The pattern Donald Trump follows in making promises has been clear since he first rode that gilded escalator in Trump Tower to his presidential campaign announcement nearly two years ago. It goes something like this:
1. Assert something untrue based on a canard oozing from the right-wing fever swamps that you heard repeated on some Fox News show or other. (For example: “Obamacare is collapsing.” Or “Afghanistan is safer than our inner cities.”)
2. Spit out a half-formed solution that you seem not to have thought about or have given no thought to until just that moment.
3. Try to implement policy based on this idea, only to see it get slapped down by courts, legislators and objective reality.
The most recent example of this pattern obviously is the failure of the American Health Care Act. Trump spent his presidential campaign promising to save America from the “disaster” that is Obamacare by repealing and replacing it with “something terrific.” But since he has no concept about the way the vast majority of Americans interact with the health insurance market and zero interest in learning about the details of policy, he signed on to a disastrous plan from Congress that was nearly universally detested. Now his promise to “repeal and replace” Obamacare legislatively is dead, likely for the rest of his term in office.
But what about some of the more ridiculous and morally derelict promises that Trump has spouted off the top of his marmalade-colored head over the last two years?
Illegal voting. As everyone knows by now, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in the November presidential election by a margin of 2.8 million. Trump seized on internet rumors about widespread voter fraud to claim that from 3 million to 5 million illegal votes were cast in the election, with most if not all of them cast by undocumented immigrants for Clinton. Despite the complete lack of evidence for his assertion, Trump promised to appoint a commission headed by Vice President Mike Pence to investigate the allegedly widespread voter fraud that conservatives have long claimed plagues our elections.
Trump made that promise during his first week in office. Two months later, he still has not formed that commission, though he still promises to get around to d0ing so any day now. Reporters still occasionally ask White House press secretary Sean Spicer about the allegation, and he swears that the president still believes he got rooked by millions of fraudulent votes. But as of now, Trump has not followed through.
Does he fear being humiliated when the commission tells him he was wrong? Because that would be funny.
Stopping the “carnage” in Chicago. A serious president would express concern over a spike in violence in a major American city by pushing policies that might alleviate the root causes of it, like extreme poverty. Trump, in a tweet just after his inauguration, threatened to “send in the Feds!”
Just what this meant is still open to debate. Federal law enforcement, to help the Chicago police crack down on crime? The Justice Department, to advise the city’s government on strategies to help affected communities cope with the rise in criminality? A declaration of martial law, that might lead to federalizing the National Guard and sending it to patrol the city’s streets?
Trump never clarified his tweet. On Monday Attorney General Jeff Sessions threatened to pull federal funding to various jurisdictions, including Chicago, that do not give up their status of serving as “sanctuary cities” for undocumented immigrants. Such grants help local law enforcement departments pay for resources to combat crime. Reducing funding would hurt the fight to stem the violence in Chicago.
Presumably hurting efforts to combat crime is not what Trump meant when he said he would send in the “Feds.”
“Knocking the hell out of ISIS.” During the campaign, Mango Mussolini repeatedly claimed that he knew more about the extremist group ISIS than the generals currently fighting it. He also promised to reveal his own secret plan for beating ISIS — beyond bombing the group and the families of its members — after the election.
After the inauguration, this morphed into Trump’s ordering the Pentagon to present a plan for defeating ISIS within 30 days. Since then the administration has been pretty quiet about all this. Perhaps that’s because the military delivered a plan that was described as geing much like the one that the Obama administration had carried out for two years, but more of it.
Or possibly it is because Trump seems to have loosened the rules of engagement for forces bombing ISIS in Iraq and Syria, sent more American soldiers to the region and has given the military more leeway to bomb without regard for civilian lives. This has resulted in a jump in civilian deaths in U.S. bombings since December, the last full month that the administration of former President Barack Obama was in charge.
Trump has also called for an increased military budget while slashing money for the State Department, thus reducing the nation’s ability to help craft diplomatic solutions to the ongoing war.
So count this last one as a ridiculous promise that’s been partially kept. Trump said he would “bomb the shit out of” ISIS, and he’s doing it.
Trump also promised that once he was president, the nation would start “winning” again. I hope he’ll let us know when that happens. Though I’m doubtful I’ll believe him.