Each weeknight, Fox News Channel airs an unqualified defense of the Trump presidency for one hour. That hour is hosted by Sean Hannity, a media personality who proudly rejects the label of “journalist” and who explicitly endorsed Trump’s candidacy. A profile of Hannity in the New York Times magazine presents a fleshed-out look at a guy who is largely the sum of what he presents on television: a longtime advocate for right-wing politics who has seized on Trump with sincere enthusiasm.
“He’s firm in his support of the president,” one friend of Hannity’s told the paper’s Matthew Shaer, “and woe unto you if you don’t see things the same way. He’s a shield.” Stephen K. Bannon, late of the White House, described Hannity as “the single most important voice for the ‘deplorables’ ” — the description of Trump’s base appropriated from a Hillary Clinton campaign speech.
On Monday night’s show, Hannity picked up a thread that has wound through President Trump’s tweets for some time now, the idea that Trump has accomplished far more than his detractors give him credit for. This was manifested clearly by Trump in a Saturday evening tweet praising a list at a sketchy website called MAGAPill.
Not to be outdone, Hannity created his own list, declaring that “members of the lazy, destroy-Trump media” weren’t interested in sharing these important updates.
Hannity, as noted, is a member of the bolster-Trump media. Which means that his list includes items that are either not accomplishments, not accomplishments of Trump’s or not descriptors of things that actually took place.
As his list scrolled, Hannity lamented that he didn’t have time to discuss each of the items it contained. We do.
Neil M. Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. Actual accomplishment? Yes. This has emerged as Trump’s favorite talking point to describe his success, in part because it serves as a reminder to conservatives of the power of having a Republican president. It’s not debatable that Trump nominated Gorsuch and that Gorsuch was confirmed by the Senate, although the accomplishment is not without asterisks: Gorsuch occupies a seat held open by Republicans until Barack Obama was out of office, and his confirmation came only after Senate rules were changed to allow it.
Stock market at all-time high / Consumer confidence at 16-year high / Almost 1.5 million jobs created / Unemployment rate at 16-year low. Actual accomplishment? Debatable. These things are all generally true. The market keeps hitting new highs; new jobs are being created. But where the credit lies is another issue.
The bull market began in 2009, for example, well before Trump entered office. Consumer confidence is at a high — and also has been trending upward and the unemployment rate downward for some time. The job creation numbers are good, but generally have trailed job growth under Obama in 2016.
Americans still generally give Obama credit for the economy, in fact. Calling it an accomplishment of Trump’s is generous. It’s also risky. The market numbers provide a concrete upward trend to which Trump can point — but if the market dives, he can as easily be blamed.
Signed the Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act. Actual accomplishment? Sure. The legislation, signed into law in late February, was introduced by a Democrat from Connecticut while Obama was president.
Gutted Obama-era regulations / Ended war on coal / Weakened Dodd-Frank regulations. Actual accomplishment? Yes. Trump has been deliberate and unsparing in targeting Obama-era regulations and priorities, giving members of his administration a lot of leeway to undercut what prior administrations had done. That includes weakening environmental protections that focused on reducing the use of fossil fuels, and it includes eliminating rules aimed at protecting customers of financial products — like a rule that mandated that financial advisers act in their clients’ best interest.
Promoted buying and hiring American. Actual accomplishment? No. This is not an accomplishment simply because it involves saying “Buy American.” It is also not an accomplishment because there’s no indication that it has done much; even Trump’s private businesses are still hiring non-American workers.
Investment from major business (Foxconn, Toyota, Ford and others). Actual accomplishment? Mixed. Foxconn is planning to build a new factory in Wisconsin. Toyota is planning one, too, in partnership with Mazda. The one from Ford, though, was first announced in 2015, highlighting the question at hand: To what extent does Trump deserve credit?
Notice that Hannity’s list didn’t include the Carrier production facility in Indiana, which was a big talking point for Trump during the presidential transition. That deal has not delivered on its promise of protecting jobs.
Reduced illegal immigration. Actual accomplishment? Yes. Illegal immigration did decline early in 2017, clearly in part out of concern about how the Trump administration would handle those here illegally.
Bids for border wall underway. Actual accomplishment? No. Accepting bids for a construction project is to an accomplishment what ordering a meal is to feeling full.
Fighting back against sanctuary cities. Actual accomplishment? Mixed. Trump has embraced the idea promoted by conservative media outlets that sanctuary cities represent a failure in the fight against illegal immigration. As with buying American, Trump has, in fact, “fought back” against sanctuary cities rhetorically. His administration’s attempt to punish sanctuary cities by cutting off funding was rejected by the courts.
