When Donald Trump talks about himself, he likes to think big. It’s not enough to merely be great; the president likes to package his professed greatness in historic terms.
For example, Trump didn’t just like the speech he delivered to a joint session of Congress; he claimed that “some people said it was the single best speech ever made in that chamber.” The president didn’t just enjoy his remarks to the Boy Scouts; he pointed to a made-up phone call in which he was told “it was the greatest speech that was ever made” to the organization.
And when it comes to his overall record of accomplishments, Trump has routinely said he’s not only a great success, but also that he’s “done more … than practically any president in history.” In the newly released transcript of his interview last week with the Wall Street Journal, the president offered proof of historic greatness:
“Because people were saying, ‘Trump has not produced.’ I honestly believe for six months I have done more than just about any president when you look at all of the bills that were passed, 42, 43.”
He made a similar comment at a White House event recently, saying, “We’ve signed more bills – and I’m talking about through the legislature – than any president ever.”
There are three basic problems with this pitch.
The first is that Trump is demonstrably wrong about the details. He’s signed 42 bills into law, which is a fine total, but it’s short of many of his predecessors’ tallies at this point in their terms, including modern presidents such as Carter, Clinton, and H.W. Bush.
The second is that many of the bills he’s signed haven’t been especially impressive. According to a New York Times report, of the 42 bills he’s made law, five were bureaucratic tweaks and 14 were “ceremonial and routine lawmaking.” It’s not as if these 42 pieces of legislation were themselves historically significant – one of them encouraged people to fly flags on Veterans’ Day.
And third, pointing to raw bill totals as proof of greatness is itself a silly exercise. Presidents are remembered for their accomplishments, not the number of bill-signing ceremonies they hosted.
To date, Trump has no meaningful accomplishments. For him to pretend otherwise is a mistake.