Trump Finds That Doing Is Harder Than Criticizing

The president embodies the very quality that he attacked as “pathetic” in his commencement address at Liberty University.

Yuri Gripas / Reuters

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

As president? Even Mike Pence admits the tax cuts the administration is proposing will increase the deficit.

As a critic, Trump said this about Syria:

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:

Trump now presides over a more polarized, divided nation—and with lower approval ratings.

As a critic, Trump regularly disparaged Obamacare:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

As president, Trump has spent about a quarter of his time at his Florida vacation home, including 7 visits to Mar-a-Lago in just three months.

As a critic, Trump mocked turnover in the Obama administration:

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:

As president, he has failed to release his tax returns. What is he hiding?

As a critic, Trump said this about a geopolitical rival:

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:

Stay tuned.