A few days ago the Trump administration passed the 100 day milestone, and I can’t help but think, “So what?”
Yes, there are many symbolic interpretations to be taken from this time-honored tradition. But I challenge you: does it really matter? Is our republic so weak as to rely, so heavily on what a man can do in an arbitrary set of days? Our founders never envisioned this in the role of the Executive Branch. Their expectations for government more broadly were never so ambitious. They were going for progression, not perfection. And for that reason, I’m hopeful for our nation. So the better question the president, his allies and the Congress should be asking is: What does Day 101 look like?
There are many challenges. The president must continue to shift and show the country that he is a leader who came to Washington to govern, and be president for all. That means taking care of the business of the nation — passing laws, paying bills, diplomacy abroad; these are the pillars of the republic, and ones we should be focusing on. I think Day 101 and the weeks beyond should be spent on three critical areas. If Trump can show progress there, he will send a strong message to the nation and the world that his is an administration that means business.
When it comes to economic growth, there are so many directions this mandate can take, but it begins with shoring up our ability as a nation to meet and pay our debts, restrain spending, and keep our debt-to-growth ratio in check. Items such as a continuing resolution, raising the debt ceiling, etc., may not be attractive in the eyes of the masses, but they are necessary for a nation where one federal department’s budget is greater than the GDP of 100 foreign countries. And here the president can certainly lead. And more importantly, the summation of these successes leads to a major goal for Trump — fundamental tax reform. He should use the bully pulpit to make that a hallmark of his first four years.
Think long game. Don’t pledge another bumbled blitzkrieg to jam through a measure of that magnitude. Take your time; involve bipartisan partners; negotiate a deal and then well, write a book about it. Every major tax bill has needed support from broad constituencies. This will be no different. Trump has the mind for this sort of maneuver. He should employ it.
The Trump administration must show wisdom abroad. The next few months are critical for the United States on the world stage. A North Korean threat should be taken seriously. Desperate men do desperate things. Additionally, the Middle East is never stable, Syria needs more than rhetoric, and the Taliban seems anxious to make a comeback as the world’s leader in terrorism given the mass soldier shooting in Iraq just days ago. The president was smart to dispatch military assets off of Japan. These times call for the proper mix of diplomacy and show of force.
I also believe Trump would be wise to employ his secretaries of state and defense. Use them — especially Secretary Tillerson and Nikki Haley — to be the interlocutors on behalf of the White House. They can serve as the proper channels to convey Trump’s doctrine without involving the president himself. That only makes sense given so much uncertainty and fluidity around the globe.
President Trump also needs to build out his team. This task seems insignificant for a new president, but the effect of its failure has reverberations felt throughout government. In his best-selling book “Good to Great,” business guru Jim Collins writes that a hallmark of successful organizations and leaders starts by getting “the right people on the bus.” The federal government is very large, with many executive slots that remain empty. I believe to my core that small, easy accomplishments can start occurring just by having like-minded personnel at the helm channeling Trump’s agenda day in, day out. That’s a task that Kushner and Priebus can take on collectively and show others in the White House complex that they can work together for a common good.
It all goes back to governing. The American electorate is ready for this change, and because the government permeates every facet of our lives, they will start to see the change even in their daily activities. “Make America Great Again” is more than a slogan. It’s a pursuit that can and must encompass even the smallest functions of government in order to live up to the weightiness of its words. That pursuit will continue well beyond any imaginary marker.