The One Hundred Days

Today, by my own personal calculation, would be the hundredth day of President Trump’s administration. You see, as a Catholic Christian, I count the first day, too. It will be tomorrow for those pagans who give the first day a zero.

Now, even by the time this is published, the day won’t be over. Who knows what may happen by the end of it, in Congress or in the world where, at several locations, United States missile batteries await the Trump tweet. One begins to see why the pagans might wait another day to judgment.

Except, they don’t wait. I have been reading, or rather, not reading but scanning, articles on “Trump’s first hundred days” in various media for what feels like more than a century of days. In one case, I noticed the author referred to the event as an “anniversary,” and realized that I was dealing with an illiterate as well as innumerate boob.

Not that God doesn’t love him; or that I should refuse to love him as a neighbor. I was merely making a pragmatic observation, as I have often done, about my former colleagues in the journalistic “profession”; merely hinting that gentle reader would be wiser to stick with the Poets, and with the Fathers and Doctors of the Church.

“Fifty Shades of Grey.” Why fifty? Perhaps I would know if I’d read the book. In the old days I might have had to review it, but in my present circumstances I’m relieved of such obligations. I don’t have to read pornography anymore, in order to “sell newspapers.” For that matter, the newspapers have faded, through fifty shades of grey or more.

In a magazine I once edited, we had a discussion about which numbers are funny. We agreed that round numbers were never funny, unless used in comic repetition. Better to use randoms as if they were round. But why, in a literary context, was one two- or three-digit number funnier than another?

There was no final answer. Context may be all; yet not all of it is knowable. The most on which we could agree is that odd numbers are funnier than even, and that prime numbers mysteriously beat out composite numbers for the purpose of raising a laugh.

This was a discussion for the “Queries” section. The proposer was assigned to write a parody scientific theory on the topic. It was never completed. We moved on to a more practical question, proposed by a reader. Why do string mops work better than sponge mops on almost any floor surface? That was never completed, either.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the witty but essentially humorless president who got the hundred days thing started. I associate his presidency with a remarkable triumph of hype, as for years on his watch the USA suffered through the Great Depression, but felt better about it because Mr. Roosevelt was doing something. (The War finally fixed it.)

Caesar by Adolphe Yvon, 1875 [Musée des Beaux-Arts, Arras, France]

He promised fast action, and while he did not, indeed could not, reverse the Great Depression that Herbert Hoover had not legislated, he was able to raise innumerable pillars for a vast new Nanny State bureaucracy in that short time. He had the Congress cowed by the magnitude of his victory. And besides, both chambers were chock with Democrats.

People want their presidents to “do something.” That is what makes Trump much like Roosevelt. Anyone can see he is “a doer.” And doers do things in one hundred days. The media, who loved Roosevelt but hate Trump, nevertheless concede that the latter has made a yuge difference.

“What a difference one hundred days makes,” they mutter, not to themselves. The whole tone of government has changed.

Actually, it did that in the first one hundred seconds. Mr. Trump’s inaugural speech made that plain. No one would henceforth confuse him with Obama.

To my mind, the rest is more noise. The man himself, with his sometimes winning candor, appears more dumbstruck by the size of the government he has inherited than any recent newbie. This is probably because he was not a professional politician, until just the other day. He could not possibly have been prepared for life in what has been described (by me, but also I think by Malcolm Muggeridge) as the world’s largest mental asylum. And few of the other inmates have changed.

He would build a wall to keep Americans out of Mexico. Or perhaps it was vice versa. He would have felons arrested, and restore the armed forces. He would spend a lot of money on infrastructure projects, cut taxes and get the economy moving again.

Sounded like another “progressive,” another Roosevelt, to me. A real doer.

Obama, to his credit, modestly suggested he might need one thousand days, when he started out. Whatever: it is a liturgical period. Our religion today is politics, and judging from the media, the politicians are our gods. They have human qualities, like the former classical ones, and little foibles by which they are brought down to earth, but anyone wanting “hope and change” will look to these gods.

“The gods that fail,” to put this another way. The gods that wouldn’t dare do nothing (the way Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover tried to do) because, after all, they were elected to get things done; the things people thought needed doing, however incompatible with the next things. Fix the roads, cut taxes, start a war – whatever.

To the ancient world of Roman Power, the Church preached, “give unto Caesar.” For the Caesars come and go; they don’t matter. She was labeled for atheism and blasphemy, because she did not think they were gods. She looked instead for leadership to the Man on the Tree, and was thus condemned, for getting in the way of Caesar’s stately “progress.”

That Man for whom a thousand years is as a day, and a day as one thousand years.

David Warren is a former editor of the Idler magazine and columnist in Canadian newspapers. He has extensive experience in the Near and Far East. His blog, Essays in Idleness, is now to be found at: