The First 30 Days of the George W. Bush Presidency

All New Presidents are Graded Against FDR's Famed First 100 Days

President George W. Bush addressing first-responders at 9/11 attack Ground Zero
Bush Speaks At Ground Zero. The White House / Getty Images

Setting priorities for his first term in 1933 was easy for President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He had to save America from economic ruin. He had to at least begin to pull us out of our Great Depression. He did it, and he did it during what has now become known as his "First Hundred Days” in office.

On his first day in office, March 4, 1933, FDR called Congress into a special session. He then proceeded to drive a series of bills through the legislative process that reformed the U.S. banking industry, saved American agriculture and allowed for industrial recovery.

At the same time, FDR wielded the executive order in creating the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Public Works Administration, and the Tennessee Valley Authority. These projects put tens of thousands of Americans back to work building dams, bridges, highways and much needed public utility systems.

By the time Congress adjourned the special session on June 16, 1933, Roosevelt's agenda, the "New Deal," was in place. America, though still staggering, was off the mat and back in the fight.

Indeed, the successes of Roosevelt’s First 100 Days gave credence to the so-called “stewardship theory” of the presidency, which contends that the President of the United States has the right, if not the duty, to do whatever best addresses the needs of the American people, within the limits of the Constitution and the law.

Not all of the New Deal worked and it took World War II to finally solidify the nation's economy. Yet, to this day, Americans still grade the initial performance of all new presidents against Franklin D. Roosevelt's "First Hundred Days."

During their first hundred days, all new Presidents of the United States try to harness the carryover energy of a successful campaign by at least starting to implement the main programs and promises coming from the primaries and debates.

The So-Called 'Honeymoon Period'

During some part of their first hundred days, Congress, the press, and some of the American people generally allow new presidents a "honeymoon period," during which public criticism is held to a minimum. It is during this totally unofficial and typically fleeting grace period that new presidents often try to get bills through Congress that might face more opposition later in the term.

Having just won the votes of a substantial number of Americans, incoming presidents tend to be popular. Political scientists say this translates into political power early in a president’s first term in office. New presidents are considered to enter office with a “mandate” from the people. Congress is more likely to respect this mandate during the first few months of the president’s first term. Thus a president’s first 100 days in office are the ideal time for Congress to pass legislation

The global analytics and advice firm Gallup has found that presidential honeymoon periods are getting shorter. Down from an average of 26 months earlier in American history, the typical honeymoon period had shrunk to seven months by the last few decades of the 20th century.

Benefitting from a bounce in popularity after being elected to a second term, some two-term presidents enjoy two honeymoon periods. For example, The Washington Post reported that this had happened to President Barack Obama after he was elected to a second term in 2012. “President Obama is enjoying a sort of second political honeymoon in the wake of his re-election victory last November with a series of national polls showing his job approval rating climbing from the middling territory where it lagged for much of the last several years,” the paper reported. “Obama approval is at 52 percent while his disapproval is at 43 percent. That may not seem like much but it marks a significant improvement over where he was for much of 2010 and 2011.”

Many political commentators suggest that President Donald Trump had no honeymoon period at all, confronted by controversy and criticism from the moment he stepped into the Oval Office. The nonpartisan Miller Center observed that Trump had entered office at a time of unprecedented polarization in the country. At the same time, his Republican Party held only a razor-thin voting majority in the House of Representatives, resulting in the incoming president facing hopeless partisan gridlock in Congress.

The First Thirty-or-so of the First Hundred Days of George W. Bush

Following his inauguration on January 20, 2001, President George W. Bush spent the first one-third of his First 100 Days by:

  • Getting himself and his successors a raise in presidential salary -- to $400,000 a year -- as approved by Congress in the closing days of its last session;
  • Reinstating the Mexico City policy denying US aid to countries that advocate abortion as a method of family planning;
  • Introducing a $1.6 trillion tax cutting program to Congress;
  • Launching a "Faith-Based" Initiative to help local charitable groups;
  • Launching a "New Freedom" Initiative to help disabled Americans;
  • Filling out his Cabinet including the controversial appointment of John Ashcroft as Attorney General;
  • Welcoming a pistol firing visitor to the White House;
  • Launching renewed air strikes against expanding Iraqi air defense systems.
  • Taking on big labor unions in government contracting; and
  • Finding out that an FBI agent may have spent years spying for Russia.

So, while there were no depression-busting New Deals or industry-saving reforms, the first 30 days of the presidency of George W. Bush was far from uneventful. Of course, history will show that most of the rest of his 8 years in office would be dominated by dealing with the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terror attack a mere 9 month after his inauguration.

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Longley, Robert. "The First 30 Days of the George W. Bush Presidency." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Longley, Robert. (2023, April 5). The First 30 Days of the George W. Bush Presidency. Retrieved from Longley, Robert. "The First 30 Days of the George W. Bush Presidency." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 5, 2023).