Back in the brief window of time during which Newt Gingrich appeared to pose a threat to Mitt Romney’s candidacy, I spent a fair bit of time following him around Florida, crisscrossing suburbanized I–4, listening to Gingrich promote futuristic visions of space exploration and bemoaning the barrage of negative TV ads. Newt let things get to his head a little after his upset win in South Carolina; beyond overambitious pledges to build a moon colony by 2020, Gingrich began envisioning himself in the White House, spending more time talking about how he needed to have a Republican Congress alongside him rather than the urgent need to displace Romney. I began to track his most absurd claims of all: the exhausting list of items Gingrich would cross off on his first day in office before hitting the inaugural balls. Gingrich would ask Congress to convene that first afternoon to repeal Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, and Sarbanes-Oxley while issuing a host of executive orders ranging from one ordering the construction of a new embassy in Jerusalem to a ban on any further White House czars. “My goal would be, by the end of that first day—about the time that President Obama arrives back in Chicago—that we will have dismantled about 40 percent of his government on the opening day,” Gingrich said with his typical humility during a late January campaign stop in The Villages.
At the time, I wrote it off as just Gingrich being his typical grandiose self. Now The Washington Post has noticed that Romney is equally bad at predicting his time management skills:
It’s Jan. 20, 2013. This is the agenda for President Romney’s first day in office:
Demand that Congress cut corporate income taxes. Demand that Congress slash $20 billion from the budget.
Allow states to escape parts of the health-care law (if it still exists). Rewrite the way all federal regulations are issued. Call out China for cheating on international trade.
And somewhere in there find time for all the solemn rigmarole that actually makes a president a president. An oath. A speech. A parade. Some mandatory dancing. …
“A lot’s going to have to happen quickly, because a new president gets elected and there’s a great deal of interest and willingness on the part of Congress and the Senate,” Romney told supporters last month in Muskego, Wis. “Let me tell you some things I’d do on day one . . .”
From there, he talked for a full five minutes. And he got through only half of the items on his jam-packed agenda.
The article also highlights a ten-point plan on Romney’s website for that first afternoon, with actions split evenly between proposals he will send to Congress and executive orders he will sign.
President Obama should serve as a cautionary tale about overpromising. Obama came in with lofty goals for his first day, and at first it appeared that he accomplished much of what he intended. He waited until after the night of inaugural parties to tackle most of these goals, but within his first several days in office he had signed executive orders limiting lobbyist access and freezing White House salaries while tackling tensions in Gaza and working to get his appointees approved by the Senate. An order closing Guantanamo Bay within the year—the pledge that had carried much of Obama’s early campaign—didn’t actually come until the 21st, his first full day in office after the inauguration, and even then it hasn’t had a measurable impact on how the government works, with the Justice Department announcing last week that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will face a military trial at the prison.