TRUMP’S FIRST 100 DAYS: Here’s how they compare with Obama’s, Bush’s, and Clinton’s
Franklin D. Roosevelt got more done in his first 100 days in office than any president before him or any since. He took office in the depths of the Great Depression, enacting a dizzying number of laws and signing executive orders to stabilize the economy with the New Deal.
Roosevelt is the reason people focus on the first 100 days. When presidents take office, they have the most political capital to enact their agenda. Studies have found that it’s the most productive time for legislative action.
Of course, presidents don’t have total control over their time in office. Ronald Reagan was shot during his first 100 days and spent the last month in the hospital. Bill Clinton’s first months were distracted by the controversial “don’t ask, don’t tell” military policy, then the fatal raid in Waco, Texas. George W. Bush bombed Iraq, and Barack Obama had to save Captain Richard Phillips from Somali pirates.
Donald Trump’s 100th day in office is Saturday. How has his tenure compared with that of the last three presidents?
We looked at how many executive orders they signed, how many laws they enacted, how the economy performed, where they traveled, what their approval ratings were, and, for fun, how often they golfed.
Here’s how they stack up:
The number of bills signed into law is just part of the story. The vast differences between the number of pages or words those bills contained start to reveal what types of laws they were and what effects they ultimately had.
According to Josh Tauberer, founder of the legislative database GovTrack, bills with more words generally create government programs, and those with fewer are often rolling back regulations or programs. Obama’s stimulus package to keep the government funded had 358,113, and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act had 294,307.
Trump signed a NASA bill to send humans to Mars, and a resolution to keep the government funded and prevent a shutdown for another week. The bill tied to his effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (commonly known as Obamacare) failed to get a vote in the House.
“Either way, it helps to keep in mind that neither Trump nor Obama wrote the laws they signed,” Tauberer told Business Insider. “They can only sign the bills that Congress gives them, and although presidents like to take lots of credit, they actually have an insignificant role in the passage of most of them.”
(The White House’s press release touting Trump’s accomplishments in 100 days versus those of his predecessors cited the wrong number of laws for Obama and Clinton. It may have relied on a FiveThirtyEight article that used data from a study that measured laws passed during Congress’s first 100 days, not the presidents’.)
Trump said Obama was abusing his power by signing so many executive orders. But in just 100 days, Trump has signed nearly as many as Obama averaged in a year.
Most of Trump’s executive actions have reversed Obama-era regulations and efforts to protect the environment.
Scholars have typically used the number of executive orders per term to measure how much presidents have exercised their power. George Washington signed only eight in his entire time in office, according to the American Presidency Project, while FDR penned over 3,700.
Here’s a quick guide to every executive order Trump signed in his first 100 days »
While Trump complained on Twitter in February that “obstruction by Democrats” had left his Cabinet unfilled, he has more members confirmed than Clinton did at 100 days.
But Trump hasn’t nominated 465 of the 556 executive-branch jobs that require Senate confirmation, leaving acting officials in those posts. The Senate can’t vote to confirm his officials until Trump appoints them, and experts warn that Trump may not be able to enact his agenda until he has his appointees in place.
Here’s who Trump has chosen for senior leadership positions »
Presidents, coming off successful campaigns, typically enter office with high approval ratings that erode over time. For most of his first 100 days, Trump’s approval rating was the worst for a US commander-in-chief in recent history.
His popular-vote loss of nearly 3 million, controversial travel ban barring people from majority-Muslim countries, and bombastic tweets all contributed to Trump’s lower approval rating.
It started ticking back up, however, earlier this month after he ordered a missile strike in Syria after a chemical attack in the country and after the US dropped the “mother of all bombs” on ISIS in Afghanistan.
Presidents inherit economic circumstances, including unemployment rates, which are a lagging indicator.
Clinton took office at the tail end of a modest recession, while Bush came in at the end of the ’90s boom. Obama’s term began amid the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
And Trump entered the Oval Office as the long, slow recovery from the Great Recession finally began to show signs of economic normality — the March unemployment rate, the most recently published in the first 100 days, was at a postcrisis low.
Another big jobs-market indicator is the weekly count of Americans applying for unemployment benefits for the first time. Economists and market watchers say this number is a good proxy for the rate of layoffs in the economy, as people who have recently lost their jobs tend to quickly apply for benefits.
As with the unemployment rate, the initial unemployment claims metric reflects the economic conditions facing a new president. During the first 100 days of Obama’s term, about 640,000 people on average per week were applying for benefits. Under Trump so far, that average number has dropped to a more manageable 250,000.
After the 2016 election, stocks shot up dramatically as investors looked forward to the incoming administration’s presumably more business-friendly policies and expected tax cuts. Since Trump’s inauguration, stocks have risen, but at a more measured clip.
During Obama’s first 100 days, stocks were crashing in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis before turning around in early March. Obama told reporters at a press conference on March 3, 2009, that buying stocks was “a potentially good deal” — three days later, the S&P 500 hit its intraday low and began to turn around.
While Clinton made one international trip in his first 100 days and Bush made two, Obama jet-set to nine countries. Trump has yet to travel anywhere outside the US. He has a NATO meeting planned in Brussels, Belgium, in May.
Since taking office, Trump hasn’t stayed overnight anywhere except the White House or Mar-a-Lago, his private club in South Beach, Florida. His day trips to US states haven’t ventured west of the Mississippi River.
Obama’s golf outings were another favorite target of Trump’s before he took office, and Trump once said that, as president, he was “not going to have time to go play golf.”
Once in office, he clearly found more time than his predecessors had.
Clinton played more golf than Obama did in the first 100 days, according to his official daily schedules.