarkable turnaround and cruising to victory.

There are things President Trump could do right now to become a more popular president: build bipartisan consensus on issues like immigration, infrastructure spending and improving the economy.

But if history is any indicator, his first 100 days in office are going to be a preview of his first year in office: a chaotic mess being orchestrated by a president and an administration in way over their heads.

That’s good news and bad news for both his supporters and critics alike. For, while it doesn’t mean Trump can’t turn things around and become both a successful and popular president at some point, for now, things are likely to only continue getting worse.

via Real Time with Bill Maher / YouTube and The Late Late Show with James Corden / YouTube

A controversial editorial on America's obesity epidemic and healthcare by comedian Bill Maher on his HBO show "Real Time" inspired a thoughtful, and funny, response by James Cordon. It also made for a great debate about healthcare that Americans are avoiding.

At the end of the September 6th episode of "Real Time, " Maher turned to the camera for his usual editorial and discussed how obesity is a huge part of the healthcare debate that no one is having.

"At Next Thursday's debate, one of the candidates has to say, 'The problem with our healthcare system is Americans eat shit and too much of it.' All the candidates will mention their health plans but no one will bring up the key factor: the citizens don't lift a finger to help," Maher said sternly.

Keep Reading Show less

There is no shortage of proposals from the, um, what's the word for it… huge, group of Democratic presidential candidates this year. But one may stand out from the pack as being not just bold but also necessary; during a CNN town hall about climate change Andrew Yang proposed a "green amendment" to the constitution.

Keep Reading Show less
Me Too Kit

The creator of the Me Too kit — an at home rape kit that has yet to hit the market — has come under fire as sexual assault advocates argue the kit is dangerous and misleading for women.

The kit is marketed as "the first ever at home kit for commercial use," according to the company's website. "Your experience. Your kit. Your story. Your life. Your choice. Every survivor has a story, every survivor has a voice." Customers will soon be able order one of the DIY kits in order to collect evidence "within the confines of the survivor's chosen place of safety" after an assault.

"With MeToo Kit, we are able to collect DNA samples and other tissues, which upon testing can provide the necessary time-sensitive evidence required in a court of law to identify a sexual predator's involvement with sexual assault," according to the website.

Keep Reading Show less

Villagers rejoice as they receive the first vaccines ever delivered via drone in the Congo

The area's topography makes transporting medicines a treacherous task.

Photo by Henry Sempangi Senyule

When we discuss barriers to healthcare in the developed world, affordability is commonly the biggest concern. But for some in the developing world, physical distance and topography can be the difference between life and death.

Widjifake, a hard-to-reach village in northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with a population of 6,500, struggles with having consistent access to healthcare supplies due to the Congo River and its winding tributaries.

It can take up to three hours for vehicles carrying supplies to reach the village.

Keep Reading Show less
via Keith Boykin / Twitter

Fox News and President Trump seem like they may be headed for a breakup. "Fox is a lot different than it used to be," Trump told reporters in August after one of the network's polls found him trailing for Democrats in the 2020 election.

"There's something going on at Fox, I'll tell you right now. And I'm not happy with it," he continued.

Some Fox anchors have hit back at the president over his criticisms. "Well, first of all, Mr. President, we don't work for you," Neil Cavuto said on the air. "I don't work for you. My job is to cover you, not fawn over you or rip you, just report on you."

Keep Reading Show less