Donald Trump has built a presidential campaign almost entirely on the strength of his political outsider status and out-of-the-box thinking. The real estate mogul’s swaggering bravado and unorthodox proposals propelled him to a dominant showing in the GOP presidential primary and, until recently at least, appeared to give him a solid shot at winning the White House in November.
But beneath Trump’s sweeping promises and routine factual deficiencies is a perilously simplistic view of politics and the world. The Republican and his supporters seem to believe that our most intractable problems are actually quite simple. And if politicians were less “stupid,” or perhaps just had more common sense, they could resolve even the most complicated issues with ease.
Trump may not be a genius himself, but he doesn’t need to be. His movement has bought in to the supposed capacity of the everyman to be an unparalleled problem solver.
“Presidential is easy.”
Armed with his boundless arrogance, Trump has attempted to capitalize on this idea by telling voters point-blank that he’s equipped ― over-equipped, even ― to be president. Serving as commander in chief may be a towering task for most people, but for him, it will be easy.
Trump is, of course, completely full of it. But his claims aren’t just dishonest, they’re also deeply concerning. Complex problems demand careful consideration, not knee-jerk solutions hatched by individuals with little knowledge of the issues or any apparent interest in understanding them further.
You’d never know that from listening to Trump. In fact, his smug, self-assured know-nothingness has become one of his strongest traits, even though his critics are pretty sure that’s not a good quality for a president.
Below, we break down a few things that Trump has said will be “easy,” and explain why he’s wrong.
Building A Wall On The U.S.-Mexico Border
“Building a wall is easy, and it can be done inexpensively,” Trump said last year. “It’s not even a difficult project if you know what you’re doing.”
Well, Trump must not know what he’s doing, because most people who actually know about securing our nearly 2000-mile southern border do not share his optimism.
Estimates have put the cost of constructing a wall up to Trump’s ever-changing specifications in the $15-$25 billion range. The project would be significantly complicated by the topographical challenges of the border area and possible eminent domain conflicts, as much of this is private land owned by fiercely independent ranchers who don’t exactly like to be told what to do by the federal government.
Experts predict that the endeavor would take up to 10 years to complete. Trump says Mexico will pay for the wall, but the country’s president says that’s not going to happen ― and indeed, some observers believe Trump’s brinksmanship could cast the nations into a trade war that would hurt people on both sides of the border.
Apart from the logistical concerns, many question whether a border wall is even necessary, considering the recent decline in illegal border crossings (apart from those of women and children fleeing violence in Central America). Others say a wall wouldn’t do anything to keep well-equipped cartels from finding their way onto U.S. soil.
Beating Hillary Clinton In A Presidential Election
“Folks, I haven’t even started yet,” Trump told supporters of his presidential campaign in early May. “Now I’m going to start focusing on Hillary. It’s going to be so easy. It’s going to be so great.”
Here’s what’s happened to the race in the three months since.
To be sure, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has plenty of weaknesses, but it appears that Trump has so far failed to capitalize on what he predicted would be the “easy” business of defeating her.
This certainly wasn’t unforeseen. Here’s what The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent wrote in May about Trump’s challenge of pivoting from the GOP primary to the general election.
[A]cting like a full blown ass may appeal to those GOP primary voters who equate Trump’s vow of mass deportations and Muslim bans, and his nonstop belittling of immigrants and women, with mindlessly defined “strength” and “tell like it is” forthrightness. But key constituencies in the general election audience will not see things in such simplistic terms. Trump is already viewed unfavorably by enormous majorities of women, nonwhites, young voters, and college educated whites.
And indeed, Trump’s knack for divisive rhetoric appears to have gravely injured him over the past few weeks, when his spat with the family of a Muslim American war hero sent his poll numbers into a tailspin.
Revitalizing The U.S. Economy
“I want to jump-start America, and it can be done, and it won’t even be that hard,” Trump said Monday during an economic policy speech.
Presidents don’t typically have huge sway over the economy, a detail that conflicts with the idea of a President Trump being able to simply click his heels and make all of us better off.
But this isn’t to say that a president’s policies have no effect whatsoever. In fact, a number of studies have suggested that Trump’s vaguely fleshed-out economic agenda could trigger the longest recession since the Great Depression and cause debt to balloon to its highest level ever.
