The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Fact-checking Trump’s reaction to Biden’s reelection announcement

(Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
9 min

President Biden announced that he was running for president with a gauzy video that left little to fact-check. There was a brief reference to “MAGA Republicans” wanting to cut Social Security — when all sides in the budget debate have agreed to leave the retirement program off the table — but otherwise the presidential announcement was policy-light.

Not so for former president Donald Trump, who is running hard to win the presidency back. His statement, delivered in his own video, is one misleading attack after another. Here’s a line-by-line dissection.

“You could take the five worst presidents in American history, and put them together, and they would not have done the damage Joe Biden has done to our nation in just a few short years. Not even close.”

This is rhetorical overkill. For what it’s worth, the Siena College Research Institute in September released rankings of the worst and best presidents based on a survey of historians, political scientists and presidential scholars. Trump ranked 43rd, third from the bottom. Biden ranked 19th, between Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Barack Obama, whom Biden served as vice president, ranked 11th.

“Thanks to Joe Biden’s socialist spending calamity, American families are being decimated by the worst inflation in half a century.”

The reasons for inflation are complex. Biden’s 2021 coronavirus relief bill may have contributed to the sudden increase in prices. But inflation spiked around the globe after the pandemic, increasing faster in many other countries, suggesting that this is not a problem resulting only from presidential spending priorities. Trump throws in the word “socialist” for no apparent reason, except that it’s red meat for his supporters.

“Banks are failing. Our currency is crashing and the dollar will soon no longer be the world standard, which will be our greatest defeat in over 200 years.”

Some banks have failed because they didn’t properly manage inflation-rate risk. The U.S. dollar soared early in Biden’s term — up as much as 8.9 percent in the Wall Street Journal’s dollar index during 2022, the biggest yearly rise since 2014. Now it’s come back to earth. The dollar only became the world’s reserve currency in 1944.

“Real wages have been falling 24 months in a row — in other words, under Biden, workers have gotten a PAY CUT each and every month for two straight years.”

There are various ways to measure “real wages,” but real disposable personal income per capita, a measure favored by economists, is basically flat from December 2020 to February 2023. Ordinarily, however, one would expect it to increase year over year.

“We have surrendered our energy independence, just like we surrendered in Afghanistan, which we had just a short time ago — and the price of gasoline just hit a five-month high, and it’s going much higher than that.”

As president, Trump would falsely claim the United States had achieved energy independence. That was never the case, but now he’s suggesting Biden is at fault. Trump’s reference to a five-month high for gasoline prices is an implicit acknowledgment that prices have dropped sharply since the high reached after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Under my leadership, we had the most secure border in U.S. history, by far. Never had a border like this. Under Biden, the southern border has been abolished — and millions of illegal aliens have been released into our communities. What’s happening now is beyond belief. They’re coming in from mental institutions and prisons. They are all being emptied. They are being dumped into the United States of America. Many of these people are very dangerous, they are being dumped. We are like a dumping ground.”

This part echoes a notorious section of Trump’s 2015 campaign announcement: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re bringing … drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” As president, Trump was obsessed with undocumented immigrant crossings. It spiked at various times during his presidency. But then it dwindled to virtually nothing in 2020 during the pandemic — the basis for his claim that he had the “most secure border in U.S. history.” Since Biden became president, undocumented immigrant crossings have risen to record highs, but it’s ridiculous for Trump to say the border “has been abolished.” Many migrants captured at the border are sent back, but by some accounts, at least 1.2 million migrants were seen by authorities but not apprehended.

“Our cities have been overrun with homelessness, drug addicts and violent criminals, who are being released from jail in mass with no retribution whatsoever, while law enforcement is weaponized against law-abiding conservatives or Republicans, or people they just don’t like.”

This is a mishmash of grievances. Trump appears to be referencing the Manhattan district attorney who indicted Trump on felony charges related to his role in hush money payments to an adult-film star and a Playboy model. Crime in New York has increased since 2020 — though it remains far below 1980s levels — and city statistics show that of the seven severe categories of crime, five are down relative to this point in 2022.

“Our children are being indoctrinated and mutilated by left-wing freaks and zealots.”

This jaw-dropping line appears to be an attempt to tap into objections to critical race theory, and anti-transgender sentiment that has emerged on the religious right.

“The senior ranks of our military have gone completely woke, and our military is suffering greatly.”

This is a theme lifted from Fox News and conservative media outlets. Military officials have pushed back at these claims in congressional hearings. “When I looked at it, there is one hour of equal-opportunity training in basic training, and 92 hours of rifle marksmanship training,” Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston told lawmakers in a March hearing.

“Biden has totally humiliated our nation on the world stage — starting with the Afghanistan disaster, perhaps the most embarrassing event in the history of our country. It meant so much to our enemies when they watched that horrible retreat.”

Biden’s departure from Afghanistan was poorly handled — but it was something Trump wanted to do, too. The Trump administration’s agreement with the Taliban set the stage for the departure of U.S. troops no later than May 2021, a deadline that Biden briefly extended to August.

“Russia is teaming up with China.”

Correct. But this trend has been in motion for years.

“Iran is days away from a nuclear bomb — not even thinkable.”

Trump is blaming Biden for one of his own errors. In 2017, Trump terminated the agreement with Iran negotiated during the Obama administration — by Iran, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council (the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China), Germany and the European Union — that was intended to restrain Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. He said he would get a better deal but never did. By the time Biden became president, Iran was no longer interested in reviving the agreement, though the Biden administration tried hard to engage with the regime. Iran appears to have enriched enough uranium to build several weapons, a United Nations agency says, but how quickly that could be accomplished is uncertain.

“Ukraine has been devastated by an invasion that would never, ever have happened if I was president — and Joe Biden has led us to the very brink of World War III.”

It’s ludicrous for Trump to make this claim. Biden has won praise for maintaining European unity in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“They say Trump was right about everything. Well, I’m not predicting World War III, but I will say this: We’re very close and they’re only talking about nuclear weapons.”

Not sure who “they” are, but Trump has a habit of making false claims about his predictions of earth-shattering events.

“On top of it all, Biden is the most corrupt president in American history — and that’s not even close. Nobody can believe what’s going on, with again no retribution whatsoever.”

No allegation of corruption by Biden has ever been proved. His son Hunter Biden has come under tremendous scrutiny but despite energetic efforts by Republicans — and investigative reporting by journalists — nothing has stuck. Strikingly, both here and earlier in his statement, Trump uses the word “retribution” — which is not the same as legal accountability.

“With such a calamitous and failed presidency, it is almost inconceivable that Biden would even think of running for reelection. You know what happened in the last election: they cheated, and they rigged the election.”

Trump once again repeats his lie that the 2020 election was stolen.

“But I promise you this: When I stand on that debate stage and compare our records, it will be radical Democrats’ worst nightmare because there’s never been a record as bad as they have, and our country has never been through so much. There has never been a greater contrast between two successive administrations in all of American history. Ours being greatness, and theirs being failure.”

Polls show most Americans, Democrat or Republican, are unenthusiastic about the Trump-Biden rematch. But Biden is counting on Trump hatred inspiring significant turnout by Democrats and Never-Trump Republicans. It’s not clear that Biden ignites the same sort of negative passion among Republicans. A Wall Street Journal poll shows Biden is backed by a wide margin of voters who disapprove of both the Biden and Trump presidencies.

“With your support in the election, we will defeat Joe Biden in 2024. We will rescue our economy. We will crush inflation. We will stop the invasion on our southern border. We will restore our nation’s dignity. And we will prevent World War III from happening. Together, we will all make America great again! Thank you.”

Lots of promises, reiterating the points above.

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