The moderate’s case against Trump.

You Don’t Have to Hate Donald Trump to See He Is Bad at His Job

You Don’t Have to Hate Donald Trump to See He Is Bad at His Job

Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
April 26 2017 4:19 PM

The Moderate’s Case Against Trump

You don’t have to hate Donald Trump to see he is bad at his job.

170424_POL_Dear-Moderate-Voter-MAGA

Photo illustration by Lisa Larson-Walker. Photo by Thinkstock.

In the final months of his presidential campaign, Donald Trump repeatedly asked one question: “What the hell do you have to lose?” Many voters knew they didn’t like Hillary Clinton, but they weren’t sure about Trump. He had never served in public office. Maybe he’d shake things up in a good way. They figured he couldn’t make things worse.

William Saletan William Saletan

Will Saletan writes about politics, science, technology, and other stuff for Slate. He’s the author of Bearing Right.

But he has.

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If you voted for Trump with mixed emotions, or you just couldn’t stand Clinton, then you’ve probably heard the usual arguments against Trump—“He’s racist,” “he’s sexist,” “he’s anti-Muslim”—and found them wanting. Maybe you didn’t buy them. Maybe you decided something else was more important. So I won’t waste your time making that case again. And I won’t pester you with talk about Trump colluding with the Russians. You’re probably more interested in a good job and a decent life for your family than you are in dragging the country through another scandal.

On the other hand, if you’re reading this article, then you’re probably not the sort of Trump fan who, as he once said, would still support him even if he walked out into the street and shot somebody. You’re the person I want to talk to: moderate to conservative, but open to persuasion.

Many of my colleagues think there are no good Trump voters. I don’t agree. You can be sick of low wages and lost jobs, disgusted with the Clintons, angry about Obamacare, and wary of open borders without being a monster. My argument to you isn’t that Trump is bad because he addresses these concerns. My argument is that he addresses them badly. If you want better jobs, better health care, better border security, a stronger America, less corruption, and less debt, Trump is taking you in the wrong direction. And he’ll keep making things worse until you stop him.

Here are 10 reasons why a sensible person who voted for Trump, or at least didn’t vote for Clinton, should oppose Trump based on his first 100 days in office.

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1. He promised to fight for working people against the establishment. He hasn’t. During the campaign, Trump said his opponents, Clinton and Sen. Ted Cruz, were puppets of Goldman Sachs, a Wall Street investment bank. But after he was elected, Trump appointed five Goldman Sachs executives as top advisers and Cabinet officers. He said you shouldn’t worry, because he and other wealthy people in his administration would work for you, not for themselves. But look at the record. In executive actions, the Trump administration has sabotaged two rules that protect taxpayers and ordinary investors from the financial industry. One rule prevents banks from gambling with your money in situations that might require taxpayers to bail them out. Another rule requires your financial adviser to act in your best interest.

Trump takes credit for announcements by various companies that they’re keeping jobs or making investments in the United States. Often, the companies play along, presumably because they don’t want to offend the president. But independent reviews have found that Trump misrepresents and sometimes fabricates his involvement.

Trump says his planned tax cuts are for the middle class, but when you look at the numbers, they overwhelmingly benefit the rich. His budget eliminates agencies and partnerships that fund economic development, water infrastructure, education, and job training in Appalachia and the South. These aren’t handouts. They’re lifelines that help working people help themselves.

2. He said he would repeal Obamacare and replace it with something better. He has done neither. As a candidate, Trump promised “insurance for everybody.” He swore he wouldn’t cut Medicaid, and he assured voters, “Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re taken care of now.” Once in office, he abandoned these promises. Last month, he tried to pass a health insurance bill that would have raised premiums and shrunk coverage. According to the Congressional Budget Office, 14 million people would have lost insurance. For some, projected medical costs would have gone up sevenfold.

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The bill also betrayed small-government conservatives. With one hand, it freed them from having to buy insurance or pay a federal penalty. With the other, it forced them to pay similar penalties to private insurers instead.

When conservatives opposed the bill, Trump offered to drop “essential health benefits,” inviting insurers to make their policies worthless while preserving the illusion of coverage. He predicted that the existing insurance market would collapse, forcing people to accept his plan. He speaks happily of this scenario, as though his goal were to sabotage health care, thereby making anything he offers seem better by comparison. And he continues to talk about reviving the bill—not to help sick people, but to finance tax cuts, three-quarters of which would go to the top 1 percent of earners. When the president treats health care as a kitty for tax cuts, you have to wonder who he’s looking out for.

3. He promised to strengthen our borders and “get smart” about keeping out terrorists. He hasn’t. Trump’s Mexican wall never made sense. It would cost $20 billion to $70 billion, and even a Republican congressman from the Texas border area calls it “the most expensive and least effective way to secure the border.”

His plan to vet travelers for potential terrorism makes no sense, either. Trump ordered the suspension of travel from only seven countries—Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen—which together have produced not a single terror attack in the United States since 2001. Trump’s ban didn’t apply to Pakistan or other countries from which recent attacks on the United States originated. Nearly all the 9/11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, or the United Arab Emirates. But Trump has ongoing business interests in those countries, and they’re exempted from the ban.

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Trump also sprang the travel ban as a surprise, resulting in hundreds of detentions, interrogations, and deportations of arriving passengers. Lawyers, protesters, and outraged family members flooded U.S. airports, tying up air travel. No terror plots were found, but Trump learned nothing from his mistake. When courts halted the ban, Trump reissued it with as few tweaks as possible, rather than reworking it in a way that would protect the country.