His latest proposals have rehashed failed trickle-down economic policies of the past and bear increasing resemblance to traditionally establishment Republican positions. Many experts say that this economic platform would do the opposite of what Trump has promised to accomplish.
Paying Down The National Debt
In April, Trump defended claims that he’d be able to rid the nation of its $19 trillion national debt in just eight years ― all while cutting taxes ― by saying the process would be “very easy.” All he’d need to do, he said, was fix our trade deals.
Nobody agreed that he’d be able to make up that kind of money simply by addressing trade deficits. Trump later appeared to scale back his confident promises by saying he’d instead like to eliminate a portion of the national debt within 10 years, though doing so would no longer be a priority.
Defeating The Islamic State
“There is a way of beating ISIS so easily, so quickly and so effectively, and it would be so nice,” Trump told Iowa talk radio host Simon Conway last year before announcing his presidential candidacy. “I know a way that would absolutely give us absolute victory.”
For weeks after that interview, Trump refused to disclose further details, supposedly over fears that the administration would take them from him without credit. He was eventually forced to elaborate with actual ideas, though none of them have been received particularly well.
Trump has since suggested killing the families of terrorists, “bombing the shit” out of the self-described Islamic State, banning Muslim immigrants from entering the U.S., contracting tech experts to keep ISIS fighters and recruiters off the Internet and putting more boots on the ground to destroy oil fields and cut off the terror group from a key source of income.
It’s unclear which of these suggestions was supposed to be Trump’s magic bullet. None of them are groundbreaking. Many have already been tried in some form or another. And a number have attracted criticism and concerns that the strategy would only play into the hands of the Islamic State.
“I’m, like, a really smart person, like a lot of you people. Presidential is easy,” Trump told supporters in April. “It’s very easy to be presidential.”
Trump has also repeatedly attacked Clinton for not looking “presidential,” making some of us wonder if he’s ever looked in the mirror.
If being presidential is “easy,” maybe Trump could try it for a few days to see how it plays with voters. Currently, he’s dealing with backlash over having suggested that “Second Amendment people” could shoot Clinton or her potential Supreme Court picks to keep them from infringing on gun rights. He now says that’s not what he meant, and his campaign has since blamed the whole debacle on the media.
Negotiating The Iran Nuclear Deal
“With the American public, any deal we strike, it’s going to look good ― and you say that we have to get our prisoners back day one,” Trump told the Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Forum in December, referring to five Americans who were imprisoned in Iran and denouncing an agreement that world powers had reached with the country over its nuclear program.
“[Iran is] gonna say, ‘No, we’re not giving.’ And we’re gonna say, ‘Bye-bye, bye, call us when you’re ready.’ And then we go out and double up and triple up the sanctions. I guarantee you, within 48 hours they’re calling, begging us to come back to the table, and you have your prisoners back. It is so easy.”
Trump seemed to be suggesting that the U.S. delegation would have been better off employing the sort of hard-nosed bargaining tactics he’s used in the business world to secure the prisoners’ release.
Less than a month after Trump’s comments, on the day the international community formalized the fulfillment of Iran’s terms of the nuclear deal, the nation agreed to release imprisoned Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian and four other Americans. As it turned out, negotiations for a prisoner swap were underway, but separate from the nuclear deal.
Experts saw this as a huge victory for diplomacy, and one that served to help normalize U.S.-Iran relations without directly benefiting the nation’s hard-line political faction.
Staying Healthy On The Campaign Trail
Bragging is pretty much second nature to Trump, so it makes sense that he’d boast about his good health.
“People have been impressed by my stamina, but to me it has been easy because I am truly doing something that I love,” Trump said in a December statement accompanying the release of his medical records, in which a doctor claimed the former reality TV star would be “the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.”
While Trump appeared eager to tell the public about his pristine health, he’s been less willing to release other records, like his tax returns or college transcripts.
Despite all of the things Trump claims would be simple for him to do as president, however, there is at least one thing he says wasn’t easy: becoming successful.
“It’s not been easy for me,” Trump told the “Today” show in October. “I started off in Brooklyn. My father gave me a small loan of $1 million. I came into Manhattan, and I had to pay him back, and pay him back with interest.”
The struggle is real.