How President Trump Measures Up to Candidate Trump
Donald Trump used to joke about just how good his presidency would be.
"We will have so much winning if I get elected that you may get bored with winning,” he said on the trail.
But a year since Trump’s election, winning hasn’t come so easy. The hundreds of promises that propelled him into office set a high bar for governance, one he’s struggled to meet.
Consider four fundamental goals: Build a wall, repeal and replace Obamacare, lower taxes and invest billions in infrastructure. Three attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act failed in Congress. Overhauling the tax code is likely the president’s last shot at squeezing in a legislative victory in his first year in office. An infrastructure plan was due by the end of the September, but the issue seems to have largely fallen off the White House's radar.
There are a handful of bright spots for the president. The nation is enjoying a healthy economy marked by a strong stock market and dropping unemployment numbers — just as it was when he took office — while a slew of executive orders and actions have helped check off a handful of campaign promises, like rolling back EPA regulations.
Amid a litany of promises ranging from the hyper specific to the sweeping, NBC News has zeroed in on and evaluated 10. Click through each to see how Trump has done.
THE PRESIDENT'S GOALS
Obamacare Repeal Attempts Have Failed. Status: Stalled.
As a candidate, Trump vowed to repeal and replace Obamacare with “something better” that would cost less, do more and insure “everybody.” He insisted repeatedly that he’d do it on Day One. Yet, the president entered office without an alternative policy proposal. A year since his election, Obamacare remains the law of the land.
GOP leaders in Congress have tried to repeal and replace it three times, but failed each time at the hands of their own party, which disagrees on what “something better” looks like.
"Our new president, of course, has not been in this line of work before, and, I think, had excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, according to WLWT, an NBC-affiliate station in Cincinnati.
The Republican bills, which Trump supported, all had one thing in common, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office: millions more uninsured than simply leaving the law in place, and often, skyrocketing costs. Should any of these bills been passed and signed by Trump, it would have broken a key element of his promise.
Administratively, Trump has worked to unravel regulations and dismantle the law from the inside out. He’s scrapped subsidies for low-income individuals, cut federal support for enrollment efforts, allowed cheaper plans with fewer benefits to be sold, and personally intervened to halt a stabilization effort in Iowa.
Healthy Economy, Though Not as Good as Trump Boasts. Status: In Progress.
President Donald Trump inherited a healthy economy, which has persisted since his election and subsequent inauguration in January. The unemployment rate has ticked down to 4.1 percent and wages are inching up. The stock market has reached record highs. GDP growth is strong, though it’s not the never-before-seen success Trump says it is, nor is it the 5 percent GDP growth he suggested was possible.
The nation’s job growth is not yet living up to the huge promises Trump made for it, either. As a candidate, he vowed 25 million new jobs over a decade — roughly 208,000 jobs a month — but just four of the nine full months he's been in office saw such job gains. He’s promised tax cuts to spur growth and create more jobs — though some experts question whether his tax proposals would do this at all — but that legislation has yet to make it through Congress.
There has been some bright news on manufacturing jobs: In September, the industry added jobs at the highest pace in four years, good news in an otherwise lukewarm jobs report.
Still, the president repeatedly overstates the country’s job gains, too. He told voters the nation had created a million jobs under him months before it actually happened, took credit for investments made under the Obama administration, and at one point boasted of 45,000 new mining jobs when there’s evidence of just 800.
America's Still Waiting for Big Wins. Status: You Decide.
Does the president feel like he's winning, despite a dearth of legislative achievements?
“I think he feels like America’s winning,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters. “I think if you look at some of the progress that’s taken place in the first nine months, despite the fact that the Congress has done very little up until this point. The president has gotten rid of nearly a thousand regulations that have paved the way for massive job creation and job growth in this country. We’re looking at a booming economy. I think those are things that people actually care about.”
Indeed, the president has chewed away at regulations, which he says hurts businesses, and elevated a slew of conservative priorities in executive orders. But it's not translating to the kind of big-ticket wins he promised.
"Soon the country is going to start winning, winning, winning," he said after winning the Nevada caucus during the Republican primary, listing off prizes like making Mexico pay for the wall and filling up the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, with "bad dudes."
"You're going to be proud of your president, and you're going to be even prouder of your country," he said.
Trump's voters aren't necessarily feeling that yet.
Voters in the counties that flipped for the president or saw a significant surge for him do not believe the country is better off than it was a year ago, according to new NBC News/Wall Street Journal polling. A plurality of respondents in the poll — 41 percent — said the country is worse off now than it was when Trump became commander in chief.
