WASHINGTON ― On the bonfire of President Donald Trump’s credibility, Americans can now toss a fresh log: his often-repeated promise during the midterm election campaign of a new “10 percent tax cut for middle-income families.”
“We are going to be putting in, and are studying very deeply right now, around the clock, a major tax cut for middle-income people,” Trump told reporters in Elko, Nevada, on Oct. 20.
“It’s going to be put in next week,” Trump promised his rally audience in Houston two days later. “We’ve been working on it for a few months.”
As it turns out, no tax cut was “put in” the following week. No one had been working on it at all, let alone “for a few months” or “around the clock.” In fact, congressional Republicans had not heard a word of Trump’s plan until his airport tarmac boast in Nevada.
“Everyone was sort of taken by surprise when that news came out, including the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee,” a top House GOP aide told HuffPost on condition of anonymity.
Trump touted his coming tax cut dozens of times between Elko, Nevada, and Cape Girardeau, Missouri, his final rally on the eve of last week’s elections. He has not mentioned it a single time since ― making Trump’s promise of more money in voters’ pockets yet another example of the president’s willingness to say anything, without regard to its truthfulness or its effect on his White House’s credibility.
“Ronald Reagan said about the Russians: Trust but verify? People should say about Trump: Doubt and verify,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
Ronald Reagan said about the Russians: Trust but verify? People should say about Trump: Doubt and verify. Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania
White House officials, meanwhile, were left to deal with a disastrous week that began with Republicans losing close to 40 seats in the House and ended with a weekend of Trump’s various controversies in Paris and his return in a sullen and aggrieved mood that promised a new round of staff firings.
Privately, they groused that Trump could not catch a break and was being disbelieved on even straightforward statements – such as that military officials prefer not to fly Marine One through rain and fog.
Trump was skewered for his decision not to visit an American cemetery 60 miles northeast of Paris on the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I because of rain. But former officials from both his and previous administrations said his advance team had almost certainly crafted fallback plans that could have sent Trump to close-by sites that were short drives away.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story.
Trump’s critics, including Republicans, expressed amazement that the White House could complain about its lack of credibility, given the president’s spree of falsehoods and outright lies in the final two months before the midterms.
“I don’t even know what to say,” said John Weaver, an aide to Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who ran against Trump in the 2016 GOP primaries and seems likely to do so again in 2020. “If they had said: ‘We achieved greatness by being the most lying group of low travelers ever,’ well, that that would be a true statement. Beyond that, there’s nothing to give them credit for.”
Trump has told many thousands of falsehoods since taking office in January 2017, but his pace of dishonesties hit some 30 per day in the closing weeks of the midterms as he staged dozens of rallies to help Republicans in House, Senate and gubernatorial races around the country. Each rally typically contained several dozen Trump falsehoods, including some that were easily disproven.
For instance, Trump frequently claimed that his promised wall on the Mexican border is under construction and that he has received nearly $5 billion for it already from Congress. He claimed he passed a law letting veterans see private doctors in their communities, while others had tried and failed for 44 years. He claimed his military budget had set records, that U.S. Steel was opening as many as eight new plants and that the proper name for the Democratic Party was the “Democrat” party.
In fact, Trump has not started building the wall and has not received a dime for its construction from Congress or, that matter, Mexico ― the country that would, Trump promised hundreds of times during his campaign, pay for its construction.
The “veterans choice” act passed in 2014 under former President Barack Obama. Obama’s 2010 and 2011 military budgets were both bigger than Trump’s, even before adjusting for inflation. U.S. Steel is not opening any new factories, and the Democratic Party’s name, of course, is and for more than a century has been the Democratic Party.
Those claims were mainly about achievements Trump supposedly had already accomplished. Trump’s falsehood about the pending tax cut, in contrast, was invented specifically to give voters a financial incentive to choose GOP candidates, according to a Republican close to the White House who spoke on condition of anonymity.
I think campaigns are full of lies. Denny Elkins, Trump supporter at rally in Pensacola, Florida
Jamieson, whose Annenberg Public Policy Center runs the “FactCheck” operation, said that while Trump’s willingness to lie may be disappointing or even maddening to Americans, the much bigger threat is how foreign adversaries could interpret his words.
Trump’s recent attacks on a New York Times story about continuing advancements in the North Korean missile program, for example, may be seen by that country’s dictator― whom Trump has repeatedly claimed an abiding love for ― as a license to continue, she said. And Trump’s statements downplaying the significance of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by the Saudi Arabian government has similarly sent the wrong message, she added.
“The place that concerns me is international affairs, where the consequences are huge and the president can act unilaterally,” Jamieson said. About Khashoggi, she wondered: “Had he not been president, would they have dared to have done that?”
Trump’s strongest supporters, meanwhile, did not seem terribly bothered by Trump’s falsehoods about the status of that promised new tax cut.
“In his defense, he’s a very busy person,” said Denny Elkins, who attended a Nov. 3 rally in Pensacola, Florida, where Trump told the crowd he was working on the tax cut “right now.”
“I think campaigns are full of lies,” said Elkins, a technician at the Glass Doctor franchise in nearby Niceville. He added that Trump was working far harder than his predecessor, Obama. “I feel that Donald Trump is the first adult in that office since Ronald Reagan.”
Barbara Guzman, the owner of a label printing business in Cape Coral, Florida, heard Trump make that same claim three days earlier in Fort Myers. She was not quite as forgiving. “I think he’s a man of his word,” she said, but added that she now expects Trump to make good on his promise. “If he sweeps it under the carpet, I won’t be happy. I’ll tell you that right now.”