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Week In Politics: Trump Approaches 100th Day As President

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Let's continue this conversation with our Friday commentators. We have E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and Brookings Institution. Welcome to you.

E J DIONNE, BYLINE: Good to be with you.

MCEVERS: And Kristen Soltis Anderson of the Washington Examiner. Welcome to you.

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON: Thanks for having me.

MCEVERS: So as we talk about approaching President Trump's a hundred days, as we just heard from Scott, the president is downplaying expectations on Twitter. Kristen, I want to start with you. I mean we just heard spite - Sean Spicer kind of have run down a list of accomplishments. How do you think the fact that there have been some successes and some failures, frankly, as playing with Trump supporters right now?

ANDERSON: I think many Trump supporters always believed that Donald Trump would face challenges when he arrived in Washington, that it would be a feature, not a bug, that things would be a little bit hairy in his first hundred days that as you had someone coming from the outside from the business world with a very different background and a very different temperament than Washington is used to, coming in, that things would be disruptive but that that would be messy at times.

So I think he has a little bit of leeway with those folks who sent him to Washington to still be - have a little more time with which to provide real results. But eventually they will begin expecting that actual results are tangible and can be felt in their real lives. So whether it's a hundred days or 200 days, certainly I think his voters have given him a little bit of time, have always assumed that this was going to be messy at first because he was such a shock to the system. But certainly I think he will have to produce real results that affect people's lives longer term.

MCEVERS: And E.J., as we heard, one of those measures that he wants to tackle again is a health care bill, something to replace Obamacare. He said that that's back on the table again after it didn't get even to a vote in the House. How likely do you think it is that Republicans can agree this time on a replacement for Obamacare?

DIONNE: Well, I think they have a fundamental problem because if you looked at who defected on the last time around, a little less than half of them were on the right end of the caucus - the Freedom Caucus.

MCEVERS: Yeah.

DIONNE: And the others were middle-of-the-road conservatives who - many of them from Hillary Clinton districts who didn't want a bill they thought was too stingy. I don't know how you make the bill very conservative for the Freedom Caucus and more moderate for these moderates, so...

MCEVERS: Right.

DIONNE: ...I think they have fundamental problems. I think on the hundred-day mark, it's been mostly a hundred days of flip flops and failures with a stack of pro-corporate, anti-environmental executive orders. And I think, as Scott Horsley suggested, Trump said over and over again that the 100-day marker really, really mattered. Today he called it ridiculous. I think that tells you what you need to know about that.

MCEVERS: You're talking about the two kind of different wings in the Republican Party. Congress has been off for a couple of weeks. They've been back in their districts. They come back to Washington next week. How's that time at home gone for them, and what can we expect when they get back to Washington, Kristen?

ANDERSON: I think a lot of these members were in many ways looking at the results of what was going to happen in that special election in Georgia where earlier this week you had a Democratic candidate who came out on top but certainly didn't hit 50 percent. This is a district that had been held by now Secretary of Health and Human Services Price.

MCEVERS: Tom Price, yeah.

ANDERSON: The district now sort of being up for grabs, and the fact that Democrats even have a shot at potentially picking up this district may have some Republicans nervous. Now, certainly if Democrats had picked it up outright, you would have a lot more Republicans very nervous. Much of Trump's agenda could be dead on arrival. But at this point, there is still a belief that we can pull out some wins, that whether it's something like tax reform, something along the lines of regulatory reform, that there are still wins to be had that can keep things going in a positive direction.

MCEVERS: Let's talk about the Democrats now. This week, the Democrats were on a unity tour. Although, that name might have been more aspirational than a reflection of the current state of things. Let's listen for a second at one stop in Maine. Claire Cummings with the Maine Young Democrats warmed up the crowd. She acknowledged that some had come to see a certain senator from Vermont.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Bernie, Bernie, Bernie, Bernie, Bernie, Bernie...

MCEVERS: That chant of course for Bernie Sanders went on for a while, and then here's what she said.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CLAIRE CUMMINGS: So maybe you came, though, because you're curious about the new DNC chairman and the future of the Democratic...

(BOOING)

MCEVERS: And those were boos for Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez - so not necessarily the show of unity that these two wanted. Is this something that the party can mend, E.J., or is this a deeper problem here?

DIONNE: I think there are two things going on at the same time. One is that there are still some of the splits in the party reflected in the Bernie-Sanders-Hillary-Clinton vine, and some of the Bernie-ites (ph) still feel as that crowd did and reflected - but - with their reaction to Tom Perez. But I think the other side is there's extraordinary unity in this party against Donald Trump. And I think in the end, the unity around opposition to Trump is more important than the remaining divisions that you're seeing from the last time around.

Jon Ossoff in that Georgia race was given a lot of room by progressives to run as a very moderate candidate in that district. Daily Kos, a very liberal website, basically chastised Bernie Sanders a bit for not endorsing - not enthusiastically endorsing Ossoff. And I think what that shows is a lot of Democrats think the priority has to be to oppose Trump. He will do wonders for Democratic unity.

MCEVERS: Kristin, what do you think about what's happening with the Democratic Party? I mean we talked about this kind of rift in the in the Republican Party, but what about this one?

ANDERSON: I think E.J. certainly has a point, and in part it's because you saw this same thing happen on the Republican side over the last number of years - that for a very long time, the one thing that really united Republicans was opposition to President Obama and for - opposition to things like the Affordable Care Act, for instance. But of course governing is much harder.

And so I think it still does raise the question. Yes, you can be against Trump. Will that be enough to elevate Democrats to a position where they can be competitive in the midterm elections? Is that enough, or is that banking too much on assuming that Donald Trump's first half of his first term will be a failure?

DIONNE: And to answer that question, if I might.

MCEVERS: Sure.

DIONNE: What this reminds me of is already the lead in to the 2006 elections when President Bush was very unpopular, not as unpopular as a President Trump is right now. And opposition to Bush was more than enough for Democrats in that midterm. They need some ideas. But mostly, opposition can take you pretty far. It sure helped the Republicans in 2010 and 2014.

MCEVERS: You know, I want to talk about that Georgia's 6th race again quickly. I mean as we said, Jon Ossoff, the Democratic candidate, did not win outright, but Democrats were still sort of playing this as a big win because he did make such a big showing. Do you think they're playing that too much, Kristen, or do you think that really was a victory for them in a sense?

ANDERSON: Well, I think it was silly to have ever set the expectation that he could get to 50 percent. I think that was sort of a silly move on the expectations-setting game. I think Democrats have reason to be cautiously optimistic here. Even if he does not win, the fact that there is even talk about it - this is exactly the type of district the Democrats would need to be taking back if they want to present a real challenge to the Republican majority in the House because this is a sort of suburban, I think slightly more upscale-type district where the Republican House candidate did far better than Donald Trump did.

MCEVERS: OK.

ANDERSON: This is not a particularly Trumpy (ph) district, and so it's exactly where the path to a new Democratic majority would go through.

MCEVERS: OK, thanks to both of you - Kristen Soltis Anderson of the Washington Examiner and author of "The Selfie Vote" and E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and Brookings Institution.

(SOUNDBITE OF WYNTON KELLY TRIO'S "ESCAPADE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.