In Donald Trump’s commencement speech at Liberty University, he said, “Nothing is easier or more pathetic than being a critic, because they're people that can't get the job done.”
Why might Trump believe that?
Perhaps he is reflecting on his own experience in politics—comparing his past statements as a famous Obama critic to his present attempts to get the job done as president.
The juxtaposition is instructive. Trump started his political career as a critic of birth certificates:
An 'extremely credible source' has called my office and told me that @BarackObama's birth certificate is a fraud.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 6, 2012
But when it came to demonstrating any fraud he couldn’t get the job done. And that early pattern of loud critique, followed by the failure to do any better, has been repeated across many issues.
As a critic, Trump said this about inauguration crowds:
President Obama's inaugural had record low ratings. What does that portend?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 25, 2013
As president, at the very start, Trump vastly underperformed his predecessor’s first inauguration and started his presidency with a freakout attempting to obscure that fact.
As a critic, Trump complained about the cost when the Obamas traveled separately to Martha’s Vineyard:
Why did @BarackObama and his family travel separately to Martha's Vineyard? They love to extravagantly spend on the taxpayers' dime.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 26, 2011
As president, the whole Trump family spends extravagantly, with Melania living in an entirely different city full time and traveling separately more often than not. The Trumps are on pace to exceed the total travel costs amassed by the Obamas … in a single year!
Here's Trump-the-critic on Afghanistan policy:
I agree with Pres. Obama on Afghanistan. We should have a speedy withdrawal. Why should we keep wasting our money -- rebuild the U.S.!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 14, 2013
As president, Trump hasn't gotten a withdrawal done—in fact, he is thinking of "surging" more troops into the country.
As a critic, Trump urged reaching out across party lines:
Obama should play golf with Republicans & opponents rather than his small group of friends. That way maybe the terrible gridlock would end.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 19, 2012
As president, his golfing has not helped to end any gridlock, and there is no record of his even making such an attempt.
As a critic, Trump said this about budget deficits:
If only @Obama was as focused on balancing the budget as he is on weakening Israel's borders then America would be on the path to solvency.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 7, 2011
As a critic, Trump said this about Syria:
The President must get Congressional approval before attacking Syria-big mistake if he does not!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 30, 2013
As president, he failed to get the job done, attacking Syria without securing congressional approval (an action that did nothing to alter the ongoing conflict there).
As a critic, Trump said this:
Perhaps @BarackObama's biggest shortcoming as President is he failed to unite the country.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 30, 2012
Trump now presides over a more polarized, divided nation—and with lower approval ratings.
As a critic, Trump regularly disparaged Obamacare:
It’s Friday. How many people have been forced off their plans and lost their doctors today because of ObamaCare?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 20, 2013
As president, he has thus far failed to make good on his pledge to repeal and replace the law, and the only GOP bill on offer would cause many more people to lose their health insurance.
As a critic, Trump said this about immigration policy:
Mexico will pay for the wall!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 1, 2016
As president, Trump hasn't managed to build a wall or get funds from Mexico—because of his blatant failure he wants Congress to pay for a wall, and so far, it won't.
As a critic, Trump said this about presidential golfing:
Can you believe that,with all of the problems and difficulties facing the U.S., President Obama spent the day playing golf.Worse than Carter— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 14, 2014
As president, he hasn’t even managed to play less golf than Obama. How easy would that be? Yet he’s unable to restrain even that one indulgence, despite the glaring hypocrisy.
As a critic, Trump said this about Obama’s income:
Have we ever had a POTUS before @BarackObama who earned over 1/3 of his income from foreign sources and paid taxes to another country?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 12, 2012
As president, Trump won’t reveal tax records that would show his sources of income—and continues to earn money from businesses in dozens of foreign countries.
As a critic, Trump said this about hurricane relief:
So Obama and Congress can waste billions in Iraq & Afghanistan building roads & schools but can’t get money to the NJ & NY Sandy victims?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2013
As president, Trump gave North Carolina less than 1 percent of the hurricane recovery funds it requested.
As a critic, Trump said this about Obama family vacations:
Michelle Obama's weekend ski trip to Aspen makes it 16 times that Obamas have gone on vacation in 3 years. (cont) http://t.co/2SXcBxrJ— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 21, 2012
As a critic, Trump mocked turnover in the Obama administration:
3 Chief of Staffs in less than 3 years of being President: Part of the reason why @BarackObama can't manage to pass his agenda.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 10, 2012
As a presidential candidate and president, Trump has had to part ways with a campaign manager, Paul Manafort; an adviser, Carter Page; and the man he appointed to be his national-security adviser, Michael Flynn, all over their ties to Russia. And rumors are constantly flying about the next aide who will be fired in a fit of pique.
As a critic, Trump complained about transparency:
When will @BarackObama release his transcripts? What is he hiding?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 19, 2012
As president, he has failed to release his tax returns. What is he hiding?
As a critic, Trump said this about a geopolitical rival:
Because of President Obama's failed leadership, we have put Vladimir Putin & Russia back on the world stage! --No reason for this.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 31, 2014
I mean, come on. The mind reels.
Lots of critics have gotten the job done. Thomas Jefferson. John Updike. T.S. Elliot. Certain American Idol judges. But not Trump. He spent eight years disparaging President Obama. And now, as president, having lost the popular vote, he shows less discipline, a more erratic temperament, vacations more, has pulled in inferior approval ratings, and repeatedly illustrates that he cannot or does not get the job done.
Critics aren’t all pathetic. But to mock others for failing in a way you’re doing on a bigger stage than anyone is pathetic. Americans have done much better with most past presidents.
As a critic, Trump wrote: