Donald Trump's Inaugural Untruths and Exaggerations
January 21, 2017
Associated Press & Clark Judge / The New York Times & Mona Eltahawy / The New York Times
Donald Trump's inaugural address held familiar echoes of the campaign speeches that led to his presidential win: downbeat about the state of the nation, to the point of hyperbole. A look at some of his assertions.
Fact Check: Trump's Inaugural Speech
Starts on Familiar Note: With Exaggerations
WASHINGTON (January 20, 2017) -- Donald Trump's inaugural address held familiar echoes of the campaign speeches that led to his presidential win: downbeat about the state of the nation, to the point of hyperbole. A look at some of his assertions Friday:
TRUMP: "The jobs left, and the factories closed . . . the wealth, strength and confidence of our country has disappeared over the horizon."
THE FACTS: The US economy is a lot healthier than the wreck Trump describes. Jobs have increased for a record 75 straight months. The unemployment rate was 4.7 percent in December, close to a nine-year low and to what economists consider full employment.
From July through September, the economy expanded at a 3.5 percent annual pace -- the fastest in two years. The Federal Reserve is so confident in the resiliency of the economy that it raised interest rates last month for only the second time in a decade.
While wage growth has been sluggish since the Great Recession ended in mid-2009, declining unemployment and steady job growth are starting to force businesses to offer higher pay to find and attract new workers.
And in 2015, the income for a typical household jumped 5.2 percent to an inflation-adjusted $56,516, the largest annual growth in nearly five decades, according to the Census Bureau. Average hourly pay rose last year at the fastest pace in more than seven years.
TRUMP: "We've defended other nation's borders while refusing to defend our own."
THE FACTS: Hardly. Since 2001, the US has more than doubled the ranks of the Border Patrol, which now has nearly 20,000 agents. The vast majority of those are stationed along the Mexican border, where about 408,000 people were apprehended during the budget year that ended in September.
TRUMP: The US has "subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military."
THE FACTS: The US military may have shortcomings, but it remains the world's most advanced, expensive and far-flung fighting force. American military spending is nearly three times that of second-place China, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
The Pentagon says it does have additional needs, including more ships, a replenished air fleet and bigger training budgets to prepare for large-scale combat.
TRUMP: "We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones, and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth."
THE FACTS: Quelling radical Islamic terrorism worldwide is a heavy lift in which the US has been engaged for years, and Trump has offered no plan for how he will deliver on this promise.
A U.S.-led coalition began battling Islamic extremism even before 9/11. In Afghanistan alone, the coalition has fought for more than 15 years to prevent al-Qaida and other radical groups from regaining a safe harbor there. Getting the help of NATO allies might prove diplomatically challenging since Trump has called NATO "obsolete" and says European members aren't paying their fair share.
The threat is only growing. The Islamic State has a global reach, and attacks linked to radical extremism have occurred in the United States, France, Belgium, Turkey and countries throughout northern Africa.
Liberal Critics Should Take a Closer Look
Clark Judge / The New York Times
President Trump's extraordinary Inaugural Address was at once familiar and surprising, combining echoes from a forgotten past with notes that are entirely new.
The echoes were to a president who was viewed with as much alarm by the official Washington of his day as Mr. Trump is by today's Washington. In his first Inaugural Address, President Andrew Jackson told a shocked capital city that the 1828 election that brought him to office "inscribes on the list of executive duties, in characters too legible to be overlooked, the task of 'reform.'"
Today, in language that was even more blunt, Mr. Trump delivered a curse-on-both-your-houses indictment directed at the nation's political and economic establishments.
In advocating reform, President Trump abandoned sectarianism. From Franklin D. Roosevelt to Bernie Sanders, Democrats have blamed the nation's ills on "millionaires and billionaires." Meanwhile, Republicans have denounced big government.
Mr. Trump took aim at both establishments as a single, colluding entity that, he charged, has served its own interest to the detriment of the middle class. The result has been an "American carnage" of lost industry, jobs and opportunity.
In response, the new president announced that, under him, America will come first. "We will bring back our jobs," he said. "We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth."
Add it all up and the Trump inaugural was the most Jacksonian since Jackson.
Some of the speech's strongest passages were devoted to American unity -- in particular to transcending racial and ethnic divides that have plagued the country with renewed bitterness over the past two decades. Mr. Trump's liberal critics should take a close look at these passages.
As he had in the campaign, the new president spoke directly to the largely African-American and Hispanic citizens of our urban areas. He addressed inner city concerns: "Mothers and children trapped in poverty"; "rusted-out factories"; "an education system, flush with cash, but that leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge"; "gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives."
In one especially lyrical passage, he said, "Whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dreams, and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty Creator."
He invoked a common devotion to the country ("whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the red blood of patriots") that combined with economic, educational and public safety improvements could open a new world of opportunity for our minority communities, removing barriers to racial amity.
It is a remarkable agenda. Not that everyone will applaud. For example, our allies overseas and much of our foreign policy community at home will fear Mr. Trump plans to abandon the mantle of global leadership. But as was true throughout his campaign, a close look at his language points a different way. He is not advocating abandonment of alliances and responsibilities, but, as on the domestic scene, a new era of reform.
It is a new era of reform on behalf of ordinary citizens not defined by race or ethnicity, or gender or preference, or party or ballot cast in November, but by a sense that something has gone wrong, and that what is wrong can be fixed. It was a strong, direct, honest speech. A presidency that comes at a time of national troubles has had a promising start.
Clark Judge, managing director of the White House Writers Group and chairman of the Pacific Research Institute, is a former speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan.
The American Sisi
Mona Eltahawy / The New York Times
CAIRO -- "He sounds just like one of our despots," said a friend after we watched Donald J. Trump speak at his inauguration. It was an address worthy of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, our general turned president.
It was stunning to watch Mr. Trump try to mold the United States in the shape of Egypt, where the military has ruled us, in one form or another, for over six decades.
No wonder Mr. Trump called Mr. Sisi "a fantastic guy" when they met in New York last year.
No wonder Mr. Sisi was the first foreign leader to call Mr. Trump to congratulate him on his election victory.
No wonder the first bill that Mr. Trump signed after his inauguration was a waiver to allow a former general, James N. Mattis, to become defense secretary without the elapse of seven years required by law before ex-service members can run the Pentagon.
No wonder Mr. Trump has nominated more generals to his cabinet than any predecessor.
In Egypt, we'd like to reduce the military's influence in Egyptian politics. In America, Mr. Trump wants to increase it.
It was also stunning to watch Mr. Trump demolish whatever remained of what was billed at the time as a fence-mending speech that President Obama gave in Cairo soon after his inauguration in 2009.
Mr. Obama said, "America is not -- and never will be -- at war with Islam," but that it would "relentlessly confront violent extremists." Mr. Trump cut to the chase, pledging to "unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth."
Despite his "hand of friendship" to Muslims, Mr. Obama leaves office with the United States militarily involved in at least five Muslim countries. I shudder to think how many more Mr. Trump will add to that list.
Mona Eltahawy is the author of Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution, and a contributing opinion writer.
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