ANALYSIS — President Donald Trump started his day trip to Iowa and Illinois by ducking reporters’ questions and ended with a spirited event on the GOP tax law that quickly took on the feel of a campaign rally.
At both stops — one a roundtable and one a speech with a podium and teleprompter — the president spent ample time ticking off a list of things his administration has done since it took office. Vice President Mike Pence did the same at an event in West Virginia sponsored by his political action committee.
But while the VP’s speech was that of a traditional politician, his boss — as he so often does — spoke off-the-cuff and uttered a number of eyebrow-raising lines. Here are 11 of Trump’s boldest claims and quips from his Midwest trip:
“I got more than she did,” he said of the women’s vote in 2016 and Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton. This is a false statement. Clinton took the overall female vote (54 percent to 42 percent). Perhaps the president, who often fixates on his conservative political base, was thinking about white women. He won them 53 percent to 43 precent.
“We’re having the best economy we’ve ever had in the history of our country,” he declared in Illinois with no supporting data. This doesn’t hold up, either. The Washington Post recently looked into Trump’s often-recited claim, using Bureau of Labor Statistics and other data, and found the economies of the 1990s, 1980s and 1960s were all stronger.
The president endorsed the notion of growing the economy “nice and slowly.” The latter contradicts candidate Trump, who often slammed then-President Barack Obama for increasing GDP too methodically.
“They were the ones who were actually able to pay the easiest,” he said of “a dictator or two” he met with at a recent NATO summit. Trump was referring to his demand alliance members pay more into NATO’s annual budget. The remark came days after his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, said Trump has an affinity for global strongmen.
Trump, citing unspecified reports, said economic growth data coming Friday should show growth of between “3.8 to 5.2” percent. Earlier, chief White House economic adviser Lawrence Kudlow told Fox Business the growth in the report would be “big.” This is the second time Trump and Kudlow have weighed in on economic reports before they are released, something their predecessors avoided.
“This never happened to Obama. This never happened to Bush. … They’re dying to see us make a little bit of a mistake. They analyze every word,” the president said late in the trip, pointing to journalists on the far side of the facility in Illinois. This is simply a false statement. A press pool of the same size traveled with the 43rd and 44th presidents, and media outlets flocked to cover their events when they traveled across the country. But that didn’t stop him from adding this: “Did he say something positive about Russia? I think he loves Russia.”
“U.S. steel is back,” the president declared at a steel manufacturing facility in Granite City, Illinois. Experts say the industry has been helped by his tariffs on imported steel from places like Europe, Canada, Mexico and Asia. As Democratic lawmakers, trade experts and even some GOP lawmakers criticize his trade spat with allies and adversaries alike, the president and his top aides increasingly see this as a victory. So it wasn’t surprising to hear him drop this familiar line later: “If you don’t have steel, you don’t have a country.”
“I could be one of you. … And I’d be happy,” he told the steelworkers. But Trump recently touted his New York City penthouse and other material items he acquired due to his wealth earned as a real estate mogul and reality television star. There is scant evidence he would give all that up for a steel job.
“We just opened up Europe for you farmers. You’re not going to be too mad at Trump,” the president said in Iowa. This assessment, however, excludes the fact that the specifics of the limited pact he struck with his EU counterpart on Wednesday remain unresolved.
“He speaks and you listen. ... There are no games with Chuck,” he said of the Hawkeye State’s senior senator, Republican Charles E. Grassley. Trump said. Trump promised to “drain the swamp,” but even Trump finds the veteran senator a formidable Washington player.
“Nobody wanted me to be doing what I’m doing. … I’m not like other politicians,” he said at his second stop. Based on the 2016 popular vote and a slew of polls since that show Democrats and independents giving him low job approval ratings, Trump has a point here.
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