Wednesday was the worst day of President Donald Trump’s presidency. It came during one of the best weeks of his presidency, which will fuel his argument for reelection 2020.
On Thursday, the House, with support from Speaker Nancy Pelosi, was set to pass Trump’s revised version of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement – though Pelosi told fellow Democrats “we ate their lunch” after they got labor enforcement measures added.
Plus, she allowed Congress to move a defense authorization that includes giving federal workers paid family leave, a bipartisan goal that sets an important example for the private sector, and giving him the Space Force he has listed as a top defense priority.
They passed a funding bill to keep the federal government running until September 2020, although Trump will not get new money for the border wall he has long promised.
They’re close to repealing three unpopular tax measures related to the Affordable Care Act, even as Trump tries to smother the underlying law and Pelosi tries to prop it up.
Trump also got some of the money he needs to build a border wall – nearly $1.4 billion, a massive concession that will reverberate for the remainder of his presidency. He also got the ability to transfer money to finance the wall from some Pentagon accounts, although court challenges remain.
Democrats chose mollifying Trump over the concerns of progressives and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
The action came at a price for Trump, who accepted a fraction of the money he originally asked for in the negotiations that triggered last year’s historic government shutdown.
But that won’t stop him from trying to take credit for what passed at year’s end, as we learned from the stream-of-consciousness letter Trump sent ranting at Pelosi over impeachment.
It included one 212-word sentence ticking off his accomplishments as President, a presumable preview of his case for re-election next year. It’s an interesting list since a good portion of it relies directly on his ability to work with Pelosi, and the rest she is actively fighting.
Here’s the full list, reproduced below, with some context about each point:
Your party simply cannot compete with our record: 7 million new jobs; the lowest-ever unemployment for African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans;
Trump’s figure is slightly inflated. While the economy has created more than 6 million jobs during the first 33 months of the Trump presidency, that falls short of the more than 7 million created during the last 33 months of Obama’s presidency, according to a recent USA Today review.
a rebuilt military; a completely reformed VA with Choice and Accountability for our great veterans;
Trump did oversee an increase in military spending. He also signed a VA reform law in 2018 – but it expanded and modified the Veterans Choice program signed by President Barack Obama in 2014. It’s not clear Trump’s most recent budget proposal would appropriately fund the VA law.
more than 170 new federal judges and two Supreme Court Justices;
Republicans ended the filibuster for Supreme Court and federal judges and as a result, they’ve been seating them at a remarkable clip, including some who don’t meet the American Bar Association’s standards. That satisfies a crucial goal of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and will reshape the judiciary for a generation – which will perhaps be Trump’s longest-lasting legacy. Even as the House was debating Trump’s impeachment, the Senate was pushing through judicial nominations.
historic tax and regulation cuts; the elimination of the individual mandate;
Yes, Trump achieved both of these things. Pelosi would point out the tax law exploded federal deficits, gave massive permanent tax cuts to corporations but only temporary cuts to individuals and potentially penalized blue-state filers who relied on deducting high state and local taxes.
Congress had zeroed out the so-called “individual mandate” in the 2017 tax bill. Now it will remove three more tax measures that raised revenue for Obamcare – a tax on expensive “Cadillac” plans fought for by unions, a tax on premiums collected by insurers and a tax on medical device manufacturers. But Trump has yet to roll out his long-awaited plan to fix the US health care system.
the first decline in prescription drug prices in half a century;
It is not at all clear that this claim is exactly true, as fact checkers have shown. Trump has also been thwarted by courts in multiple efforts to lower drug prices through executive action, suggesting he’ll have to work with Democrats to solve the problem. The House recently passed Pelosi’s drug price cap bill, which both Trump and McConnell have said they won’t support.
the first new branch of the United States Military since 1947, the Space Force;
This Trump promise is becoming reality thanks to Democrats, who included it in the end-of-year defense spending bill.
strong protection of the Second Amendment;
Trump has in fact repeatedly said after mass shootings – most notably the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, and this past summer’s in El Paso, Texas – that he will take action, and signed a ban on bump stocks. But Trump has also repeatedly let momentum for major gun reform peter out.
criminal justice reform;
Yes, Trump signed into law a criminal justice reform law and it is a major accomplishment of his time in office. The law was passed with bipartisan support.
