Hoping you enjoyed last week’s “step off the political train” with the rendering of Johnny Cash’s “Christmas Guest. Have a Joyous and Prosperous New Year.
Every once in a while we hearken to other more accomplished journalists for some insights “from the horse’s mouth.” Here is a recent writing, in part, from Marc A. ThiessenTheWashingtonPostWritersGroup.
Donald Trump may be remembered as the most honest president in modern American history. President Trump does, however, stretch the truth sometimes. He said that he “enacted the biggest tax cuts and reforms in American history” (actually they are the eighth-largest) and that “our economy is the strongest it’s ever been in the history of our country” (which may one day be true, but not yet). In part, it’s a New York thing — everything is the biggest and the best.
But when it comes to the real barometer of presidential truthfulness — keeping his promises — Trump is a paragon of honesty. For better or worse, since taking office, Trump has done exactly what he promised he would do.
Trump kept his promise to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, something his three immediate predecessors also promised yet failed to do. He promised to “crush and destroy ISIS,” and two years later he is on the verge of eliminating Islamic State’s physical caliphate. He promised to impose a travel ban on countries that he saw as posing a terrorist threat, and after several false starts the final version of his ban was upheld by the Supreme Court.
Trump pledged to nominate Supreme Court justices “in the mold of Justice (Antonin) Scalia,” and now Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh sit on the high court. Trump also pledged to fill the federal appellate courts with young, conservative judges, and so far the Senate has confirmed 29 — more than any recent president at this point in his administration.
Trump promised to cancel President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, withdraw from the Paris climate accord, approve the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, and open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to exploration. He fulfilled all of those pledges.
On trade, he kept his promise to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and impose tariffs on steel and aluminum. He also committed to renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement and the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement — and recently signed new deals with Mexico, Canada and South Korea. He committed to imposing tariffs on China to force it to open its markets and stop its theft of intellectual property — and is following through on that pledge. Whatever one thinks of Trump’s trade policies, he is doing exactly what he said.
Where Trump has failed to keep promises, such as building the wall or repealing Obamacare, it has not been for a lack of trying. Only in a few rare instances has he backtracked on a campaign pledge — such as when he admitted that he was wrong to promise a complete withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan and reversed course.
But whether one agrees or disagrees is not the point. When Trump says he will do something, you can take it to the bank. Yes, he takes liberties with the truth. But unlike his predecessor, he did not pass his signature legislative achievement on the basis of a lie (“If you like your health care plan, you can keep it”) — which is clearly worse than falsely bragging that your tax cut is the biggest ever.
The fact is, in his first two years, Trump has compiled a remarkable record of presidential promise-keeping. He’d probably say it’s the best in history — which may or may not end up being true. It’s too soon to tell.
More Insight on
Tijuana Border Chaos
An activist group that escorted thousands of Central Americans to the U.S. border is under fire from allies and some of the migrants themselves. They say the organization downplayed the dangers of the trek and misled them about how long they would have to wait around to apply for asylum. Pueblo Sin Fronteras, or People Without Borders, made up of about 40 U.S. and Mexican activists, is defending itself, saying the migrants made their own decision to press on toward the United States.
Thousands of Central Americans journeying toward the United States were 2,500 miles from their destination in October when they reached a moment of decision: Should they press on toward the U.S. border? Or should they stop and put down roots in Mexico, where the government offered to let them stay? Pueblo Sin Fronteras, warned the migrants that the offer might be too good to be true and called a voice vote on whether to continue. “Let’s keep going!” the crowd yelled amid applause.
And they kept going. Thousands are now in Tijuana on the U.S. border, where they are likely to be camped for months or longer with no easy way to get into the United States, creating what is fast becoming a humanitarian crisis in this overwhelmed city. Adelaida Gonzalez, 37, of Guatemala City, who joined the caravan with her 15-year-old son and neighbor, said that now that she is in Tijuana, she wishes she had accepted Mexico’s offer to stay and work in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas.
“We were never told along the way that it would be this hard,” said Gonzalez, after seeing the border wall topped with razor wire and the long waiting list for asylum seekers.
A Pueblo Sin Fronteras leader, Irineo Mujica, emphatically rejected the criticism.
“Our commitment first and foremost was protecting the lives of migrants and giving them as much information as possible,” Mujica said. “To blame the people who are helping is crazy.”
Pueblo Sin Fronteras maintains it simply accompanies the migrants to protect their rights. But the organization clearly plays an essential role: It helped charter the route, arrange bus transportation and negotiate with Mexican officials to provide protection. It also raised more than $46,000 online for emergency housing and food.
But traveling with the caravan was not without risks. One migrant was killed when he fell off a truck. Another was run over and killed on a highway. Two were stabbed and strangled after leaving a Tijuana shelter. Others have been attacked with rocks by local residents angry over the mass arrival. “There is no reason to make these inhumane journeys,”
Alejandro Solalinde, a Mexican priest recognized for his work with migrants, said of the caravans. Esmeralda Siu, a Tijuana shelter manager, said many caravan members knew nothing about the difficulty in getting asylum. “They come in desperation and so they hear what they want to hear,” she said. As for their escorts, “it seems like they are putting the migrants at great risk.”
Corona, Pueblo Sin Fronteras’ founder, said that the caravans served their purpose but that he doesn’t foresee the organization accompanying any more of them.