Editorial Board

Turning the Page on Trump's First 100 Days

A meaningless milestone has passed. Now, the real work begins.

Just 45 months to go.

Photographer: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

Finally, thankfully, the first 100 days of the Trump presidency have passed. This meaningless standard for judging a president can now fade into oblivion, where it belongs, and where it will remain for at least another four years.

Maybe the passage of the 100-day mark will allow both the president and those who write about him (which includes, of course, editorial writers) to focus on doing their actual jobs, rather than obsessing over an artificial and ahistorical standard that few Americans care about.

The news media’s obsession with the first 100 days, shared by Donald Trump -- or vice versa, as you prefer -- had the effect of making the president of the United States act like a college student worried he doesn’t have enough credits to graduate. Trump and the White House staff spent much of last week touting his (less than) “historic accomplishments” and trying to create the appearance of dramatic action, no matter how superficial (a 200-word tax plan), unlikely (a quickie revival of a bill to repeal Obamacare), inflammatory (threatening to leave Nafta), or outrageously anti-democratic (breaking up the federal court system’s 9th Circuit).

In the end, Trump succeeded in doing what he does best -- generating headlines -- without doing any of the hard work necessary to adopt sweeping changes. Now that the deadline has passed and its insignificance is clear, Trump and the media need to focus on what he wants to accomplish rather than a list of accomplishments. The college student has a few more semesters before graduation.

“I thought it would be easier,” Trump said last week of the presidency, displaying an extraordinary lack of respect for -- and understanding of -- the office he asked the American people to entrust him with.

If Trump is beginning to grasp that governing is hard, that would be the best news to emerge from his first 100 days. But to succeed, in addition to devoting more time and energy to building a strong team, he will need to start showing that he is capable of the kind of hard work successful presidents engage in: diligent study of the issues, constant cultivation of both parties in Congress, and measured diplomacy with foreign leaders.

Trump has plenty of time to develop a real tax reform package, improve Obamacare, modernize Nafta, and work on many other major issues facing the country. The key word is “work.” And now that the silliness of the 100 days is over, it’s time for the president to get down to it.

The real test of a president’s first few months in office lies in his (or her) success in filling out the senior ranks of government with talented and capable leaders, and getting them to work together as a team. Trump’s failure to pass that test will hobble his administration far more than the critical news stories he has focused on avoiding.

(Corrects name of multilateral organization Trump threatened to leave in third paragraph of article published May 1.)

    --Editors: Francis Barry, Michael Newman

    To contact the senior editor responsible for Bloomberg View’s editorials: David Shipley at davidshipley@bloomberg.net.

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