Conway and the White House's 100-day alternative facts
Kellyanne Conway is back with some alternative facts.
During a conversation with Katie Couric on Wednesday, Conway made a proud claim about President Donald Trump's first 100 days.
Couric tweeted that Conway told her "this is the first time since 1881 that a President has had a #SCOTUS justice confirmed in first 100 days."
Conway also said this last week on Fox News Channel: "It's the first time a president has had a Supreme Court justice in the first 100 days since 1881. The significance should not be lost."
But the significance should be lost, because it's basically nil - small enough to fit between the driver seat of your car and the center console, never to be seen again. This claim is somehow both true and shows a complete disdain for facts. It's a claim that sounds impressive and means next to nothing.
The problem with Conway's claim is that very few presidents are even confronted with a Supreme Court vacancy in their first 100 days - much less have the chance to fill it in that span. Trump also had the highly unusual advantage of coming into office with an existing vacancy - a result of Senate Republicans' brazen move not to even allow Merrick Garland a hearing last year - and having the full 100 days with which to fill it.
A trip down history lane shows that only three presidents since 1900 have had a vacancy to fill in their first 100 days, and that all three of them faced that vacancy late in their first 100 days.
Bill Clinton got a vacancy on March 19, 1993 - 58 days into his first term. Harry S. Truman got a vacancy on June 30, 1945 - 79 days after replacing Franklin D. Roosevelt. And Warren G. Harding got a vacancy on May 19, 1921 - 76 days into his brief presidency.
So Trump had all 100 days to fill his vacancy in his first 100 days; Clinton had 42 days, Truman had 21 and Harding had 24. All but one other president didn't even get the chance for such an accomplishment.
That one other president was Richard Nixon, who inherited somewhat of a mess on the Supreme Court from Lyndon B. Johnson. Chief Justice Earl Warren had announced his resignation in mid-1968 but was waiting to leave the court until it was filled. His Johnson-nominated replacement, Justice Abe Fortas, was blocked by the Senate, so no vacancy was filled. Nixon was sworn in on Jan. 20, 1969, and eventually nominated a replacement for Warren as chief justice - Warren Burger - but he did so after his first 100 days were up, on May 21.
Burger was confirmed just 19 days later. And to think: Nixon could have joined the rarefied air of Trump - if only he had known it would be such an accomplishment to get it done in his first 100 days.
This, of course, isn't the only shoddy claim the White House has made about Trump's 100-day accomplishments. A memo issued Tuesday contains inaccuracies and misleading stats like this one. As Case Western Reserve University professor Peter Shulman catalogued on his Twitter account Tuesday:
Shulman said, "Oh. My. God. This is catastrophically wrong."
"Many of these are.. not terribly important. But that's the story for most Executive Orders!
"Counting all of FDR's orders in his First 100 Days, he actually issued 99 of them. Or, more than 10 times the number Trump claims.
"And at least the titles of these orders are all conveniently available online!
"Counting up Executive Orders signed is a dumb metric but seriously, if you're going to make the comparison, at least get the numbers right
"But wait! There's more. The order is right that Truman signed 25 EOs in his first 100 days-if you count from his 1949 inauguration-But...
"You could also count from Truman's *actual* first 100 days, when he took over from FDR on April 13, 1945. In that case, he signed 57 EOs.
"I guess it's kind of gratuitous at this point, but Trump is also claiming it's had more bills passed in 100 days since Truman. This is.. odd
I mean, it's technically true! There have been 29 bills passed by Congress & signed by Trump this session
"But they include 13 bills limited to rejecting Obama-era regulations passed in the last 6 months of his presidency.
"FDR's First 100 Days? Federal Emergency Relief Act, Civilian Conservation Corps, Tennessee Valley Authority..
"I honestly can't remember off the top of my head everything that passed in FDR's First 100 Days because it was so damn much, and MAJOR.
"But hey. Trump renamed a VA clinic in Pago Pago, Samoa."
The biggest problem with all of these claims is that they are making rather suspect quantitative arguments without having regard for the quality or difficulty of legislation and executive orders.
A president can make as many executive orders as he wants, after all - subject to judicial review. Trump himself used to suggest that these executive orders were the sign of a weak president who couldn't pass actual legislation. So to hold the number of them out there as a sign of success is, at best, hypocritical and, at worst, proves basically nothing about how productive Trump has been.
The number of bills passed is a similar situation. There has yet to be real, consequential, large-scale legislation passed in Trump's first 100 days. And claiming that 29 bills is an accomplishment shows that the Trump administration will do just about anything to put a good face on its first 100 days - even dispatch some dubious "alternative facts."