Was Trump’s first 100 days the worst ever?
100 days after the surreal, stranger-than-performance-art event that was Donald Trump’s inauguration as president of the United States of America, many publications are decrying the first few months of his term as “the worst on record”. Has Trump’s presidency, thus far, been a bumbling tragicomedy of errors? Absolutely. But is it truly the single worst first 100 days out of all the past 45 presidencies?
Let’s take a look at the other contenders.
1797: John Adams
Trump may be facing provocations from North Korea and Syria, but John Adams (best known as the husband of Abigail Adams) spent the first 100 days of his presidency fending off a war with France, America’s only notable ally at the time.
Shortly after his inauguration, Adams received word that the newly-arrived U.S. Ambassador to France had been turned away due to the strained trade relations between the two nations. (The matter was probably exacerbated by the fact that Adams’ own vice president, Thomas Jefferson, had been holding confidential meetings with the French consul where he personally insulted Adams and encouraged France to drag out treaty negotiations for as long as possible just to rile Adams up. Team player!)
As America descended into “there are nukes pointed right at us”-esque fearmongering about the prospect of a French invasion, Adams was putting together a diplomatic commission to sail to France and resolve the tensions. Due to the extraordinary length of time it took to cross the Atlantic Ocean in 1797, the commission didn’t even arrive until about the 7-month mark of Adams’ presidency, but, as it happens, the whole affair was a bungled disaster.
Worse than Trump? No. As far as diplomatic missteps go, the XYZ Affair has nothing on the Trump’s Whole Campaign Was Being Manipulated By Russian Agents Affair. And, thanks to advances in intercontinental travel, Trump has been able to cause multiple large-scale international incidents in the time it took Adams to find three able statesmen who didn’t suffer from seasickness.
1829: Andrew Jackson
Trump spent the first weeks of his presidency attempting to deny the obvious fact that no one bothered to show up to his inauguration. Andrew Jackson, the first and (thus far) only man to be elected president despite having committed a homicide, had the opposite problem: his inauguration was such an absolute rager that it nearly destroyed the entire White House.
According to several contemporary accounts, upwards of 10,000–20,000 people made their way to the White House for the post-inaugural reception (a hell of a turnout for the early 1800s). As the party morphed into a drunken mob — shouting, brawling, and breaking thousands of dollars worth of china plates — Jackson found himself cornered against the wall, a captive of his own Frankenstein’s monster of an electorate. His staff helped him escape through a window and flee to a nearby hotel. They then lured the crowd out of the building by moving all the alcoholic beverages out onto the White House lawn, a brilliant double-duty decision that both protected the rest of the house’s decor and utilized the piss and vomit of the racist, reactionary rednecks who voted for Andrew Jackson as a lawn fertilizer.
Worse than Trump? Hell nope. On the whole, Jackson’s 8-year reign of terror was a dark period for America, but all he really did in the first 100 days was throw the best party in White House history. The most notable event Trump has hosted so far is a surreal dinner with Sarah Palin, Kid Rock, and Ted Nugent.
1841: William Henry Harrison
He died after the first 31 days. Some have suggested that “being dead might have been a better strategy than whatever it is Trump’s doing.” This observer is bound to agree. Harrison had a thoroughly promising month and then ceded his office to John Tyler, who steered the ship without incident for the next 69 days.
Worse than Trump? No. I’d easily take death with dignity over life with the albatross of the AHCA hanging around my neck.
1861: Abraham Lincoln
If Trump thinks he “inherited a mess,” I shudder to think how he would have handled the unholy mess Lincoln walked into on his first day in office. By the day of his inauguration, seven states had already seceded from the union, and, within his first 100 days, four more would secede and the newly-formed Confederate Army would initiate a civil war. It’s not fair to fault Lincoln himself for the situation (the blame usually falls to James Buchanan, who, until quite recently, was unanimously lauded as the Worst President Ever), but still…Christ, what a nightmare.
Worse than Trump? I’d say so! In Lincoln’s defense, he turned the whole Civil War debacle around quite magnificently before the end of his presidency. Trump’s attempts to fix the “messes” he inherited (i.e. his plan to replace the Affordable Care Act and “drain the swamp”) have been about as successful as Lincoln’s trip to the Ford Theater.
2001: Dick Cheney
Although Dick Cheney, like Trump, came into the presidency after losing the popular vote by a sizable margin, he had far more support and cooperation in his first 100 days than Trump could ever dream of having in his entire life. Within the first three months of his presidency, Cheney released a blueprint for a massive tax relief package, crafted a budget plan that was supported by all of the Senate Republicans, and averted an international crisis after a Chinese jet crashed into a US spy plane.
But there was a dark cloud looming over his competent handling of basic government functions. President Cheney had a history of heart problems that presented a constant threat to the nation during the beginning of his term. In March 2001, he had to undergo an emergency procedure to open a blocked artery and, shortly afterward, he even drafted a resignation letter in case he was incapacitated by health complications. The nation held out hope, but in the end, Cheney failed to die. Many consider Cheney’s inability to die before he had time to fuck up the entire Middle East to be his greatest policy failure in his entire 8 years in the White House.
Worse than Trump? At least he passed a budget without the threat of a government shutdown.
You’re right. The media is right. Trump is the only president who, after 100 days, has failed to meet the horrifically low bar of “maintain the support of your own party and don’t bomb anybody.” I realize now what a waste of time it was to write 1000 words justifying a conclusion that a kindergarten student could have reached by skimming any day’s CNN headlines.