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Thursday, April 6, 2017

Best start ever? Well, hell, yeah! It's the Harrison Standard.

President Trump on Thursday insisted he’s had “one of the most successful” starts as president in U.S. history, dismissing the chaos and stalled legislative agenda that has marred his first 100 days in office.

"I think we’ve had one of the most successful 13 weeks in the history of the presidency,” Trump told reporters on Air Force One.

-The Hill, April 6, 2017

He has also only held office for 11 weeks, even though it may feel like 13 or even more.

-Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine, April 6, 2017

So here’s the President*, doing a 100 Days victory lap at Day 91.

"If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.”


First, why 100 Days?

In 2009, Time explained,

The 100-day timeline can be traced back to Napoleon Bonaparte, because that's how long it took him to return from exile, reinstate himself as ruler of France and wage war against the English and Prussian armies before his final defeat at the Battle of Waterloo. (It actually took 111 days, but we'll give him a mulligan.) Napoleon reclaimed power in 1815, however; Americans didn't start assessing their Presidents in 100-day increments until Franklin Delano Roosevelt came along more than a century later.

Roosevelt was a presidential overachiever — and his swift, take-charge method of governing was exactly what an ailing, Depression-weary nation needed in 1933. After delivering one of the most famous Inaugural speeches in presidential history — does the phrase "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself" sound familiar? — Roosevelt had been in office barely 24 hours when he declared a four-day bank holiday and drafted the Emergency Banking Act, which helped calm a financial panic that was quickly spiraling out of control. By the time he hit the 100-day mark, Roosevelt had instituted the "fireside chat" tradition, called Congress into a three-month-long special session and passed 15 pieces of major legislation — the beginning of what would come to be known as the New Deal — which created everything from the Tennessee Valley Authority to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. With farm credits, federal works projects and new financial regulations in place, the U.S. of June 1933 was a substantially different place from that of 100 days earlier.

A January article in says FDR represents the gold standard:

Available evidence generally suggests that presidents’ first 100 days have become less productive since the sprint at the beginning of FDR’s first term. Political scientists John Frendreis, Raymond Tatalovich and Jon Schaff, found that while the FDR effect may have put the pressure on modern presidents, modern Congresses aren’t any more productive during the first 100 days. They looked at presidents from William McKinley in 1897 to Bill Clinton in 1993, and found that the average number of laws passed during a president’s first 100 days period before the 81st Congress (1947-1949) was 46 compared to 16 in later Congresses. The last two presidents have followed suit: There were seven bills passed during George W. Bush’s first 100 days in 2001, and 11 in Obama’s in 2009, according to Govtrack’s statistics.

Roosevelt got 76 laws passed in 1933. Truman passed 55 in his first 100. After that, it has averaged about 16 each presidential kickoff.

President Lyndon Johnson, who went to Washington as a congressman in the FDR landslide of 1937, was obsessed by Roosevelt’s record: "Jerk out every damn little bill you can," President Lyndon Johnson reportedly commanded his strategist Larry O'Brien in 1965. "Put out that propaganda ... that [we've] done more than they did in Roosevelt's hundred days."

Time also reported Johnson’s successor, Richard Nixon, rejected the 100-days judgment, “telling the New York Times in 1969 that he preferred to be judged over the long term. Guess we know how well that turned out.”

Other 100 Day standouts include George Washington, who invented the presidency in that time.

Andrew Jackson came out of his 100 Days nicknamed “King Mob” after opening the White House to a drunken hillbilly public down from the sticks to see their populist leader sworn in on March 4, 1829. Barely a decade after the British burned it up, the celebrants nearly tore it down. President Trump has Jackson’s portrait in the Oval Office.

Jackson’s successor, Martin Van Buren, presided over the financial Panic of 1837 in his first 100, but took no action. Voters remembered that in 1840.

President Millard Fillmore signed the Fugitive Slave Act in his first 100 days. It was the 1850 version of President Trump’s deportation and punishment of sanctuary cities plan.

In 1857, President-elect James Buchanan was lobbying Supreme Court justices to decide the Dred Scott case in favor of slaveowners. The court did, and issued its notorious opinion two days after Buchanan, the bachelor Andrew Jackson taunted as Miss Nancy, moved into The White House.

Buchanan’s successor, Abraham Lincoln, snuck into DC in the dark as southern states began seceding from the Union, For Sumter fell, and within days he launched the bloodiest war in American history. Pretty consequential, that all was.

President Wilson began weekly press conferences during his first days in office, and launched a progressive agenda that still enrages conservatives of the Glenn Beck ilk.

But in fairness, there is a presidential benchmark against which the President’s statement is indisputably true.

By Day 91 of his presidency, William Henry Harrison, who took office in 1841- twenty months younger than Donald Trump- had been dead for sixty days. As president he’d visited the six cabinet departments, nominated their heads, interviewed streams of office seekers, attended lots of social events, and called a special session of Congress.

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