The silent partner in Trump’s boasts — Barack Obama
WASHINGTON >> President Donald Trump has a silent partner behind several of the accomplishments he likes to boast about: Barack Obama.
Despite assailing his Democratic predecessor for waging a “cruel and heartless war on American energy,” for example, Trump can brag about U.S. energy supremacy thanks to the sector’s growth in the Obama years.
And the Obama-Trump decade is soon to yield an economic record if things stay on track a little longer — the most sustained expansion in U.S. history. Though Trump claims all the credit, the expansion started in Obama’s first year, continued through his presidency and has been maintained under Trump.
There are no fist bumps in the offing, however.
The past week saw the kickoff of Trump’s 2020 campaign with a rally in Florida. That and other events provided Trump a platform that he used to exaggerate what he’s done, take some factually challenged swipes at Obama and Democrats at large, and make promises that will be hard to keep.
TRUMP, on separating children from adults at the Mexican border: “When I became president, President Obama had a separation policy. I didn’t have it. He had it. I brought the families together. I’m the one that brought ‘em together. Now, I said something when I did that. I’m the one that put people together . ... They separated. I put ‘em together.’ — interview with Telemundo broadcast Thursday.
JOSE DIAZ-BALART, interviewer: “You did not.”
THE FACTS: Trump is not telling the truth. The separation of thousands of migrant children from their parents resulted from his “zero tolerance” policy. Obama had no such policy. After a public uproar and under a court order, Trump ceased the separations.
Zero tolerance meant that U.S. authorities would criminally prosecute all adults caught crossing into the U.S. illegally. Doing so meant detention for adults and the removal of their children while their parents were in custody. During the Obama administration, such family separations were the exception. They became the practice under Trump’s policy, which he suspended a year ago.
Before Trump’s zero-tolerance policy, migrant families caught illegally entering the U.S. were usually referred for civil deportation proceedings, not requiring separation, unless they were known to have a criminal record. Then and now, immigration officials may take a child from a parent in certain cases, such as serious criminal charges against a parent, concerns over the health and welfare of a child or medical concerns. ••• TRUMP on detention centers at the border: “President Obama is the one that built those prison cells.” — Telemundo interview.
THE FACTS: He has a point. Whether they are called prison cells or something else, Obama held children in temporary, ill-equipped facilities and built a large center in McAllen, Texas, that is used now.
Democrats routinely and inaccurately blame Trump for creating “cages” for children. They are actually referring to chain-link fencing inside the McAllen center — Obama’s creation.
Conditions for detained migrants deteriorated sharply during a surge of Central American arrivals under Trump, particularly in El Paso, Texas.
TRUMP: “This will be the largest trade deal ever made, and it won’t even be close. If you take a look at the numbers, second is so far away, you don’t even call it second. So it’s very exciting. And very exciting for Mexico; very exciting for Canada.” — remarks Thursday with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
THE FACTS: That’s wrong, simply by virtue of the number of trade partners involved.
The proposed new agreement, replacing the North American Free Trade agreement, covers the same three countries. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, negotiated by the Obama administration, included the three NAFTA partners — United States, Canada and Mexico — plus Japan and eight other Pacific Rim countries. Trump withdrew the United States from the pact on his third day in office.
Even the Pacific deal pales in comparison with one that did go into effect with the U.S. on board, the Uruguay Round. Concluded in 1994, the round of negotiations created the World Trade Organization and was signed by 123 countries. The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston said the WTO’s initial membership accounted for more than 90 percent of global economic output. ••• TRUMP on his tariffs: “We are taking in billions and billions of dollars into our treasury . ... We have never taken 10 cents from China.” — rally Tuesday in Orlando, Florida.
THE FACTS: It’s false to say the U.S. never collected a dime in tariffs on Chinese goods before he took action. They are simply higher in some cases than they were before. It’s also wrong to suggest that the tariffs are being paid by China. Tariff money coming into the treasury is mainly from U.S. businesses and consumers, not from China. Tariffs are primarily if not entirely a tax paid domestically.
TRUMP: “President Obama made a desperate and terrible deal with Iran - Gave them 150 Billion Dollars plus I.8 Billion Dollars in CASH! Iran was in big trouble and he bailed them out. Gave them a free path to Nuclear Weapons, and SOON. Instead of saying thank you, Iran yelled ... Death to America. I terminated deal.” — tweet Friday.
TRUMP, on his accomplishments: “And then terminating one of the worst deals ever made, the Iran deal that was made by President Obama — paid $150 billion. Paid $1.8 billion in cash. I terminated that and Iran is a much different country.” — Fox News interview Wednesday.
THE FACTS: There was no $150 billion payout from the U.S. treasury. The money he refers to represents Iranian assets held abroad that were frozen until the international deal was reached and Tehran was allowed to access its funds.
The payout of about $1.8 billion is a separate matter. That dates to the 1970s, when Iran paid the U.S. $400 million for military equipment that was never delivered because the government was overthrown and diplomatic relations ruptured.
That left people, businesses and governments in each country indebted to partners in the other, and these complex claims took decades to sort out in tribunals and arbitration. For its part, Iran paid settlements of more than $2.5 billion to U.S. citizens and businesses.
The day after the nuclear deal was implemented, the U.S. and Iran announced they had settled the claim over the 1970s military equipment order, with the U.S. agreeing to pay the $400 million principal along with about $1.3 billion in interest. The $400 million was paid in cash and flown to Tehran on a cargo plane, which gave rise to Trump’s dramatic accounts of money stuffed in barrels or boxes and delivered in the dead of night. The arrangement provided for the interest to be paid later, not crammed into containers.