Trump's Hundred Days clock is ticking

Story highlights

  • The Hundred Days construct is artificial -- but many will view Trump through its lens
  • Unexpected events have a way of changing a president's agenda

Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University and a New America fellow. He is the author of "Jimmy Carter" and "The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society." He also is the co-host of the podcast "Politics & Polls." The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own.

(CNN)The clock is ticking. President Trump has between now and April 29 to make the most of his Hundred Days.

Ever since Franklin Roosevelt introduced the term in 1933 as he pushed through Congress one of the boldest domestic agendas that the nation had seen, 75 bills in total, these important weeks in the early history of a presidency have become a lens through which politicians and pundits view the effectiveness of a new leader.
The Hundred Day record for presidents is mixed.
    John F. Kennedy saw a Democratic Congress -- deeply divided between conservative southern Democrats and liberal northern Democrats -- stifle most of his domestic agenda, while the Bay of Pigs fiasco in Cuba undercut the perception that many Americans had of his foreign policy competence.
    Ronald Reagan didn't get nearly as much done as FDR, as a Republican Senate could not overcome the opposition of a Democratic House, and in March the would-be assassin John Hinckley shot him, but the president was able to get a historic tax reduction moving through Congress and he deregulated oil markets through executive action.
    Bill Clinton had an even worse experience than Kennedy, despite enjoying a Democratic House until 1994 and even though he had promised overwhelming success.