Created Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement Office. Actual accomplishment? Yes. Trump’s Justice Department did create this controversial department, which aimed to provide information on the status of immigrants who’d committed crimes. In its early days, the department largely fielded calls about space aliens.
Changed rules of engagement against ISIS/Drafted plan to defeat ISIS. Actual accomplishment? No. It’s odd that Hannity didn’t use another metric for ISIS (another term for the Islamic State). The Islamic State has lost a lot of territory over the past several months, and its de facto capital of Raqqa has reportedly fallen.
Those could be counted as accomplishments, and Trump has done so. Instead, Hannity celebrates two procedural efforts that are not best described as “accomplishments.”
Worked to reduce F-35 cost. Actual accomplishment? No. “Worked to reduce” is not “reduced,” an actual accomplishment. The cost of the F-35 did drop last year, something for which Trump took credit (although the decrease was had been expected). It went back up earlier this year. The Pentagon is now trying to finagle the price back down.
Five-year lobbying ban. Actual accomplishment? Sort of. Shortly after taking office, Trump signed new lobbying rules that prevented appointees from lobbying their agencies for five years after leaving the administration. But at the same time, Trump’s order eliminated the requirement that the administration inform the public about how well the rule was working and softened Obama-era rules aimed at keeping former lobbyists from working for agencies they’d once lobbied.
Sanctioned Iran over missile program. Actual accomplishment? Sort of. Trump could have pushed to scrap the Iran deal, but didn’t. Instead, he said he wouldn’t certify that Iran was complying with the deal’s terms (which the United Nations says it is) and called for new legislative sanctions on the country. He also added new sanctions against Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, although the effect of that move is expected to be limited, given how many sanctions the group already faces.
Responded to Syria’s use of chemical weapons. Actual accomplishment? Yes. After the Syrian government again apparently used chemical weapons against rebelling forces, Trump ordered airstrikes against airstrips in the country.
Introduced tax reform plan. Actual accomplishment? No. See “bids for border wall underway.” In fact, this is even less of an accomplishment, because the tax reform plans under consideration in the House and the Senate were crafted by lawmakers, not the White House.
Renegotiating NAFTA. Actual accomplishment? Yes. Negotiations are underway.
Withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Actual accomplishment? Yes. This was one of Trump’s first moves as president.
Removed the United States from the Paris accord. Actual accomplishment? No. The United States can’t formally withdraw from the agreement until 2020. Trump simply announced his intention to initiate that withdrawal process, which would begin in 2019.
DOJ targeting MS-13. Actual accomplishment? Sort of. Federal criminal investigators targeting criminal gangs is not outside the realm of the ordinary. Trump has focused on MS-13 in part because it overlaps with his push against immigration.
Signed an executive order to promote energy independence and economic growth / Signed an executive order to protect police officers / Signed an executive order to target drug cartels / Signed an executive order for religious freedom. Actual accomplishment? Sort of. Trump likes to tout the numerous executive orders he has signed as accomplishments, but, then, executive orders are unilateral declarations that often have little effect.
When Obama was issuing executive orders, Hannity did not consider them to be accomplishments.
Sending education back to the states. Actual accomplishment? Sort of. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has encouraged states to develop their own innovations in education. Part of that effort depends on the Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind and reduced the federal government’s role in education.
It was signed into law in 2015 by Obama.
Fixing the Department of Veterans Affairs. Actual accomplishment? Yes. Trump has put a focus on veterans and has signed multiple laws aimed at supporting them.
SCOTUS upheld part of Trump’s temporary travel ban executive order. Actual accomplishment? No. A third party upholding part of a temporary executive order is hard to categorize as an accomplishment. Trump repeatedly has tried to craft a travel ban that the courts would accept, without luck. A partial victory on a measure that was intended to last only 90 days is not what Trump promised.
Authorized the construction of the Keystone pipeline. Actual accomplishment? Yes. Trump’s State Department approved the permits needed to bring the Keystone XL pipeline across the Canadian border to complete a route to the Gulf Coast.
Created commission on election fraud. Actual accomplishment? Sort of. Trump did indeed create this commission. It seems unlikely to complete its mission, though, facing multiple lawsuits, including one filed by an actual member of the commission.
Hannity’s list aside, it’s worth comparing what Trump has done to what he promised to do. His campaign released a two-page list of his plans for his first 100 days in office. It includes some of the items above but also added legislation aimed at repealing the Affordable Care Act (which failed in the Senate), creating term limits for members of Congress (non-starter) and pushing charter schools.
PolitiFact estimates that Trump has accomplished eight of his 103 campaign promises — and broken three of them. Members of the energetic, pro-Trump media won’t tell you that.