On Tuesday morning, Donald Trump was watching “Fox & Friends” and, like many Americans on their first day back to work after a week-long vacation of golfing at a posh resort that they own, he decided to tell his millions of Twitter followers about it.
For example, in the midst of an epic presidential tweetstorm — and nearly two hours after the Fox morning show ran a story that there were no “commercial jet deaths in 2017,” Trump tweeted: “Since taking office I have been very strict on Commercial Aviation. Good news — it was just reported that there were Zero deaths in 2017, the best and safest year on record!”
In fact, there hasn’t been a fatality on a US commercial aircraft since 2009, but that, notwithstanding, there’s no evidence that, as president, Trump has done anything to make aviation in America safer. He’s taking credit for something that has nothing to do with him, which is a worthy reminder that being a rich, old, white guy with no sense of shame might be the greatest gig ever.
Now what about the things over which Trump does have control, like the DACA program, which protects the children of undocumented immigrants from being deported? On Tuesday, Trump tweeted, “Democrats are doing nothing for DACA — just interested in politics.”
Trump, of course, personally ended the DACA program last year and has taken a hard-line position in legislative negotiations with Democrats over keeping the program alive. So here we have Trump denying responsibility for something he actually did.
How about the White House response to Hurricane Maria, which ravaged Puerto Rico in September? More than three months later, half the island is still without power. And it’s estimated that electricity will not be fully restored until May.
In October, Trump gave his administration a “10 out of 10” for its response to Maria, while also remarking on the “lives saved” from the hurricane. In fact, it now appears that the official number of fatalities from the storm (64) was off by a factor of 15, and that the actual death toll is greater than 1,000 and may still rise.
In fairness, there are areas where the Trump administration has had a real impact — though like Maria, not in a good way.
Late last week, Trump officials reversed guidelines that punished nursing homes for harming residents or placing them at risk. According to Kaiser Health News, the “new guidelines discourage regulators from levying fines in some situations, even when they have resulted in a resident’s death.”
Other Trump appointees tasked with protecting the nation’s natural resources used the cover of the slow news week between Christmas and New Year’s to roll back Obama-era regulations intended to make fracking safer for the environment, prevent another Deepwater Horizon-type oil spill, and protect migratory birds from oil, gas, wind, and solar operations.
Also on Friday, the Federal Transit Administration announced it would no longer provide financial support for the construction of a multi-billion dollar train tunnel between New York and Jersey, which will effectively kill the project. With only a single aging tunnel currently connecting New York’s Penn Station to New Jersey, this is perhaps, the most crucial infrastructure project in the country.
This funding decision comes just a week after Trump gave an interview to the New York Times in which he said he wanted “to do a trillion-dollar infrastructure bill, at least . . . to fix our roads, our highways, our bridges, which are in bad shape.”
Indeed, considering Trump’s predilection for slashing regulations that hurt consumers and help big business, it is is not surprising that when it comes to national aviation policy, to the extent he’s weighed in on the topic before Tuesday, it is to call for less regulation and less federal involvement — including a plan announced in June to privatize the air traffic control system. If anything, Trump doing nothing on airline safety is almost certainly the optimal outcome for the nation’s flyers. If ever there was an administration for which the adage “less is more” applied, it would be this one.
So I think this has the makings of a great deal for Trump and the American people. Mr. President, you can take all the credit you want for good things that happen in America. In return, your administration will stop doing things that make America less safe. Deal?Michael A. Cohen’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @speechboy71.