WILKES-BARRE — Some say it’s been the best first 100 days in presidential history, while others say it’s been abysmal.
Still others think that the traditional rating of any U.S. president’s first 100 days in office is unfair, unnecessary and even ridiculous.
However, those who support Donald Trump and those who still can’t believe he was elected the country’s 45th president are quick to offer their thoughts on the first 100 days, which began on Jan. 20 and ended April 29.
Thomas Baldino, Ph.D., a political science professor at Wilkes University, said using a president’s first 100 days in office as a measure of success is rather arbitrary and mostly the creation of journalists.
“It’s been a popular yardstick of presidential productivity at least since the first FDR administration,” Baldino said. “Personally, it’s not a measure that I find useful; however, candidate Trump repeatedly asserted that he would accomplish a great deal in his first 100 days.”
Baldino said Trump even borrowed from Newt Gingrich’s 1994 congressional campaign and championed his “Contract with the American voter” as his 100-day action plan to “make America great again.”
“Because President Trump essentially invited the people to evaluate him using his own measure, it seems more than fair to do so,” Baldino said.
Given that challenge, then evaluate we must.
Baldino said Trump “is long on rhetoric and short on substance,” and he continues to talk about issues and problems, but hasn’t moved on many of them with meaningful, concrete actions.
“Perhaps his major accomplishment is naming Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court and then having him confirmed by the Senate,” Baldino said. “He severed the U.S. from the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement. Using executive orders as well as Congress passing legislation under the Congressional Review Act, he’s rolled back a number of the Obama administration’ executive orders dealing with environmental regulations, job safety and teacher preparation, to name just a few.”
That said, Baldino notes that quite a few of Trump’s executive orders are more policy statements than changes in policy in that the orders don’t really change how federal employees implement federal rules and laws.
“He hasn’t yet had a major legislative success,” Baldino said. “The repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act failed, reforming the federal tax code, building the border wall with Mexico and dumping NAFTA.
To hold Trump to his own standard, Baldino said it’s fair to say that he hasn’t accomplished as much as he expected in terms of hard or tangible laws and policies.
“But he has definitely shaken up the Washington establishment, something that he also said he would do,” he said.
Barletta defends his president
U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, who was an early supporter of Trump’s candidacy, listed several highlights of the first 100 days:
• Adding 533,000 new jobs.
• Signing 28 bills into law.
• Signing 32 executive orders.
• Signing into law 13 Congressional Review Act bills, rolling-back $65 billion of excessive regulations.
• Ushering through the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.
• Approving the Keystone XL Pipeline.
• Holding Syria accountable for the use of chemical weapons.
• Cutting illegal border crossings down 70 percent to a 17-year low.
“President Trump has moved quicker than any president in recent history to deliver on his promises to the American people,” Barletta said. “He has signed more executive orders and enacted more legislation than any president during his first 100 days in over 50 years.”
Barletta, R-Hazleton, said Trump deserves credit for working with Congress to roll-back “Obama’s disastrous policies,” while strengthening national security and protecting American jobs.
Barletta said the coal industry has life again thanks to Congress and the president.
“Our part of Pennsylvania was built on coal and constructed by the men and women who work in or near the mines,” Barletta said. “President Trump is finally looking out for those workers and their jobs.”
Trump’s approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline was a huge victory for domestic energy production and manufacturing jobs in Pennsylvania, Barletta said, adding that the number of people who say the economy is getting better for their family is higher today than it’s been in over a decade.
“That’s a testament to the president’s leadership and his commitment to helping the American worker,” he said.
On foreign policy, Barletta said Trump has shown he is not afraid to stand-up and defend America’s place as a leader in the world — the targeted airstrikes in Syria are a prime example.
“President Trump took decisive action to send a message to the world that our nation will not stand by while a dictator brutally murders civilians, including women and children,” Barletta said. “Our country is once again a world power that our allies can rely on and our enemies must respect.
Barletta said Trump has also made significant progress on stopping illegal immigration — he said illegal border crossings are down 70 percent “and we haven’t laid a single brick yet for the wall.”
Barletta said, “Thanks to President Trump, we are finally having a national conversation about the need to secure our borders and enforce our immigration laws.”
Cartwright, Casey not as impressed
Across the aisle on the Democratic side, U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey said they are not celebrating Trump’s “failures.”
“People voted for him because they are hurting, and feel the government is not helping them,” Cartwright said. “So when the government fails, that means it is doing even less to help the people in pain. And that is not cause for celebration.”
Cartwright, D-Moosic, said what would really help Northeastern Pennsylvania would be if the president kept his promise of a trillion-dollar rebuilding package.
