Every president likes to take credit when things go well and pass along blame when they go poorly, but no president is as willing to take that pattern to its brazen extreme like Donald Trump.
Last year was a landmark in commercial aviation—the safest year since the advent of widespread passenger-jet travel. Not a single person died in commercial passenger jet crash anywhere in the world in 2017, according to an organization that tracks aviation safety. Tuesday morning, the president announced he deserved credit for that:
Since taking office I have been very strict on Commercial Aviation. Good news - it was just reported that there were Zero deaths in 2017, the best and safest year on record!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 2, 2018
The president’s claim can’t withstand even slight scrutiny. The 2017 milestone is worth celebrating, but changes in statistics like air safety are achieved over long time scales, and given the small number of crashes involved, minor deviations in the number are unlikely attributable to any specific presidential action—especially one take in the just under a year Trump has been in office.
But the problems with Trump’s claim don’t end there. First, the statistic involved is crashes worldwide. American aviation has already been extremely safe. No U.S. airline has had a fatality since 2009, when a commuter turboprop crashed near Buffalo, New York, and there hasn’t been a fatal passenger jet accident since 2006, when a plane crashed during takeoff in Lexington, Kentucky. (Foreign carriers have had fatal accidents in the United States, like the 2013 Asiana Airlines crash landing at San Francisco that killed three people.) Trump wishes to take credit for what’s happened overseas—matters both beyond the control of American power, and given the small sample size, also a product of good luck.