Why Trump's 100-day benchmark doesn't matter

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Donald Trump (file photo)

President Donald Trump told Reuters Thursday that his first 100 days as president of the United States failed to meet his expectations. "I thought it would be easier," he said.

A Google of "Trump" and "100 days" returns dozens of timelines and lists and rankings of all he has and hasn't accomplished, untruths he has and hasn't told, and promises he has and hasn't fulfilled less than 1/14th of the way into his (at least) 1,460-day presidency.

"It doesn't mean much in substantive terms. It's just 100 days," said Dean David Birdsell of the Baruch College School of Public And International Affairs. He traced the origin of this nearly-meaningless milestone back to the inauguration of the last American president from the state of New York, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

"It's an FDR invention," Birdsell said. "It particularly caught media attention with JFK."

So, part of the fascination with the first 100 days likely stems from the history of that benchmark -- and perhaps some laziness on the parts of those like me resorting to a familiar formula to satisfy the need for a story. But in the case of this presidency, we can trace much of the focus on the first 100 days back to the president himself.

"It's something Donald Trump wants to be measured by because he wants to show he's got the best, fastest, most ambitious presidency in the history of the presidency," Birdsell said.

At rallies around the nation and the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, candidate Trump promised to pass broad-sweeping changes during his first 100 days, from replacing Obamacare to reforming this nation's tax code. But on his 92nd day in office, President Trump called the first 100 days a "ridiculous standard."

"By every measure, the 100-day mark is looking like a pretty slim handful of achievements for President Trump," Birdsell said. "Again, it doesn't really matter."

Most policies take far longer than three months to formulate, longer still to pass into law, and longer still to achieve noticeable results. So on Day 101, we'll all wake up and the Trump presidency will continue.

We may now lack a next deadline at which to revisit all of Trump's promises, but Birdsell pointed to a November Tuesday not quite two years away.

"The big sort of gestalt frame, the sort of picture of everything, is the midterm election," he said.