Contemporary Characters

Historical Encounters

Page-turning Adventure


By A.K. Patch on Apr 28, 2017

How well has the First One Hundreds Days of the Trump administration gone? Turn on any cable news station, and the topic seems to be the focus of conversation.

The response to the question depends on what side of the aisle you’re on. Some hope that Donald Trump crashes and burns like a hydrogen-filled dirigible; at minimum, those on the left hope he is stopped from implementing his campaign promises. Others are cheering him on, hoping that he succeeds; yet most of these are still holding their breath But regardless of political position, one has to wonder at the inflated importance given to these first hundred days for any president.

While America prides itself on the peaceful transition of power, the great pendulum that defines American politics swings ever higher with each election cycle, and the polarity in this country becoming ever more divisive. The stonewalling, and the disruption caused by this polarity, makes one wonder what ever became of compromise for positive action. What about the needs of the populace amidst all of the spectacle?

Has the middle ground been dispatched with a permanent stake in the heart? Is this why President Trump is alternately vilified and deified, or is Trump the reason for the disharmony.  In short, which came first?

It’s hard to figure Trump out exactly. Even the most horrific fictional antagonist has to have some minute redeeming value. For those on the left who disagree with or even despise him, can anything positive be found in this new president?  And is abject fear, calculation, historical precedence, or the deep, unexpected wound of loss of power, philosophical direction, and the pocketbook of the nation driving this?  Or have they figured him out so well, so early on, that their view is on target and history will prove them right?

What is clear is that deep-seated, unending, unyielding to any argument, if there is any temperate discussion, polarity will end predictably, as it has throughout history. Consider Thucydides and his history of the Peloponnesian War. Democracy demands debate, but accessing reasonable debate now is like trying to finding D.B. Cooper.  And even free speech, one of the footings in the foundation of our republic, is now under assault.

Reviewing the first hundred days of past presidents’ terms has revealed that those first days do not necessarily reveal how successful the president’s first or second terms will ultimately be. Presidents can take office in times of turmoil. And that turmoil can easily set the perception of the beginning of a presidency.

That is the way of history. You’re lucky if you walk into calm gulf waters with a rum drink in your hand. Often, forces are building and ready to burst like a lanced boil. But character and leadership are not made in the long, cool grass.

We approach monumental decisions internally. Global challenges march towards us with deliberate cadence, no matter who is president. And while those first one-hundred days can take on a character of their own, even seem to chart a presidency’s entire course, sometimes what we construe in those first days does not quite tell the whole story.

To gain perspective, here are some of the worst first hundred days of past presidents.

  1. Martin Van Buren.  The Panic of 1837. Two months after he took over, interest rates, unemployment, Jackson's refusal to renew the Charter of the Second Bank of the United States, bank failures, and only coin purchases, helped to cause a sharp recession. Van Buren refused governmental intervention and largely took the blame for the downturn that lasted until 1844.
  2. William Henry Harrison.  In 1841 he gave a two hour inaugural speech in cold, wet weather and dies 30 days later. Typhoid Fever from poor water hygiene or pneumonia could have been the culprits. Poor ending for the hero of Tippicanoe.
  3. Millard Fillmore. Although he disagreed with slavery, he supported the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, demanding that slaves returned to their owners. Also, officials must arrest a suspected runaway slave or face a thousand dollar fine. Anyone aiding or not reporting a slave could also get six months in jail. It is said that in supporting this he helped sow the seeds of civil war.
  4. James Buchanon. President for only two days before the 1857 Dred Scott decision is made, mandating that slaves could be taken by their owners into the new territories and that negroes could not be citizens. More tinder for the horrible war to come.
  5. Lincoln.  During his first 100 days as president in 1861, the Civil War started..Could he have done anything to avoid it, or did history, fate, or forces beyond anyone’s ability to reverse the inevitability of armed conflict, doom the country to kill hundreds of thousands of its own.
  6. FDR.  In the first week of March 1933, during his first 100 days as president, the Great Depression causes FDR to close the banking system and enact the Emergency Banking Act which brought us FDIC insurance for deposits.
  7. JFK.   It was during thefirst 86 days of JFK’s presidency that he fails to provide air cover for the rebel attempt to take Cuba back from Fidel Castro. The invasion, forever after known as the Bay of Pigs disaster, fails and soon thereafter we have the Cuban Missile Crisis.
  8. Gerald Ford.  Soon after assuming the office of president on the heels of the shamed Richard Nixon’s departure, on September 4, 1974 Gerald Ford pardoned his predecessor.  Vilified for doing so at the time,historical perspective has made us look at Ford as a president who sacrificed his political career and capital for the good of the country.
  9. Ronald Reagan.  Shot 68 days into office by John Hinckley, Reagan survives and tells First Lady Nancy, "I forgot to duck." But many see this event as catalyst that began the onset of the dementia that would eventually consume Reagan.

Four years is a long time. Events that we cannot imagine will arise. Will some conflict arise and cause the citizens of this country to join together as one, like Pearl Harbor or 9/11 did? And does it always take a disaster for this synergy to occur?  Or might something else serve as a catalyst to societal cohesion?

Unless some disaster unites us, it is likely that we will thrash, insinuate, accuse, insult, even bludgeon our way through the Trump presidency. Until that day comes, we look more like Athens and Sparta... and we know how that ended.

So who or what can reverse this disturbing trend?

Allan Patch is the author of the contemporary/historical fiction thriller Apollo Series. Passage at Delphiand Delphi’s Chosen use contemporary characters, historical encounters, and page-turning adventure to pose the question: what must we learn from our past to ensure our future. Read more from Allan at