Colson: Trump’s broken promises, secret visitors

John Colson
Hit & Run

Once upon a time, not too long ago, campaign promises made by candidates for high political office seemed to somehow mean something.

Granted, politicians are known by one and all to have a rather nuanced view of the concept of truth-telling, one that depends more on political expediency than any kind of moral compass.

The most glaring example in recent presidential races, of course, was former President George H.W. Bush’s famous campaign declaration in 1988, “Read my lips! No new taxes!”

Before his term was finished, readers may recall, Bush the Elder was regretting that pledge as he was forced by Congress to accept spending bills that — you guessed it — raised taxes as a way of trimming deficit spending.

Notwithstanding Daddy Bush’s continued opposition to the tax hikes, his opponents in the subsequent presidential primaries, in 1992, pummeled the incumbent with accusations that he had betrayed a sacred trust of Republicans.

There is not much chance we’ll ever know how much the tax hikes hurt Daddy Bush, but the unavoidable fact is that he followed Jimmy Carter into history as one of the few single-term presidents of the middle of the 20th century.

Given all this, one might think that breaking campaign promises is something to be avoided.

Ha! That’s certainly not true any more, if it ever was.

Our president-in-training, Donald J. Trump, not only lied fabulously throughout the 2016 election campaign, but also has gone back on so many of his campaign “promises” that we in the news business have had a hard time keeping up.

Since being sworn into office, the main campaign pledges that Donald Trump has honored have had more to do with unraveling the scantily progressive legacy of his predecessor, Barack Obama, and to do as much damage as possible to our national lands, waters and air by giving free rein to the extractive industries seeking to exploit our natural treasures regardless of environmental cost.

But unlike the agreements Trump the Business Genius made to so many of his creditors before stiffing them and ignoring their cries of anguish and hardship, we in the public are able to keep track of his trail of broken pledges, thanks to news organizations who feel we ought to know as much as possible about President Donald Trump’s record.

Politifact, for instance, has created an online “Trump-O-Meter,” which is updated regularly to show how The Donald is doing on specific issues.

For instance, as part of Trump’s campaign of negativity against China, he pledged to direct his treasury secretary to label China as a “currency manipulator,” meaning the Chinese directly tweak that country’s monetary policy to gain improper trade advantages over the U.S.

Interestingly, I’m not sure the crowds at his rallies understood what it means to be a “currency manipulator,” though it clearly fit in with their anger over lost jobs and depressed wages here in the U.S., which they have been told over and over again is due to unfair competition from Chinese industries and certainly not a result of U.S. corporations cynically moving their factories and facilities overseas to escape having to pay living wages to workers.

Well, guess what. Trump last week walked his rhetoric back to declare that China is not what he said it was only a few months earlier: “They’re not currency manipulators,” he said on April 13, according to Politifact.

Our president also promised, during the campaign, to give the ailing U.S. steel industry a boost by requiring that American-made steel would be used for his ballyhooed trillion-dollar infrastructure revitalization.

But that seems to have been another promise that’s proving to be a little slippery. One of the biggest infrastructure projects on the board right now, construction of the Keystone Pipeline, will feature the use of foreign steel, Politifact has reported.

The New York Times has gotten into the tracking-Trump act as well, taking the president to task for what the paper’s editorial writers termed “Mr. Trump’s 10-second convictions.”

In the Sunday Review section on April 16, the paper called Trump out for a broad array of turnarounds, starting with the failure to come up with a “repeal and replace” plan for the Affordable Care Act (derided by critics as “Obamacare”).

The New York Times also hit at Trump for lavish spending on travel to and from his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, after promising last summer to stay in Washington and on the job after heaping scorn on Obama for allegedly taking too many vacations. According to the New York Times, Trump is “on target to ring up more bills for travel in his first year than Mr. Obama did in eight years.”

Then there are his repeated pledges to “drain the swamp” of lobbyists and special interests in Washington. In fact, he has moved to boost the number of swamp denizens in the halls of government by hiring name after name from the rolls of Wall Street and K Street.

And what about Syria? Trump spent considerable time and effort yelling at Obama to “stay out of Syria” over the past couple of years, then turned around the lobbed missiles at a Syrian government airbase after being prompted by his daughter, Ivanka, who was upset by the images of children killed in a sarin-gas attack. Never mind that Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad had been killing off huge numbers of his people using every weapon he could find, including toxic gases, for six years, including the span of time when Trump was shouting that we had no business getting involved.

And now Trump has pulled the plug on public access to the White House visitor logs, so we cannot see who gets in and which offices and officials they hobnob with.

Which prompts me to echo his own tweet from 2012, when Obama failed to release certain records and Trump asked, “Hiding something?”

Well, Mr. President, what, exactly, are you hiding?

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