On Sunday, The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker assessed President Trump’s summer. It wasn’t a particularly flattering review, noting several toxic political fights Trump launched out of the blue, a mass shooting tied to the president’s rhetoric and a stumbling economy.
“White House officials promote the summer of 2019 as one of historic achievement for Trump, offering up a list of more than two dozen accomplishments,” Rucker and Parker wrote. “But privately, many of the president’s advisers and outside allies bemoan what they consider to be a period of missed opportunity and self-sabotage.”
The White House communications team did not like this characterization. On Tuesday, it published a video purporting to show The Post what we “missed” over the course of Trump’s “summer of winning.”
(Note that the video echoes Trump’s characterization of this newspaper as the “Amazon Washington Post,” a reference to owner Jeff Bezos, who is also the founder and CEO of the tech company.)
As subscribers are probably aware, The Post did not take the summer off. In fact, we covered each of the major stories included in the video package. It’s just that, outside the White House, those individual accomplishments aren’t really a powerful counterweight to the self-inflicted wounds Trump’s presidency has suffered since the beginning of July. Most of those “wins,” in fact, are either executive orders making incremental changes, achievements that happened before the summer or announced changes that exist in limbo.
Here is each “win,” presented in the order shown in the video, with additional context.
Mexico tightens its southern border in response to a Trump tariff threat. The Post did report on this — but the change happened in early June.
Trump eased the process for eliminating student debt for wounded veterans. We covered this, too. Somewhat lost in the discussion of the change is that Trump’s change (by executive order) removed a requirement that veterans apply to have debt eliminated. The debt forgiveness already existed.
When announcing the change in August, Trump didn’t mention that aspect of the change.
“In a few moments, I will sign a memorandum directing the Department of Education to eliminate every penny of federal student loan debt owed by American veterans who are completely and permanently disabled,” he said. “Incredible. Nobody can complain about that, right? Nobody can complain about that. The debt of these disabled veterans will be entirely erased. It’ll be gone. And you’ll sleep well tonight.”
Imposition of new sanctions on Iran’s supreme leader. Here’s The Post’s report on the sanctions targeting Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It includes a key line: “But experts are divided on the actual financial impact of imposing sanctions on Khamenei directly.”
Trump became the first president to enter North Korea. A historic moment, to be sure, but not necessarily a “win” for the United States.
After all, it’s still not clear how North Korea’s efforts to build a robust nuclear arsenal have been significantly affected by Trump’s outreach to the country. Last month, we reported on how North Korea’s provocations have continued even since Trump greeted North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the demilitarized zone between the Koreas. Trump conceded this month that Kim might be violating U.N. mandates but seemed simply to shrug at the possibility.
Trump reached a “safe third-party country” agreement with Guatemala. The agreement (which you can read about in this article from the Amazon Washington Post) would, if finalized, potentially curtail some migration to the United States by allowing immigration officials to turn away some asylum seekers, who legally must seek asylum in the first safe country they enter.
The problem? “Guatemala’s constitutional court,” The Post reported, “has ruled any safe third country agreement would require legislative approval and the proposal has been widely criticized there.”
An executive order increasing transparency in health-care pricing. As The Post’s report notes, the order “does not immediately trigger changes in the health-care system.” Instead, “it sets in motion several new rules [the Department of Health and Human Services] and other federal agencies will write and gives Trump a set of pro-consumer talking points in the first week after he formally announced his reelection campaign.”
Trump “got a lot accomplished” at the G-7 conference in France. That, according to a Fox News clip included in the video. The accomplishments include …
A new trade deal with Japan. As our report on the agreement notes, any such deal would need congressional confirmation. What’s more, it’s not clear how close a deal is.
“We still have some remaining work that has to be done at the working level,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan said at the time of Trump’s announcement.
Trump signed an executive order aimed at making kidney transplants easier. Here’s The Post’s report on that development.
The president met with various other foreign leaders. They included officials from Canada, Qatar, Pakistan, Mongolia, Romania and Poland. That latter meeting, for what it’s worth, was in early June.
Trump traveled to El Paso to meet with people affected by a mass shooting. It was this shooting that was apparently carried out by a gunman echoing Trump’s immigration rhetoric. The Post covered Trump’s visit — including that he at one point focused on how big his crowds had been at an event in the city earlier in the year.
The man featured in the video is a Trump supporter who was frustrated about coverage of Trump’s visit. Other victims’ families were frustrated by the stop.
The White House held an event focused on putting inmates back to work. The Post covered this, too — when it happened in mid-June.
Trump held an event celebrating American energy production. The event wasn’t really pegged to anything that happened over the summer. We did learn, though, that many in the audience were given a choice to attend or to not get paid.
Again, all of this should be weighed against the obvious trouble the White House has faced since summer began: Trump’s racist tweets targeting Democratic elected officials. The warning signs about a recession, powered in part by Trump’s ongoing trade war with China. A dip in his approval rating.
The White House thinks that the actions detailed above outweigh the negatives, proving that Trump “won” all summer long. We’ll leave that assertion up to you to evaluate.