a defeated ISIS caliphate and the killing of the world’s number one terrorist leader, al-Baghdadi;
Yes, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead. But Trump has repeatedly declared ISIS defeated, and he does so at his own peril. A recent Pentagon report suggested ISIS was reconstituting itself.
the replacement of the disastrous NAFTA trade deal with the wonderful USMCA (Mexico and Canada);
Here’s a look at what’s in the long-promised US-Mexico-Canada deal, which is a lot like NAFTA. Pelosi, as we noted above, has claimed Democrats put important enforcement measures in place – and Trump needs her to pass it.
a breakthrough Phase One trade deal with China;
This one is quite disingenuous. Trump scuttled a trade deal President Barack Obama negotiated with other Asian nations as he came into office, promising he would have better luck negotiating a direct trade deal with Beijing. But after a year of back-and-forth tariff rounds, he has dialed back expectations for a massive trade deal with China, instead repackaging something narrower as a “phase one” deal with promises of more to follow. And Beijing’s retaliation to the tariffs Trump imposed on China slowed the global economy and hurt American farmers, requiring a massive, tens-of-billions of dollars taxpayer bailout of farmers that will never be paid back.
massive new trade deals with Japan and South Korea;
The trade deal with Japan was limited and did not resolve disputes between Japan and the US over automobiles. It gave US farmers, for instance, the same access to Japanese markets they would have gotten under the much larger Obama-era trade deal Trump abandoned. Japan and 10 other countries have moved forward without the US in the meantime. The South Korea trade deal, which was reached in March of 2018, was viewed by economists as a relatively modest update of an already existing deal.
withdrawal from the terrible Iran Nuclear Deal;
European leaders tried to convince Trump not to withdraw from this deal, which forced Iran to limit its nuclear capabilities. Trump did it anyway. By ordering new sanctions on Iran, he did arguably, help put more pressure on the government there. But he also amplified the threat Iran poses to the US and the US military expects some sort of retaliation. However, he pulled from the Iran Nuclear Deal at the same time he was pursuing a very similar sort of nuclear deal with North Korea.
Hey. Wait a minute. Trump doesn’t mention North Korea or his summits with Kim Jong Un in this list. Nuclear talks there are stalled after Trump bailed out of a summit in Hanoi. So Trump withdrew from an Iran nuclear deal that had international approval and has failed so far to procure a North Korea nuclear deal.
cancellation of the unfair and costly Paris Climate Accord;
This is certainly something Trump did, but removing the US from this otherwise worldwide agreement, was met with outrage from Democrats and others who believe in climate science.
becoming the world’s top energy producer;
The US has been the top petroleum and natural gas hydrocarbon producer since 2012, according to the government’s Energy Information Administration. What changed on Trump’s watch is that the US became the top crude oil producer. Trump’s vision is for an economy propelled by US oil and gas production. It’s certainly true that Democrats want to cut down on US oil and gas consumption as they attempt to do something about the climate crisis.
recognition of Israel’s capital, opening the American Embassy in Jerusalem, and recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights;
Trump moved the US embassy to Jerusalem unilaterally and with great controversy since it was perceived by Palestinians as undercutting the US as an arbiter of peace in the region. The embassy move was welcomed by some American Jews as well as by many in Trump’s evangelical base, but its opening in 2018 sparked deadly protests in Gaza.
Trump made the US the only country in the world to recognize Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights – territory seized from Syria in 1967 and annexed in 1981. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later named a Golan Heights settlement after Trump.
a colossal reduction in illegal border crossings, the ending of Catch-and-Release, and the building of the Southern Border Wall
Trump has arguably had a greater impact on US border policy than anything else. He’s separated children from parents at the border, cut refugee admissions, changed asylum procedures and more. Regarding undocumented immigrants, border crossings are down since spring, as judged by the number of arrests and apprehensions at the border, but that’s only after a huge spike earlier this year.
There are legal hurdles still standing in the way of Trump’s attempt to divert Pentagon money to get a border wall built, although the Supreme Court ruled he could use much of that money to start building during legal challenges. The Senate and House have both tried and failed to override Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency and use military construction money on the wall instead. Ultimately, to build the full wall, Trump will need Congress to give him much more money. He didn’t get that money when Republicans were in charge of Congress either.
And that brings us to the end of Trump’s list, which he ends by saying, “and that is just the beginning, there is so much more.”