Some of the worst advice I ever got came from my father.
Sure, he meant well when he told me not to brag; that my deeds and accomplishments would speak for me. But then I got older and I realized much to my surprise and dismay that my peers were strutting around like roosters on steroids. In classrooms, on job applications and resumes, networking — you name it. And this was before Facebook, a time-sucking invention created for taking navel-gazing and self-promotion to extremes.
Anyway, President Trump obviously never got advice from my father.
On Monday, with cameras rolling, Trump preened before his Cabinet and crowed about his record in office, pronouncing that he had achieved, as he put it, tremendous success.
“I will say that never has there been a president — with few exceptions; in the case of FDR, he had a major Depression to handle — who’s passed more legislation, who’s done more things than what we’ve done, between the executive orders and the job-killing regulations that have been terminated,” Trump said. “Many bills; I guess over 34 bills that Congress signed. A Supreme Court justice who’s going to be a great one.”
The trouble with bragging – never mind that it can betray a bit of insecurity — is that it invites scrutiny. On your performance review at your workplace, for example, you might write, “I’ve achieved tremendous success this year.” Your supervisor might wish to reply, “In what universe?”
In Trump’s case, journalists took on the task of examining the facts. The Associated Press, for example, knocked down the president’s claims with blunt and swift precision, the way a guillotine would slice through a watermelon.
The AP said: “(Trump) has little to show for his first five months in office, in concrete ways, other than the confirmation of a justice.”
The news organization’s fact check went on to note that Presidents Obama and George W. Bush accomplished more in their early months. In his first month, Obama signed a $787 billion stimulus package into law, and by this point in his administration, Bush had signed a major tax cut. Trump’s promised tax overhaul has yet to even reach Congress. Courts have ruled his travel ban doesn’t pass legal muster. And his promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act is stalled in a Republican-dominated Congress.
The AP went on to say:
“Trump has achieved no major legislation. The bills he is counting are little more than housekeeping measures — things like naming a courthouse and a VA health care center, appointing board of regents members, reauthorizing previous legislation. He has indeed been vigorous in signing executive orders, but in the main they have far less consequence than legislation requiring congressional passage.”
The AP fact-checked other Trump claims, including that his recent trip overseas resulted in deals for more than $350 billion in economic investment in the U.S. that will create thousands of jobs in this country. According to the AP, agreements on those deals in large part haven’t been signed yet and could be eliminated, and the president’s claim about new jobs relies on 20- to 30-year projections.
The president, of course, is famous for crying “fake news” when the news is unflattering or when the facts don’t suit his purposes, and he did so again the following day, tweeting: “The Fake News Media has never been so wrong or so dirty. Purposely incorrect stories and phony sources to meet their agenda of hate. Sad!”
Was he reacting to the AP’s fact check? Trump didn’t specify what he was angry about this time, but it’s a safe bet that he galvanized his supporters once more with those two words: fake news.
My father’s advice about never bragging sprang from his wish that I stay humble and stay hungry. It is some of the worst advice I ever got and it is some of the best advice I ever got. (Here’s to you, Papo. Happy Father’s Day.)
The president never heard my father’s lesson about humility. No, clearly he ascribes to the old saying, “If you done it, it ain’t bragging.” (By the way, isn’t that exactly what bragging is?)
But what is it when you brag and you haven’t done it?
Castillo is the Viewpoints editor.