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Why Trump's First 100 Days Matter And Why They Don't


We are going to spend this hour marking President Trump's first 100 days in office. That's today. If you're asking why 100 days, you can thank FDR for that, President Franklin Roosevelt. By his 100th day in office, President Roosevelt had pushed dozens of bills through Congress, shored up a dangerously insolvent banking system, offered relief to desperate farmers, created a jobs program to put hundreds of thousands of people to work. Those bills became the foundation of the recovery from the Great Depression and presidents, including the current one, have had to contend with that standard ever since.

The president talked about a few of his 100-day accomplishments last night in a speech before the NRA.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: For the first time in the modern political era, we have confirmed a new justice in the first 100 days.


TRUMP: The last time that happened was 136 years ago in 1881. Now, we won't get any credit for this, but don't worry about it. The credit is in the audience, right? The credit is in the audience.

MARTIN: We're going to take a look this hour at what President Trump has and has not done in these 100 days and why it matters or it doesn't matter. And I'm pleased to have company for this. NPR political correspondent Mara Liasson is going to be joining us throughout the hour. Mara, thanks so much.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Happy to be here.

MARTIN: And could you start us off by talking about this whole issue of the 100 days? As we just said, this 100-day period has been marked and watched closely since FDR, but President Trump and some of his supporters have complained that it's arbitrary. Some of them have even said it's stupid. Does this 100 days marker matter?

LIASSON: Well, it is arbitrary, it is stupid and it does matter because Donald Trump fell right into the 100-day trap. Not only did he campaign with a 100-day action plan - he made a lot of promises for what he'd do in his first 100 days - but since he's been in office he's been talking constantly about what he's accomplished in 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 90 days.

And he is somebody who's pretty obsessed with his scorecard and his box office and his ratings. And he wants the first 100 days to be the most fabulous, incredible 100 days ever. And that - he's made it matter. Now, I think as a measurement or a scorecard or a report card for how a new president is doing a year would, I think, be a much more reasonable measurement than 100 days.

MARTIN: Well, given that you said that he embraced the 100 days whether he liked it or not, what would you say has been his biggest accomplishment and what would you say has been his biggest setback? I mean, obviously, he pointed to the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

LIASSON: Well, that was really interesting because this is what Donald Trump does best. You heard him say for the first time ever we've confirmed a new justice in the first 100 days, the last time that happened was 136 years ago as if that was an incredible accomplishment. There was an opening on the Supreme Court that was kept open for him by Mitch McConnell.

And yes, he confirmed Neil Gorsuch. This was one of the rare things that he farmed out, basically, to the Heritage Foundation, to Republicans who knew how to do this. This was a picture-perfect nomination process. They got him approved. But I guess I would say that was his greatest accomplishment. Conservatives are happy with this. His biggest failure probably was failing to repeal and replace Obamacare.

MARTIN: And as we've said, you're going to be with us throughout the hour. We only have about 30 seconds left. But how do you compare this period to that of his predecessors?

LIASSON: Well, if the metric is legislation, which the White House complains bitterly about that and I think they have some points there, he didn't accomplish as much as his predecessors. They signed more bills. On the other hand, he got a conservative on the Supreme Court and started to dismantle Obama-era regulations. That matters.

MARTIN: And as I said, Mara Liasson is kind enough to stick around. We're actually coming back to Mara in a few minutes in our Barbershop conversation. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.
Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.