More broadly, Americans aren't pleased with the president: His approval ratings have reached historic lows. Just 37 percent of Americans said they approved of Trump’s work as president in a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, the lowest any president has seen at this point in more than 70 years. Even support among his base voters, who have stuck with him the longest, is showing signs of fraying.
Harsher Sentences Define Trump's Anti-Crime Efforts. Status: In Progress.
The Trump administration is doubling down on harsher sentences and publicizing crimes by illegal immigrants in its effort.
When it comes to crime, Trump’s most high-profile initiative has been launching an office to publicize crimes by undocumented immigrants and to assist victims.
Trump has championed this as a way of keeping two of his fundamental campaign promises — being tough on immigration and on crime — despite there being no evidence that immigrants commit more crimes than people born in the United States.
Longer sentences are the administration’s strategy elsewhere: Attorney General Jeff Sessions rolled back an Obama-era policy curbing drug sentencing, and revived a Bush-era gang-and-gun prosecution effort known as Project Safe Neighborhoods that was marked by harsher sentences in far-away federal prisons.
The president has declined to propose new policies after two deadly mass shootings in Las Vegas and Texas, calling them “sad” events but arguing that it was too early to talk about gun laws and floating the theory that good guys with guns save lives — something experts dispute.
One Trade Deal Is Dead, But No New Deal on NAFTA. Status: In Progress.
The president pitched himself as a great negotiator who would rewrite decades of trade policy to better help American workers. He kicked off his presidency by withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, keeping one of his promises toward this goal.
He vowed to renegotiate NAFTA, but after four rounds of talks, there’s no new deal yet. Citing “significant conceptual gaps,” negotiators said they would continue talks into the new year.
The president promised to leave the Paris climate agreement, a nonbinding deal among countries that aim to reduce climate change voluntarily, and announced to fanfare that the U.S. would drop out. The agreement doesn’t technically allow countries to leave before November 2020, and officials later said the U.S. will still send a delegation to participate in all meetings until then. Trump has said the U.S. will try to renegotiate the deal to better serve U.S. interests, something other countries say isn’t an option.
Trump Has Bombarded ISIS Forces Heavily. Status: In Progress.
The president promised an iron fist when it came to stomping out terror, promising “to bomb the sh-- out of ISIS” and “keep radical Islamic terrorists the hell out of our country” during his campaign.
And there are signs of increased aggression in the U.S. fight against ISIS abroad: Trump dropped “the mother of all bombs” and bombarded ISIS forces heavily, and in August, government data shows the U.S. and its allies dropped more than 5,075 weapons on ISIS targets, the highest monthly total in the last three years. The president’s military efforts have come at a high civilian cost, NBC News reported this summer.
However, Trump left out the term “radical Islamic terrorism” in a speech in Saudi Arabia after spending years blasting Barack Obama for not using the phrase. He never ordered the complete and total ban on Muslims entering the country that he promised at some points during his campaign, instead attempting to institute three travel bans on residents of certain countries — mostly Muslim majority — but they’ve all been halted or curtailed by the courts.
At home, terrorism is still a threat: A man prosecutors said was inspired by ISIS rammed a rented truck into a bike path, killing eight people and injuring a dozen more. Authorities pointed to evidence that he was radicalized online. Trump has outlined sharp budget cuts to anti-terror programs, too, something Sen. Chuck Schumer, R-N.Y., called for him to reverse in the wake of the terror attack.
Trump Says 'Believe Me.' Facts Say Otherwise. Status: Stalled.
President Trump as a candidate vowed to be a no-nonsense truth-teller — “believe me” was a common phrase — while restoring trust in government by "draining the swamp." Yet the president routinely utters falsehoods, spins facts and overstates his successes. And there's still a swamp.
A few examples: Despite evidence that the nation had added just 800 mining jobs, Trump claimed the industry had grown by 45,000. He boasted of signing more bills than any other president, and while there’s a grain of truth to that (in his first 100 days, Trump signed more bills into law than all but two presidents in the last 84 years), none are significant pieces of legislation. He took credit for increases in NATO spending, despite the fact that it was up well before he took office.
The Washington Post, meanwhile, counted 1,318 “false or misleading claims” in the president’s first 263 days in office, according to a story published Oct. 10. Six in 10 Americans in a CNN poll in August said the words “honest and trustworthy” do not apply to the president.
Trump also promised to hire only "the best people." But his picks have routinely raised legal and ethical questions. A special investigation into his campaign’s ties with Russia has offered a drip-drip-drip of distracting news questioning the credibility of the team that helped elect him and the accuracy of the president’s denials and defenses. Three aides, including his former campaign manager Paul Manafort, have been charged with crimes.
