The Trump Administration: 100 Days in 2 Minutes
His boastfulness knows few bounds. “I truly believe that the first 100 days of my administration has been just about the most successful in our country’s history,” he said in his weekly address on Friday.
His Twitter account, of course, has been the vehicle for all sorts of outbursts that defy tradition, often fueled by the latest segment on Fox News. Presidents rarely taunt reality-show hosts about poor ratings, complain about late-night television comedy skits, berate judges or members of their own party who defy them, trash talk Hollywood stars and Sweden, declare the “fake news” media to be “the enemy of the American people” or accuse the last president of illegally wiretapping them without any proof.
David Gergen, a White House aide to four presidents, including Reagan, noted that Franklin D. Roosevelt talked about the “moral leadership” of the presidency. “Unfortunately, we have lost sight of that vision in recent years, and it has almost disappeared during the first 100 days of the Trump administration,” Mr. Gergen said.
Another change to the presidency involves Mr. Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns — a practice of presidents for 40 years — and his continued ownership of a vast business empire that includes properties both overseas and blocks from the White House. “He has overstepped the ethics limits that have bound all other presidents for decades,” said Norman L. Eisen, a chief White House ethics adviser under Mr. Obama.
Beyond that, Mr. Trump has been slow to create a structure like those in past administrations. Orders and memos have not always been reviewed by all relevant officials. Meetings are not always attended by key aides who are leery of leaving the president’s side. “The notion of a chain of command is gone,” said David F. Gordon, the State Department director of policy planning under President George W. Bush.
But if the presidency had grown somewhat stale under the old norms as its occupants increasingly stuck to carefully crafted talking points and avoided spontaneity, Mr. Trump has brought back a certain authenticity and willingness to engage. His frequent news conferences and interviews can be bracingly candid, uninhibited, even raw. He leaves little mystery about what is on his mind.
“The 2016 election wasn’t a delicate request to challenge existing traditions; it was a demand that our next president do things different,” said Jason Miller, a top adviser to Mr. Trump during the campaign. “And while the professional political class struggles to understand what has happened to their hold on power, supporters of President Trump — the forgotten men and women he referenced in his Inaugural Address — love the change they’re seeing.”
Presumably Mr. Trump will remain impulsive and even impetuous, but he has also been open to advice. He was talked out of lifting sanctions on Russia, moving the American embassy to Jerusalem, abandoning the “one China” policy, tearing up the Iran nuclear agreement, reversing the diplomatic opening to Cuba, closing the Export-Import Bank, declaring China a currency manipulator and, in recent days, terminating the North American Free Trade Agreement. He may still do some or all of these, but by waiting, he has the opportunity to lay the groundwork rather than act precipitously.
He now receives his intelligence briefings most days. And aides said they had noticed signs of growth in office, pointing to his decision to strike Syria after it used chemical weapons on civilians and his private efforts to persuade Egypt to release an imprisoned American aid worker. Both cases showed that Mr. Trump “has absorbed the responsibilities of the office and the impact of the decisions he makes,” said a White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the boss.
Even if Mr. Trump adapts, though, the larger question is whether the institution will ever be the same. Future presidents may feel freer to make unfounded statements, withhold tax returns or keep private business interests without fear of political penalty. Taboos once broken no longer seem inviolable.
Still, Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, a senior adviser to President Bill Clinton and chief of staff for Mr. Obama, said there might be a backlash once Mr. Trump leaves office. “After Trump, there will be a collective desire to return to tradition,” he predicted. “Whoever comes next will be the anti-Trump in style and character. That’s how it works.”
Karl Rove, the senior adviser to the younger Mr. Bush, agreed. “President Trump will make it difficult for future presidents to step back from the use of social media,” he said, “but it’s very likely the next administration will be more restrained and less personal.” The next president, he added, will probably deploy social media as a premeditated strategy. “It will be part of a plan, not a method of catharsis.”
Meena Bose, the director of the Peter S. Kalikow Center for the Study of the American Presidency at Hofstra University, said Mr. Trump’s presidency so far seemed unlike almost any other, except perhaps Andrew Jackson’s. She noted that Jackson was seen as erratic at the time but was later evaluated by historians as a near-great president.
“Might the Trump presidency be viewed similarly someday?” she asked. “Difficult to see at the 100-day mark, but that is an artificial measurement, with so much of the presidency still to come.”