The Real 100 Days

Is it just me or has the media gone completely overboard with the 100 days analysis for the new guy in the white house?  The topic has been mentioned off and on since FDR with various Presidents but the advent of cable news has upped the ante on hype and hyperbole to new heights.   This most recent round with the new guy has been vaudevillean in scope and delivery.  We were deluged with promos about the event starting weeks ago and the sound level only increased with each passing day.   Maybe it will soon be a special day of the year like Leap Day once every four years to celebrate the accomplishments or pretended accomplishments of each sitting President.    What I find the most troubling of all is that the people doing the judging are media folks.  Where did they get any special training or learning to intelligently evaluate anything much less the fate of a nation or administration based upon the passage of that time frame.    I would posit that the media are in fact the least qualified and reliable source of analysis.   They have an agenda.  If the same agenda is pursued by a sitting President he will receive favorable reviews and or excuses for any shortcomings. 

I love the First Amendment right for all of us to speak our minds and that even includes the least qualified of us and the media.  Opinions are not all created equal and even shoddy opinions can be expressed.  What I find offensive is the self-aggrandizement of the media in promoting their views as though they were the thoughtful reflections of a modern day Socrates.    They are as guilty of puffery and emoting as any Senator on the Senate floor.   They are full of themselves.  If only they were as smart and insightful as they believe themselves to be.

Without exception when the media talks about the 100 days they will bring up the FDR analogy and present the concept as though it was FDR that caused that phrase to be created and used as a historical benchmark.    Let’s get this clear–FDR was not the man that brought that phrase into the common vernacular.  It was Napoleon.  Some in the media of the thirties were searching for a catch phrase to ramp up the public appreciation of what FDR was doing in early 1933.  They stole the phrase from history and used it to enhance the reputation of FDR with that comparison to Napoleon.

The 100 days was a reference to what Napoleon had accomplished in that time from his move from Elba to the Battle of Waterloo.   He was not a prisoner but was in exhile on that small island off the coast of Italy after his in 1812/1813.  He had entered into a treaty with all his opponents and as part of that pact he was forced to go to Elba and it was assumed he would remain there.   After the new French government under Louis XVIII failed to make the promised payments to him under the treaty Napoleon felt relieved of any duty to abide by it.   Some had encouraged him to move to America and live a life of ease.  He had a very small army with him on Elba; it was only 1000 men or so.   He left Elba and was determined to make the effort to resume his leadership of France.  He was too big a fish for the small pond of Elba.  Naturally the existing government of France and all the former enemies, England, Prussia and Russia primarily were immediately called to arms.   He didn’t know what to expect from the French people.  He had hopes but no assurance he would be accepted by them as their leader again.  There is the famous moment when his new army was marching north from the south of France where it encountered the French army of Louis.Napoleon’s forces were growing each day but it was still tiny and ill equipped at this point.  When the armies met the atmosphere was tense, very tense.  Would his first engagement back on French soil be the opeing shots in a civil war?  He went forth to the army regulars and spoke with them.  He reminded them of their past glory and his love for them.    The army of Louis joined Napoleon and they marched north as one.  Travel was slow in those days as was communication.  Remarkably he was able to assemble an army of several hundred thousand within that 100 days and renew alliances with some old allies.  Every where the old regime cratered at his approach and in most places merely from the news of his return.  The logistics and organizational skill of Napoleon were indeed noteworthy.  Few could have matched his aptitude at managing.  Those efforts of his would be a great case study for management at those MBA programs.  The denouement came at Waterloo were the late arrival of his reinforcements and the gallant and stubborn resistance of the British brought his final fall from power.  But the achievements of those 100 days could not be gainsaid.  That was the 100 Days.  It was called that by the historians of the age.  It was later used to try to bolster the accomplishments of lesser men.  He had literally created a new country and a fighting force within that time frame.

When you listen to a breathless commentator today or in the next election cycle intoning about the progress or achievements of a leader you should consider the original source for a more realistic and accurate assessment of those alleged great deeds.

It took Caesar less than 100 days to march from Gaul and cross the Rubicon and assume his leadership.  But his reach was greater than his grasp and we know how that ended.  The new guy is reaching far and wide; what will he be able to grasp from the people?

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Filed under Culture, government, history, military history

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