April 21, 2017; Washington Post
President Trump has talked about his generosity and big gifts to numerous nonprofits. Yet, research shows little more than a couple of theater seats and a park bench. How can someone who loves to put his name on everything have such a small impact?
David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his series on Trump’s “philanthropy,” has some takeaways from the many articles he authored during the campaign. His research, which includes many decisions made when Trump thought people were not looking, reveals some things about the president’s personality that we ought to have taken as a promise of things to come. He writes,
But, writes Fahrenthold, Trump seemed to suffer little reputational damage from all of this showy “don’t look behind the curtain” philanthropic behavior, even when it was exposed quite irrefutably. Does the Teflon ever wear off? Fahrenthold writes that we can already see it wearing thin.
Since his election, Trump has repeatedly used this tactic: promising major actions and revelations, and relying on the public belief that a president will keep promises. On a Saturday in late December, he promised to deliver major news about Russian hacking on “Tuesday or Wednesday.” He didn’t. Then, in January, he promised a major report on hacking “in 90 days.” This month, the 90th day passed with no report. He promised a “major investigation” into voter fraud during the 2016 election, but since then media reports have indicated that the investigation is going slowly, or not at all.
But this tactic is far harder to pull off now, because Trump and his promises are under far more scrutiny. This week, a Gallup poll found that only 45 percent of Americans believe Trump “keeps his promises,” a number that was down 17 points just since February.
Fahrenthold’s article is well worth reading for its sorting out of the personality traits that have carried through from Trump’s philanthropy to his presidency. And that may provide some further insight about when and how to respond to presidential actions taken.—Ruth McCambridge and Gayle Nelson