Trump and his campaign promises – a presidency of words, not actions
Tom Fowdy
Editor's Note: Tom Fowdy is a British political and international relations analyst and a graduate of Durham and Oxford universities. He writes on topics pertaining to China, the DPRK, Britain, and the United States. The article reflects the author's opinion, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.
In 2016, the presidential election campaign of Donald Trump proved to be likely the most unconventional and controversial bid for the White House in history. The New York real estate tycoon's run was marked by a number of bizarre and remarkable pledges wrapped under a holistic theme of "making America great again."
Some notable promises included his infamous bid to build a wall across the Mexican border and force the southern neighbor to pay for it, banning Muslims from entering the United States, pursuing a series of trade offensives with the goal of bringing jobs back to America, "rebuilding the country's military," pursuing a less interventionist foreign policy and investing heavily in domestic infrastructure. His victory over Hilary Clinton would ultimately shock the world.
But now, two and a half years or so later, where does the president stand in regards to his campaign promises? Has Trump done everything he said he would do? Or has he fallen short?
Certainly, there has been some action on the things he has promised. Nevertheless, everything must be assessed within the framework of his personal character which dramatically and often comically exaggerates the success of everything he does, even to the point of telling lies.
Once one looks past this, one may observe the president has fallen short on the "big" elements of his campaign. This reveals an administration built largely upon hyperbole.
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to media in the Rose Garden at the White House, May 22, 2019. /VCG Photo 

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to media in the Rose Garden at the White House, May 22, 2019. /VCG Photo 

First of all, how does one adequately scrutinize a president in the light of his campaign pledges? One must be fair in noting that there is always going to be a significant gap between ideals and reality. This means that the day-to-day constraints and practicalities of presidential life render it such that the successful candidate is never going to achieve everything they promise in the campaign.
That is how it is. The president is a powerful figurehead, yet must struggle and haggle with a plethora of other political actors, not least including the Congress, on matters of policy.
Given this, one should always be fair in acknowledging such political constraints in the like of assessing a president's individual actions.
Trump has been subject to such constraints. One may note that almost instantly, Trump's posture for a non-interventionist foreign policy with less U.S. military involvement around the world was discarded in its entirety. Yet, this may be assigned to the constraints placed around him by the existing U.S. foreign policy establishment.
With Trump needing allies, he was forced to rely on key appointments within the White House itself. Thus when the president wanted to stay true to such a pledge and withdraw troops from Syria, it provoked outrage from such circles, a clear example of a context Trump is forced to operate "within" and ending one pledge.
Yet such constraints cannot excuse him from everything. Whilst some may blame congressional Democrats as a similar "constraint" pertaining to his border wall, which leads to the longest U.S. government shutdown in history and an attempted use of emergency powers to pursue it (which are facing legal challenges), the very fact it was put before the Congress for funds is an indication that his plan to "make Mexico pay for it" was never serious.
This serves as a reminder that many of Trump's pledges and ideas have been at best ridiculous or void of all reason. The conception of a "wall" itself was appealing to the imagery of people's fears than being serious.
Central American migrants are detained by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents at the border wall in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, Mexico, May 7, 2019. /VCG Photo‍

Central American migrants are detained by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents at the border wall in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, Mexico, May 7, 2019. /VCG Photo‍

This reveals a wider pattern pertaining to Trump. Most of Trump's pledges and how he relates back to them are built around cliche phrases and nationalist imagery than serious empirical plans.
Trump talked about "rebuilding the military," but what does that even mean? Nobody destroyed or dismantled it. It is a vague idea designed to appeal to military populist sentiment.
Whilst his supporters may point to the fact he was serious and followed through with his pledges on trade, what has he gotten to show for this? Yes, he started a number of trade conflicts, but have they brought jobs and manufacturing back to the U.S. as the intended result? Seemingly not.
His pledges to invest heavily in infrastructure never happened either. The trade frictions with China have now put U.S. manufacturing to a 10-year low with fears of a slowdown spreading into services, is this an accomplishment?
Trump, of course, will respond by claiming the economy is "better than ever," but this seems to exaggerate his own role in the light of what others have done before him. If a president operates by constraint, it also means that everything which happens is by default, not his own doing.
Thus, Trump might be described as leading a presidency on imagery and hyperbole. He made a lot of promises, whilst his supporters can say he has acted in pursuance of them and battled constraints, this nevertheless does not give credence to how realistic those "promises" were and what they have actually achieved.
It has been an administration wrapped in simple slogans and cliche ideas, combined with taking credit for a lot of things in questionable ways. There are many words, but fewer actions.
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