Trump's Cabinet has also been mired in ethics scandals: Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned after Politico reported that he and his wife had chartered private planes and military jets for trips around the world, at a cost of more than $1 million. He’s not alone in his taste for private jets: Taxpayers paid for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to fly home on a private jet to the tune of more than $12,000, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin took private jets to destinations including London. Attorney General Jeff Sessions had to recuse himself from the FBI's Russia probe after he failed to disclose contacts with Russian officials during the campaign.
In addition, top adviser Jared Kushner and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross both did not fully disclose their finances. Kushner had to revise his report significantly this summer, while Ross’ financial ties to Putin’s inner circle were uncovered recently by a global group of investigative journalists.
No Plan Yet for That $1 Trillion Investment. Status: Stalled.
President Donald Trump vowed big investments in American infrastructure at little cost to taxpayers, but the issue seems to have largely fallen off the White House's radar.
Detailed plans for the trillion-dollar investment the president promised were due by the end of the third quarter, but have not yet materialized.
His administration threw its support behind public-private partnerships, but in September The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump told lawmakers he felt those partnerships were “more trouble than they’re worth,” causing confusion around his administration's agenda.
The last time the White House dedicated serious political capital to the issue — throwing support behind privatizing air traffic control — it was Infrastructure Week, the White House’s counterprogramming to the testimony of former FBI chief James Comey. But the president steamrolled Infrastructure Week with off-topic speeches and tweets, including one appointing a new head of the FBI. A few weeks later, Congress reauthorized the Federal Aviation Administration, keeping air traffic control under federal purview in a direct contradiction to Trump, who suggested privatizing it.
Trump has kept his promise to approve two oil pipelines, however: Keystone XL and Dakota Access. Dakota is open, while Keystone has yet to find a buyer. But neither are expected to create the number of jobs Trump says they will.
Border Crossings Are Down, But Still No Wall. Status: Stalled.
Cracking down on illegal immigration was at the heart of Trump’s campaign — and the focus of some of his toughest talk and his biggest promises.
A year later, Immigration and Customs Enforcement reports that border crossings are down — a chief bright spot for the president — and as promised, Trump did indeed lower the number of legal refugees, to 45,000, the lowest cap since the Refugee Act was passed in 1980.
In September, the White House announced a plan to rescind the Delayed Action for Childhood Arrivals program, one of the protections President Barack Obama had ordered for young undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children. Trump's action, which garnered bipartisan criticism, appeared to clarify his campaign trail indecision about what to do about Dreamers, as recipients are known, but Trump later muddied that waters by tweeting he might "revisit the issue” if Congress failed to act in the next six months. So far, Congress has not touched it.
Much of the rest of Trump's promised agenda is stalled, however. Wall prototypes are nearly finished in San Diego, but Mexico and Congress have shown no appetite for paying the billions of dollars building the wall would cost.
The deportation forces that the president suggested would round up millions have not materialized, nor has he been able to round up the 3 million “bad hombres” he said he’d prioritize for deportation upon winning election a year ago. As of early September, ICE data showed that deportations were down from the same time period a year prior despite arrests being on the rise.
Though Trump’s stance on legal immigration was less clear-cut, the president this year backed “merit based” legislation that would reduce legal immigration by half. Congress has not considered the bill.
The president also offered up three different travel bans, barring people from certain countries from visiting or immigrating to the U.S., but all have been largely derailed by the courts.
Trump Is Still Attacking Democrats, Republicans and Everyone in Between. Status: Stalled.
In his victory speech, President-elect Donald Trump vowed to work with his critics and unite the nation.
But in the year since that pledge, Trump has attacked pro football players, late-night television hosts, foreign leaders, Democrats, Republicans, his own Cabinet, the cast of the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton,” the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico (in the midst of hurricane recovery), judges and more.
On a policy front, there's been little evidence of efforts to reach out to Democratic lawmakers outside of one frenzy-inducing meeting in September about DACA that did not lead to any movement on the issue in Congress, and a recent phone call on tax reform. Democratic lawmakers have largely closed ranks, voting unanimously against Trump-endorsed plans to dismantle Obamacare, for example.
Additionally, Trump blindsided his own military when he announced he’d discharge all transgender troops and bar them from serving, despite the military’s own plans to integrate transgender troops after they’d found it would not significantly alter readiness or care costs. A court temporarily blocked the ban, declaring that it was based on “disapproval of transgender people generally,” not military readiness.
One of Trump’s more generous donors, Bob McNair, owner of the NFL’s Houston Texans, called Trump’s attacks on protesting players “divisive and counterproductive to what our country needs right now.”
And two past presidents — Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Barack Obama — appeared to condemn Trump without naming him in a pair of recent speeches.
“We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism, forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America,” Bush said.