Mexico never paid for that wall, for one.
Donald Trump made hundreds of promises as a candidate about what kind of president he would be. As his final days in office tick down, it is clear that he has broken most of the biggest ones.
Some were silly — like his vows never to call Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei "Supreme Leader" ("I'll say, 'Hey baby, how ya doing?'") and never to break his leg in a bicycle race. Others were hyperbolic, like an April 2016 boast that if he won the election, "all of the bad things happening in the U.S. will be rapidly reversed!"
But many of his unkept promises were fundamental actions he had claimed were the reason he should be elected president, things he would do to "Make America Great Again."
Trump has claimed that he created the greatest economy in history. But even before the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a massive economic downturn, the promises Trump made about what he'd do for the country's economy had not been fulfilled.
During a debate with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton not long before Election Day in 2016, Trump claimed that "we're bringing GDP from, really, 1 percent, which is what it is now, and if she got in, it will be less than zero. But we're bringing it from 1 percent up to 4 percent. And I actually think we can go higher than 4 percent. I think you can go to 5 percent or 6 percent."
But under Trump, growth of the country's gross domestic product never reached 4% in any quarter until the third quarter of 2020, and that was due to a partial rebound from a contraction of over 31% caused by the pandemic.
Dozens of times, Trump made a vague but firm pledge to "immediately" repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, with something "terrific" that would provide health insurance coverage to every American.
Trump never actually revealed this supposed secret plan. Instead, he endorsed what he described as a "mean" congressional repeal legislation proposal that he admitted lacked "heart." The House, then controlled by Republicans, passed a version of the bill, but the effort failed in the Senate.
Trump's most famous 2016 campaign promise was that he would quickly build a massive wall along the entire southern border between the United States and Mexico, and that Mexico would pay for it. When Mexico refused to pay, Trump diverted billions of dollars appropriated for military families and construction to pay for it.
According to a fact check published by USA Today in September, only five miles of the wall built under the Trump administration are new construction; the rest of the 307 miles U.S. Customs and Border Protection said had been built as of Sept. 1 replaced or reinforcing existing fencing.
During his campaign for president, Trump vowed to "drain the swamp in Washington, D.C.," releasing a "Five-Point Plan for Ethics Reform" in government. He said he would completely disentangle himself from his financial holdings and have his kids take them over. He did neither, instead giving policy influence to donors, letting his children simultaneously take key roles in his business and political organizations, profiteering from his position, and running what the nonpartisan watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington called the "most unethical presidency" in U.S. history.
Focus on the job of president
During the 2016 race, Trump claimed that as president he would behave differently than he had as a candidate. "And after I win, I will be so presidential that you won't even recognize me. You'll be falling asleep, you'll be so bored," he said during an interview with reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. He also promised that if he was elected, he would stop tweeting.
"I would rarely leave the White House because there's so much work to be done," he said in 2015. "I would not be a president who took vacations. I would not be a president that takes time off."
Trump promised that he would staff his administration with only the "best and most serious people." But he frequently fired his own appointees — sometimes via tweet — and often attacked them for being totally incompetent.
According to a report published by the Brookings Institution, 91% of Trump's "A Team" of positions within the executive office, not including Cabinet members, turned over at least once during his four years in the White House, breaking records for turnover.
Trump told Americans that he would bring an end to violent crime. "The crime rate is through the roof. People can't walk down the street without getting shot. I'll stop that," he said. In his inaugural address, Trump announced an end to crime and poverty in inner cities, saying, "This American carnage stops right here and stops right now."
While a decrease in violent crime that had been underway for decades mostly continued, the murder rate in many American cities shot up this year, possibly in connection with the coronavirus pandemic, experts speculate. Rather than highlight the incremental improvements, Trump actually made his failure to keep this promise a 2020 campaign talking point and frequently noted the increasing crime rates on his own watch.
While pushing climate denial, Trump framed himself as an environmentalist committed to "crystal clear, crystal clean" water and fresh air. "I will refocus the EPA on its core mission of ensuring clean air, and clean, safe drinking water for all Americans," he promised.
Instead, his administration rolled back environmental protections and slashed funding for water infrastructure. The level of dangerous particle pollution in the air is basically unchanged since 2016, as the EPA ignores scientists' calls to impose lower limits on the pollutants.
Despite all of these, Trump sought a second term with the slogan "Promises Kept."
"I didn't back down from my promises and I have kept every single one," he claimed in a video shown at the Republican National Convention in August.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.