Last year, we took a look at the 10 Worst Things Joe Biden Has Done in His Political Career. From the 1994 Crime Bill to his vote to authorize the War in Iraq, his 47 year legacy was far from perfect. But we thought it’d only be fair to take a look at the 10 worst things Donald Trump has done in his much-shorter time in the political arena.
As with Biden, we’re confining this to the political and campaigning arena, so his sketchy business dealings, sham charities, creepy behavior in young women’s dressing rooms, and multiple affairs and alleged sexual assaults won’t appear. That’ll help us with the difficult task of narrowing it down to 10. In no particular order, here are Trump’s worst hits.
In a representative democracy, we’re all responsible for the actions of our government, and we as a nation will have to come to terms with our treatment of people seeking asylum. Trump rose to power on anti-immigrant rhetoric, preying on fear of the other, and he took little time trying to curb the number of people entering our country illegally—or legally. The ban on visitors from several Muslim countries, the dream of a big wall from sea to shining sea, the war on chain migration, the very policy that allowed his wife’s parents to join her in the U.S. were all part of this goal. But the cruelty of stealing children away from their parents at the border and putting them in cages in an effort to deter people running from oppression and poverty to hope that America might offer a chance at a new life? That’s just evil. And because his administration has been as incompetent as it has been cruel, hundreds of children are unable to be reunited because his people didn’t put in place a system to return them.
It’s difficult to get 197 countries to agree on anything, so the 2015 accord was an historic first step in a unified effort to slow climate change. But Trump has made it clear that he doesn’t trust science, that everyone else is treating the U.S. unfairly and that he’ll use any tool at his disposal to ensure that we don’t let a little existential crisis get in the way of the wheels of unfettered capitalism. He’s gone so far as to order the removal of references to climate change throughout public documents, hamstringing American climate science and delaying much needed action. At every turn, Trump has fought against policies to protect the environment. The process won’t be complete until Nov. 4, but he’s already eliminated dozens of Obama-era environment, pollution and drilling regulations.
Trump has made it something of a motto to try to undo anything Obama touched, from Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals to the Clean Power Plan, but his White Whale has been the end of Obamacare, something he couldn’t do legislatively, so he’s now turned to the courts. With no replacement plan in place other than the “great plan” that for years has been just weeks away from getting announced, the Trump Administration has launched multiple suits against the ACA, including one that will be heard by a court that includes his latest appointee Justice Amy Coney Barrett. This could mean the end of healthcare coverage for millions of Americans and especial trouble for anyone with a preexisting condition.
Trump’s first time in the political spotlight can be traced back to the newspaper ads he bought back in 1989 calling for five black and Latino teenagers to be put to death for a crime they’ve since been exonerated for. He’s never apologized. Let me say that again. He led the charge to put five teenagers to death, and when they were cleared both by DNA evidence and a confession by the actual perpetrator, he’s doubled-down that he still thinks they’re guilty. Later he launched his presidential campaign talking about Mexican rapists coming across our borders, so maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that he goes out of his way to talk about alt-right, pro-Confederacy protesters as good people. Or refers to African nations as “shithole countries.” Or instead of just condemning white supremacy, tells the Proud Boys to “stand down and stand by.” Trump has drawn the admittedly weak and all-too-infrequent condemnation of Republican lawmakers for some of his most racist tweets, like telling four women lawmakers of color to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” Even now, on the stump again, Trump has taken umbrage that Rep. Ilhan Omar, who immigrated to the U.S. as a child, would dare have opinions about on American policy. “She’s telling us how to run our country,” he said. “How did you do where you came from? How’s your country doing?” During a time in which the nation finally seems ready to confront the systemic racism that continues to plague us, our president is constantly fueling the fires of racism and xenophobia.
When Republican presidential nominee Trump stood on a debate stage and asked Russia to essentially hack into his opponents’ email server, and they did, one could argue that that was very public “collusion.” When he went farther and pressured the new leader of the Ukraine to dig up dirt on his next presidential election opponent, that led to his impeachment and the first time a member of a president’s own party (Sen. Mitt Romney) voted to remove him from office. He tied desperately needed foreign aid approved by Congress to the president of a foreign country going on CNN and announcing an investigation into Trump’s political opponent. This is all part of a trend of seeking what’s best for Trump the politician over what’s best for the nation.
