WASHINGTON (AP) — For all his errant swings at the facts, President Donald Trump sometimes gets it just right.
“There’s been no first year like this,” he told a Florida rally last month.
Were truer words ever spoken?
This Department of Corrections has certainly never seen a first year like this. Falsehoods and exaggerations have tumbled relentlessly out of Trump’s Twitter account, speeches and interviews, the vast majority in service of his ego.
Other presidents have skewered the truth — George W. Bush on the pretext for the Iraq war, Barack Obama on the benefits of “Obamacare” — but Trump is of a different order of magnitude.
The president routinely presents his intended actions as achievements (“Obamacare” is dead, money is “pouring” into NATO), and inflates the significance of what he’s done (calling his tax cuts the biggest ever and his accomplishments unrivaled in history — neither true). He exaggerates the problems he inherited (roads and bridges are in “total disrepair and disarray,” the border was “wide open”), lays out fanciful goals (6 percent economic growth), and doesn’t learn from mistakes. Instead he repeats them.
Moreover, Trump often bypasses the vast information-gathering apparatus that reports to him in favor of getting his reality from TV, or just his gut.
Some trends and highlights in his misstatements since taking office:
The art of the biggest bestest
Trump doesn’t do big tax cuts. He does the biggest ever. He doesn’t win an election. He scores a “landslide.” He doesn’t just make the Veterans Affairs Department run better. He drives out the “sadists.”
• The December tax overhaul ranks behind Ronald Reagan’s in the early 1980s, post-World War II tax cuts and at least several more.
• His 2016 win ranks as the 13th closest of the 58 presidential elections in U.S. history, according to a tally by Claremont McKenna College political scientist John Pitney. It was no landslide. His winning percentage in the Electoral College was just under 57 percent, narrower than both of Obama’s wins (61 percent in 2008 and 62 percent in 2012) and all but two of the last 10 presidential elections. Also, he lost the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton.
• Despite his boasts that incompetent VA employees are being swiftly removed — and enactment of a mid-year law that expedites that process — more VA employees were fired in Obama’s last budget year than in Trump’s first.
Trump sees things the way he wants them to be and presents them as if that’s how they are.
“You know, we have factories pouring back into our country. Did you ever think you would hear that?” ”I urged our NATO allies to do more to strengthen our crucial alliance and set the stage for significant increases in member contributions. Billions and billions of dollars are pouring in because of that initiative.” ”Jobs are pouring back into our country.”
• Factories are not pouring “back” into the country, nor are they sprouting up domestically in big numbers. When he made his claim, in December, spending on the construction of factories had dropped 14 percent over the past year, continuing a steady decline since the middle of 2015. As for jobs “pouring back into our country,” Trump hopes his tax overhaul will make that happen, but it hasn’t yet. The economy added about 170,000 new jobs a month during Trump’s first year. That was slightly below the average of 185,000 in 2016.
Manufacturers stepped up hiring, adding 196,000 jobs in 2017, but they added more in 2011 and 2014.
• Money isn’t pouring into the NATO organization and it won’t be. What Trump really means is that he’s pushing NATO members to increase their own military budgets so the U.S. won’t carry such a heavy load. NATO members agreed during Obama’s presidency to increase their military spending in the years ahead. Whether Trump has accelerated that remains to be seen.
In this Feb. 28, 2017, photo, President Donald Trump, flanked by Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., gestures on Capitol Hill, before his address to a joint session of Congress. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
In this Oct. 13, 2017, filephoto, President Donald Trump speaks to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
FILE - In this March 24, 2017, file photo, President Donald Trump with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price are seen in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)