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At a campaign event in August 2016, Donald Trump ominously declared that he had “gotten into the world of charts lately.”
Since then, the now-incumbent US president has used them in everything from downplaying the gravity of the coronavirus pandemic, to falsely illustrating the path of a hurricane.
With less than a week to go until election day, we take a look back over the last four years using Trump’s favourite form of visual aid.
In a move that was reminiscent of George W Bush declaring “Mission Accomplished” in 2003 – eight years before the Iraq War officially ended – the White House appeared to claim victory over coronavirus this week.
In a news release sent to reporters, the White House Office of Science and Technology listed “ending the Covid-19 pandemic” among the administration’s first-term accomplishments.
Trump has consistently claimed that the deadly virus is not as big a threat as medical experts warn.
He has promoted conspiracy theories, mocked rivals for wearing face masks, held mass rallies, and called it a Democratic “hoax” – all while overseeing the highest number of cases and deaths anywhere in the world.
The US continues to see an alarming surge in new cases, with new daily records hit this week.
Coronavirus deaths also continue to rise at a disturbing rate, bucking the trend of many other badly-hit countries where Covid-19 fatalities levelled off after an initial spike.
Trump has attempted to justify these figures by alleging that high case numbers are a result of the US testing more than other countries.
The US in fact tests far less than a dozen other countries when considering relative population size.
Despite performing fewer tests, the US has still managed to register a significantly higher proportion of confirmed coronavirus cases than the majority of countries around the world.
Another popular boast from Trump relates to the economy – or more specifically, the stock market.
“You are so lucky to have me as your president,” he tweeted in September, after the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose above 29,000.
His attempt to pin political success to the fortunes of the stock market never once attributes its growth to a trend that began under his predecessor.
The biggest annual increase over the last 20 years actually took place under the Obama administration in 2013 – the year the Democrat began his second term in office. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose by more than 26 per cent that year, 1 per cent more than 2017, when Trump took office on 20 January. While we’re on the subject of Obama…
During Obama’s time in office Trump was persistently critical of the first black US President. He was the most vocal of the birther conspiracy theorists, claiming without any evidence that Obama was not born in the US and therefore not eligible to stand for office, and was often incredulous at the amount of time he spent at the golf course.
In October 2014 he tweeted:
Two years later, and two months before he won the 2016 election, he claimed: “I’m going to be working for you. I’m not going to have time to play golf.”
But while Obama made 322 trips to golf courses in eight years, Trump has already made more than 250 trips in less than half that time – costing the US taxpayer an estimated $142m.
Trump defends his frequent golfing by saying he gets “a lot of work done on the golf course”, but the vast majority of his golf partners have been athletes, not politicians, world leaders or even business executives. And while Obama mostly visited military or public golf courses, 100 per cent of Trump’s trips have been to private golf courses.
Golf trips weren’t the only thing that Trump used Twitter when criticising Obama. More than 1,000 of Trump’s tweets and retweets before he took office were aimed at Obama, expressing indignation at his handling of nearly every presidential matter.
More remarkable still is Trump’s apparent obsession with his predecessor even now he is no longer president. In the first 10 months of 2020 – three years after Obama left the White House – Trump has tweeted or retweeted about Obama 195 times.
This year and last year has seen a significant ramping up of Twitter use as the election approaches.
Trump averaged more than 21 tweets or retweets per day in 2019, and nearly 35 tweets and retweets per day so far in 2020.
Global opinion of Trump
It might not come as a surprise that the serially scandalous US president ranks lower than relatively conventional leaders like Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron in terms of global attitudes.
But in a survey of people from 13 countries around the world this summer, only 16 per cent said they had confidence in Trump as a leader – lower than Chinese president Xi Jinping and Russian president Vladimir Putin
By contrast, an unprecedented 83 per cent of participants said they had no confidence in him to “do the right thing regarding world affairs”.
One of Trump’s big campaign promises from the 2016 elections was to build a wall between the US and Mexico in a major crackdown on immigration. He said that Mexico would pay for it (they didn’t), and that it would be a “big, fat, beautiful wall”.
“Build the wall” became a popular chant at his rallies, though outside of the MAGA crowds his rhetoric was viewed as thinly-veiled racism.
During his time in office, support for immigration has actually increased, while the number of people who are against it has fallen.
A Gallup poll earlier this year found that Americans want more, not less, immigration for the first time.
The same poll found that nearly 80 per cent of US citizens said they thought immigration is a good thing for the country, despite Trump’s fear-mongering about Mexican immigrants “bringing drugs … bringing crime. They’re rapists.”
Disagreement and push-back on how to fund the Mexican border wall resulted in a federal government shutdown between December 2018 and January 2019.
The 35-day stand-off was the longest in US history, costing the US taxpayer an estimated $5bn.