U.S. President Donald Trump promised to end the “American carnage” and to “Make America Great Again” at his inauguration in 2017, but many of the things he promised in his speech remain unfulfilled as he fights for a second term in office.
The coronavirus pandemic has given new meaning to the idea of “American carnage,” as more than 220,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 under Trump’s leadership. The president has also stopped pushing his follow-up “Keep America Great” slogan this year amid the human and economic costs of the pandemic.
On the flip side, Trump did continue an economic boom that he inherited from Barack Obama, which lasted until the pandemic hit in March. He also followed through on a promise to get tough on immigration, though he didn’t mention family separations at the border or a Muslim ban in his speech.
Trump has frequently congratulated himself with the phrase “Promises made, promises kept” over the last four years, but a look back at his inaugural address reveals a mixed bag of promises kept, broken and foiled.
Here’s how Trump followed through on his inauguration speech, with a little hindsight from 2020.
“Every four years, we gather on these steps to carry out the orderly and peaceful transfer of power…”
Trump hailed the peaceful transfer of power in 2017, but he has put the tradition in doubt ahead of the 2020 election while pushing conspiracy theories about voter fraud.
The president has repeatedly declined to commit to a peaceful transfer of power following the election, particularly if his opponent Joe Biden beats him at the polls.
“Well, we’re going to see what happens,” Trump said in September, before pushing misinformation about mail-in ballots. “There won’t be a transfer, frankly. There’ll be a continuation,” he said. “The ballots are out of control.”
“For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished — but the people did not share in its wealth.”
Trump has refused to divest himself of his business or put it into a blind trust, leading to numerous reported cases of taxpayer money winding up in Trump’s pockets. Foreign powers and Republican allies have courted Trump by buying nights at his hotels, and Vice President Mike Pence once went out of his way to stay at a Trump resort in Ireland, at great cost to U.S. taxpayers.
Trump and his allies have also been accused of violating the Hatch Act, which prohibits government officials from using their office for overtly political or financial gain.
Trump used the taxpayer-funded White House as a backdrop for his campaign earlier this year, while he and his daughter Ivanka have used their platforms to prop up various Trump-friendly businesses.
It’s up to Trump to enforce the Hatch Act, and he has not punished his allies for violating it.
“From this moment on, it’s going to be America First. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families.”
Trump has aggressively pushed his America First agenda in trade and international relations. He’s used wartime measures to slap tariffs on American allies, including Canada, and picked a trade war with China that he has not won.
He also redirected billions of military funds to build a wall along the border with Mexico, although most of the work has simply replaced existing barriers with new ones. Mexico did not pay for the project.
Perhaps his biggest legislative achievement in office was passing a new tax code, which granted major breaks to the wealthiest Americans and minor boosts for the middle class. The self-proclaimed billionaire has largely avoided paying his own share of income tax, New York Times reporting shows. He paid no federal income tax in 11 of 18 years that the Times examined, and has paid no more than $750 a year since becoming president.
“We will build new roads, and highways, and bridges, and airports, and tunnels, and railways all across our wonderful nation.”
“Infrastructure week” became a joke on Capitol Hill under the Trump administration, as the White House frequently promised to focus on the issue, only to fall into another controversy involving the president’s conduct.
Trump and Democrats agreed to work together on a $2-trillion infrastructure plan in April 2019, but they never reached a deal.
“We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world… 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 U.S. and its Kurdish allies toppled the Islamic State caliphate in the Middle East, though pockets of insurgents still remain. Trump later abandoned America’s Kurdish allies to their enemies in Turkey, prompting his then-defence secretary, Gen. Jim Mattis, to resign.
The U.S. military killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a Trump-authorized strike on Oct. 26, 2019.
Although he followed through on fighting ISIS, Trump has largely destabilized America’s old alliances while courting some of its authoritarian enemies. He has picked fights with allies including Canada, Germany and France. He’s stoked fears that he might pull out of NATO, though he has also encouraged other members to spend more on their own defence.
