100 days then and now

USA Today rounded up a panel of observers to grade President Trump on his first 100 days in office. It’s a tough crowd. Five of the 10 contributors award Trump a D or lower. Glenn Reynolds stands out in the crowd. Glenn teaches law, presides over InstaPundit and writes a regular column for USA Today. He awards Trump an A+. Grade inflation has nothing to do with it. His case is inarguable:

A+ Not Hillary: President Trump was elected in no small part because he was not Hillary Clinton, and he’s done an A+ job of not being Hillary Clinton during his first 100 days. And as additional news about Hillary’s shambolic presidential campaign has come out — including revelations that she combed through staff emails from her previous campaign and assigned people “loyalty scores” — the importance of having a president who is not Hillary Clinton seems even greater than it did in November. And, I’m happy to say, I expect President Trump to go on not being Hillary Clinton for the next four (or eight!) years. A+ job, Mr. President!

To borrow a phrase: I’m with him. To account for Justice Gorsuch and other matters undoing works and days of the Obama administration, you would even have to raise the grade, but the point stands.

Charles Kesler exploded the whole “Hundred Days” thing in a brief Wall Street Journal column drawn from his editorial in the forthcoming Claremont Review of Books. Although the column is brief, it doesn’t take long to show that the HD concept is “humbug,” as the headline has it.

The HD concept is attributable, of course, to FDR. Now here is something I didn’t know:

FDR spoke of “the hundred days which had been devoted to the starting of the wheels of the New Deal” in his fireside chat of July 24, 1933—142 days after his March 4 inauguration. He was referring to “the historical special session of the Congress” he had convened, which opened March 9 and adjourned June 16. That is, the Hundred Days were legislative days, not executive days.

Today’s Congress commonly leaves Washington three days a week. If you wanted to apply Roosevelt’s implicit criterion of 100 congressional days, you’d be counting not to April 30, but into July or August—or even September or later, since Congress is in recess the whole month of August.

This all by itself undermines the high concept HD that is up for discussion today.

President Roosevelt took office on March 4, 1933. Treating FDR’s HD on its own terms, Charles observes that the bank panic was then in progress and FDR’s first bill — the Emergency Banking Act — was “introduced on March 9 at 12:37 p.m., and on its way to the president at 7:23.” The act successfully facilitated the opening of banks that had been closed across the country by order of President Roosevelt himself for a four-day “bank holiday” on March 6. The bank runs were over.

In the present case, the need to let President Obama depart at the legally appointed hour was urgent, as was the need to keep the Clintons away from their old haunts in the White House. But we face no comparable emergency to the bank closings today. Moreover, the Emergency Banking Act had been drafted by the Treasury during President Hoover’s closing days in office. That’s why it was ready to go on March 9.

Beyond the Emergency Banking Act, FDR’s HD proved in the fullness of time to be something of a bust. Charles provides a partial accounting:

Congress did enact leading elements of the New Deal during the Hundred Days. But within two years the Supreme Court had gutted the National Industrial Recovery Act. The administration never attempted to revive it. In 1936 the same fate befell the Agricultural Adjustment Act, though in less sweeping fashion. Haste makes waste. Perhaps the most famous piece of legislation associated with the New Deal, the Social Security Act of 1935, had nothing to do with the Hundred Days.

As for Social Security itself, that’s another story.

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