Taxpayers have ponied up at least $900,000 to Trump’s properties, thanks to his spending 1 out of every 3 days of his presidency there and headlining 37 political events at Mar-a-Lago and other resorts. He was even determined to get the G7 Summit to meet at his Florida golf resort. When Pence visited Scotland, he went out of his way to stay at a Trump property, keeping the meter running for his boss. And despite Trump’s assurance that they’re getting a great deal, (“We charge them like 50 bucks), the Trump Organization has been bilking the Secret Service for much higher than market rate. That all doesn’t even factor in all the lobbyists and foreign governments that seem to think spending money at Trump’s hotel in Washington, D.C. is in their best interests. When it became apparent that members of Mar-a-Lago would get to dine in a room with the President of the United States, the club doubled its initiation fees to $200,000. Trump claims all profits from foreign entities will be donated to the U.S. treasury, but it strains believability that the company has earned less than $200,000 each year from foreign actors when Kuwait spent more than $40,000 on one event alone. Within a month of Trump winning the election in 2016, a lobbyist for Saudi Arabia booked 500 nights of rooms in the Trump Hotel. Trump would later brag to Bob Woodward, “I saved his ass,” referring to his refusal to condemn Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the wake of the brutal murder of Washington Post writer Jamal Khashoggi. How much Trump is letting his personal interests influence U.S. foreign policy is unclear because of his complete lack of transparency when it comes to his finances and disregard for the Emoluments clause of the Constitution.
Long before reports were coming out of China about a novel coronavirus, Trump fired the pandemic response unit the Obama Administration had put in place in the wake of Ebola, cut funding to the CDC and shut down our research labs set up as early-warning units in 60 countries, including one in Wuhan, China. Since then, he’s made fun of people for wearing masks, undercut his own scientists, concealed information that the virus was airborne, off-handedly wondered if injecting disinfectant might treat the virus, and then left it to the States to figure out 50 separate plans to combat the virus, often undercutting their efforts with statements like “liberate Michigan!” The death toll from the virus has surpassed 225,000, and the president’s response is to pretend it’s over, downplaying the virus and hosting his own super-spreader events, often flaunting local regulations to do it.
The Tax Cut and Jobs Act was a hugely regressive change to a tax code that already had set its highest bracket at half of what it was in the 1950s. The biggest winners were those making more than $500,000/year, while adding a “pass-through loophole” that allows business owners to take huge deductions and cut corporate taxes by a third, while doing almost nothing for most Americans. The argument was that corporations would reinvest, but corporate investment began to slow within a year of its enactment. Financial inequality has soared under Trump with American’s 100 wealthiest families growing their worth by $400 billion since the start of 2020, while unemployment has skyrocketed in the wake of the pandemic. And his latest proposal to cut the top capital gains tax from 20% to 15% would result in 99% of the benefits going to the top 1% of Americans. The icing on the ultra-wealthy cake was a cut in estate taxes that will cost the U.S. an estimated $83 billion and benefit just 5,500 families.
Where to start beyond Child Separation? With the ban on visitors from seven Muslim nations that had never presented a terrorist threat while excluding countries where he had business concerns like Turkey and Saudi Arabia? Or with his removal of protective status from 59,000 Haitians and forced deportation during a pandemic? How about his legal attacks on DACA that could threaten Dreamers with deportation to countries they don’t even remember? How about round-ups of undocumented workers at farm processing plants? Or ICE deporting U.S. veterans? Our immigration system was broken long before Trump took office, and the lack of progress made during the Obama administration was one of its biggest disappointments, but Trump has changed the Republican Party’s posture from “increase legal immigration to stem the tide of illegal immigration” to a flat-out anti-immigrant message. If George W. Bush sought a “compassionate conservatism,” when it came to immigration, Trump has preached a ruthless one.
They’re almost impossible to keep track of, but The Washington Post has put in the work, detailing 22,247 false or misleading claims through Aug. 27. Politicians are continually rattling off facts and statistics that support their view of the world, and regularly getting them wrong. But Trump’s relationship to reality is special in the most maddening way. From the moment he took office and falsely claimed that his inauguration crowd was the largest in history, he has been America’s Liar-in-Chief, claiming that he’s done more for African-Americans than any other president since Abraham Lincoln (um, Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act), making up “facts” about election fraud to cast doubt on the 2020 election, and putting words in his opponent’s mouths—like that Joe Biden wants to defund the police or that he called young Black males “superpredators” (that, for the record, was Hillary Clinton). This is a man who used to call up papers pretending to be his own publicist, exaggerating his own wealth and claiming that Obama wasn’t born in the U.S. His lies don’t even raise an eyebrow anymore, we’ve become so used it.
See The 10 Worst Things Joe Biden Has Done in His Political Career.
Josh Jackson is Paste’s co-founder and editor-in-chief. Follow him on Twitter @joshjackson.