“The failure that bothers me the most is the White House’s budget, which doesn’t even mention infrastructure spending, and completely ignores that promise,” Cartwright said.
Casey, D-Scranton, said Trump has focused far too much on policies that help big corporations and the wealthy, instead of policies that help the middle class.
“It’s time for President Trump to focus on jobs and income growth, which can be achieved through investments in infrastructure, repairing our roads and bridges,” Casey said.
Casey said instead of investing in the middle class, Trump has pursued a health care scheme that would raise costs for families, impose an age tax on older Pennsylvanians and cut services for seniors and those with disabilities.
Casey said he supported Trump withdrawing the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, calling it “another unfair trade deal,” and his efforts to renegotiate NAFTA.
“But more must be done in these areas,” Casey said. “In order to make progress for Pennsylvanians, President Trump must abandon far right congressional Republicans and pursue areas of common ground.”
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh Valley, who didn’t actively support Trump during the campaign, said he has mixed feelings about the first 100 days. Toomey said he is encouraged by the regulations that have been rolled back and the president’s engagement on health care.
“We had a stumble in the House, but I’m confident we’ll get that done,” Toomey said. “The president wants to do tax reform which I completely agree with and would serve as a very important tool for generating stronger economic growth.”
Toomey said he feels Trump has assembled “a fantastic national security team” and the strike in Syria was necessary, appropriate, and long overdue.
“President Obama should have done it in 2013, but better late than never,” Toomey said.
But, Toomey said, he and Trump have had their differences.
“I thought the roll-out of the limitation on immigration from the seven countries was poorly done and was not properly scoped,” Toomey said. “Generally though, I’m optimistic there’s a lot of good things we can accomplish.”
Center for American Progress
Sam Berger, senior policy adviser for the Center for American Progress, said while Trump has claimed that he will re-shape the Republican Party into the party of the American worker, his legislative agenda to date has been nothing but damaging to working- and middle-class families he vowed to help
The Center for American Progress is an independent non-partisan policy institute dedicated “to improving the lives of all Americans, through bold, progressive ideas, as well as strong leadership and concerted action.”
“After failing to pass his health care bill that would strip 24 million people of health coverage and seeing his Muslim ban stymied in court, President Donald Trump has staked the success of his first 100 days on his efforts to overturn regulations legislatively,” Berger said. “But analyzing these efforts shows that, much like his agenda overall, they put the interests of large corporations before those of the American people.”
All told, Berger said Trump’s legislation will provide businesses with more than $7 billion dollars in giveaways over the next decade while causing a net loss in jobs, millions in reduced wages, and the elimination of important consumer protections.
“Trump and the Republican Congress’ first 100 days have revealed their real priorities — letting corporations set the agenda while hardworking families pay the price,” Berger said. “His campaign promises stand in stark contrast to the proof — Trump has been a boon to big business, but a disaster for everyone else.”
Local residents offer comments
Frank DeViva, owner of The Bakehouse at Kingston Corners, said 100 days is “a silly time frame” to accurately judge a president’s performance.
“With all that needs to be addressed, 100 days doesn’t seem to be enough time to have an impact,” DeViva said. “Especially for a president who does not have a lot of knowledge about how the system works in Washington. I don’t think it’s fair to expect much in the first 100 days.”
DeViva said the people who elected Trump do have expectations that he will make America better, as his campaign slogan stated. He said some jobs have been returned to the U.S., and he expects more to come.
“I think the biggest accomplishment for Trump is that he has created hope where previously there was none,” DeViva said.
DeViva said Northeastern Pennsylvania’s economy has been “abysmal” for many years. He said he hopes Trump can do something to create “a more legitimate job base” in the region.
“We need better paying job,” he said. “Jobs that can sustain a family.”
Al and Carol Semanek, of Swoyersville, summarized Trump’s first 100 days in one word — “disaster.” Al Semanek said Trump doesn’t have the right temperament to be president, adding that he’s not credible.
“He just doesn’t seem to be trustworthy,” Semanek said.
Carol Semanek said she feels most people are disappointed with Trump so far.
“I think he got elected because he was anti-establishment,” she said. “As far as the future, I think there are a lot of questions. All we can do is hope for the best.”
John Cordaro, of Luzerne, said any president should be given more than 100 days to be fairly evaluated.
“That should be the case in any job, especially the president of the United States,” Cordaro said. “I think the first 100 days is a learning process and not a time to be judged.”
Over the course of his 100 days in office, President Donald Trump has been startlingly candid about his public education in the ways of Washington and the world. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.