Trump has also pulled the U.S. out of various international agreements, including the Paris climate accord, the Iran nuclear deal and the World Health Organization (WHO). He hasn’t come up with alternatives to the climate accord or the nuclear deal, and he announced plans to leave the WHO during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trump ended the North American Free Trade Agreement but did manage to strike a new deal, dubbed the USMCA, with Canada and Mexico.
Additionally, Trump has sought new friendships with strongman leaders such as North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin. He infamously took Putin’s word over that of his own intelligence agency in 2017, when asked to condemn Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other. When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice… We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity.”
Trump has repeatedly used patriotism to attack his critics and smear his enemies, though he’s been reluctant to challenge Russia on many issues, including its move to put bounties on U.S. troops overseas.
Trump on several occasions has attacked Black athletes who kneel during the national anthem to protest police brutality. The president once called them “sons of bitches,” and mischaracterizes their protests as a sign of disrespect for the American flag.
The president suggested last year that several Democratic Congresswomen of colour, most of whom were born in the United States, should “go back” to the countries they came from.
Trump has reportedly mocked fallen U.S. soldiers as “suckers and losers.” He has also publicly denounced anti-racism protesters as people who “hate our country,” and has been reluctant to condemn far-right violence while pushing baseless claims that far-left “Antifa” anarchists are tearing the U.S. apart.
“There should be no fear — we are protected, and we will always be protected.”
Trump has spent much of his first term stoking fear about various inflated threats. He revived his racist attacks on immigrants ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, stoking fears that caravans of migrants were about to “invade” the United States.
More recently he has used fear to drum up support ahead of the election, repeating his claims that Antifa and the Democrats will “destroy” the country.
Joe Biden and the Democrat Socialists will kill your jobs, dismantle your police departments, dissolve your borders, release criminal aliens, raise your taxes, confiscate your guns, end fracking, destroy your suburbs, and drive God from the public square. pic.twitter.com/vrjMVaZhDI
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 15, 2020
There is no evidence to suggest that Antifa is anything more than an unorganized ideological movement, according to Trump’s own FBI director.
“We stand at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space, to free the Earth from the miseries of disease, and to harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow.”
Trump has made progress on unlocking the “mysteries of space” by investing in the Artemis program, a NASA initiative meant to send humans back to the moon.
When it comes to freeing the Earth from the “miseries of disease,” Trump has watched his country become the global hotspot for the coronavirus while blaming China for its spread. He has frequently applauded himself for restricting travel from China in January, but he has spent the intervening months wishing away the virus and blaming others, including China and the WHO, for America’s miseries.
Trump came down with the virus in early October after mocking others who wear masks. He received the best treatment possible, and emerged from his illness to downplay the threat of the virus for others.
Trump has put a lot of effort into rolling back environmental regulations and embracing old sources of energy, such as coal, while denouncing cleaner technologies through bizarre anecdotes.
“A new national pride will stir our souls, lift our sights, and heal our divisions.”
Trump has spent four years stoking division and fueling conspiracy theories in the United States. His Twitter account features a daily stream of false claims and attacks on his perceived enemies, both real and imagined.
He has also declined to condemn QAnon, the far-right fantasy hoax about a cabal of deep-state pedophiles who drink children’s blood. The hoax holds up Trump as a warrior for God against this fictional cabal, which is supposedly made up of Democrats and celebrities.
Trump claimed not to know about the hoax in August, and refused to condemn it when a reporter listed off the beliefs of its supporters. Instead, he described adherents as people who “love our country.”
Trump claimed ignorance about QAnon again in October, even after Republicans killed a vote in the House to condemn it.
“Together, We Will Make America Great Again.”
Trump has never fully defined the moment when America was great in his eyes, though he’d hoped to turn “Keep America Great” into a slogan for 2020.
It’s unclear when America might have been great during his tenure, but he hasn’t tweeted “Keep America Great” or “KAG” since March.
— With files from The Associated Press
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