4. He said he would stand up to our enemies and competitors. He hasn’t. When Mexico refused to pay for Trump’s border wall, he folded. He also said during the campaign that he would declare China a currency manipulator. But after he got elected and needed China’s help, he retracted the charge. Earlier this month, he certified Iran’s compliance with its 2015 nuclear agreement, and extended U.S. sanctions relief, despite having run against it as the “worst deal ever.”

As a candidate, Trump claimed that he had a plan to defeat ISIS, but that he was keeping it secret to deceive the enemy. Then he got elected, and one of the first things he did was issue an order “to develop a comprehensive plan to defeat ISIS.” He had no plan. Two weeks ago, Trump said he was “sending an armada” to show North Korea our power. Then reporters discovered that the carrier was going the other way.

5. He ran against the national debt. Now he’s running it up. Trump is proposing a $54 billion increase in the military budget for equipment that would have little use under his isolationist foreign policy, $1 trillion in infrastructure spending, and tax cuts that, according to independent estimates, would increase the debt by $3 trillion to $10 trillion over the next decade. Trump’s infrastructure spending might please liberals, his defense hike might please neoconservatives, and his tax cuts might please libertarians. But together, they make no sense, except as a policy of complete disregard for deficits.

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6. He promised to work for “the forgotten man and woman.” Instead, he has focused on himself. Trump ran for president as a no-nonsense businessman. “Politicians are all talk, no action,” he said. But no president has fixated more on ego and popularity than Trump. He spent his first week complaining, falsely, that the press had underestimated his inaugural crowd and that millions of illegal ballots had cost him the popular vote.

The problem isn’t just that Trump can’t stop talking about himself. It’s that his self-absorption wastes everyone’s time. He ordered Vice President Pence to organize a commission to look into the false voter-fraud allegations. In early March, as Republicans were about to unveil their health insurance bill, Trump accused President Obama of tapping his phones. The FBI director and other officials said this wasn’t true, but Trump escalated his allegations, sucking up attention that should have gone to debating health care.

7. He promised to make America great. Instead, he has isolated and weakened us. Trump has a short temper. He hurls insults and fires off angry tweets. Some of his fans enjoy this. But when he does it as our president, he creates animosity against our country. When Trump disparages France, chews out Australia’s prime minister, fails to shake the hand of Germany’s chancellor, and refuses to apologize for suggesting that British intelligence spied on him at Obama’s behest, he alienates our allies. He weakens our leverage in the world.

As long as Trump is president, other officials in our government will have to go around cleaning up after him. Two months ago, on a trip to the Middle East, Defense Secretary James Mattis had to assure Iraqis that the United States wouldn’t seize their oil, as Trump had suggested. This month, during the showdown over North Korea’s missile program, Pence had to assure South Koreans that the United States would defend them, contrary to Trump’s threats of abandonment. Now somebody has to assuage the anger over Trump’s clumsy remark about Korea being part of China.

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8. He said he would “drain the swamp.” He hasn’t. Trump promised to rid Washington of corruption. But all he did was introduce a new cast of characters: Jared Kushner (Trump’s wealthy son-in-law and senior adviser, indebted to foreign and domestic banks), Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price (who traded stocks in industries he regulated), and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn (who took hundreds of thousands of dollars from Russian and Turkish interests). Instead of selling his real-estate holdings to eliminate conflicts of interest, Trump has used his office to promote them. He has moved official functions, such as visits from foreign leaders, to his private Palm Beach resort, Mar-a-Lago, which doubled its membership price to $200,000 after Trump was elected. And this month, the administration announced that it would stop releasing logs that show which lobbyists or other favor-seekers have visited the White House.

9. He preached “America First.” But he has put his friends’ business interests before the national interest. Trump has hired, protected, and defended people who secretly worked—directly or indirectly—for other governments. Flynn took $65,000 from Russian interests and $530,000 to lobby for Turkish interests while advising Trump on national-security matters during the campaign. Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, made millions of dollars working for a Russian billionaire on a lobbying project in the United States, which Manafort explicitly promised would “benefit the Putin Government.” Trump has continued to defend both men, and the White House says such consulting arrangements are a private “business matter,” not a public concern.

10. He said he would honor the military. Instead, he has disparaged it. As a candidate, Trump claimed to raise money for veterans. But he kept most of it until the Washington Post reported that he hadn’t followed through. Two weeks after his inauguration, in an interview with Bill O’Reilly, Trump suggested that the U.S. military was no more ethical than Russia’s. When O’Reilly noted that Putin’s a killer,” Trump shrugged: “There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What, you think our country’s so innocent?”

The first military operation authorized by Trump, a raid in Yemen, ended in disaster. It killed more than a dozen civilians and a Navy SEAL, Ryan Owens. Instead of taking responsibility, Trump blamed his generals. “This was a mission that was started before I got here,” Trump told Fox News. “This was something that was, you know, just they wanted to do. And they came to see me, and they explained what they wanted to do, the generals … And they lost Ryan.”

What we’ve learned in Trump’s first 100 days, in short, is that he’s bad at the job. Maybe last fall you decided to give him a chance. Or maybe you felt you had to choose between two bad candidates, and you could only stop one of them. So you voted against Hillary, and you got this instead.

You don’t have to stand for it. Call your senators and your member of Congress. Demand better health care and a fairer tax system. Go to their town halls. Tell them to oppose Trump when he doesn’t do what’s right for the country. If they don’t listen to you, organize and vote them out next year. Trump’s first 100 days have been bad. We don’t need another four years like them.

One more thing

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