Sep 16, 2017 - Politics & Policy

Trump's promises vs. reality

Rebecca Zisser / Axios

Every president has made promises that he couldn't deliver, but few have made them with the same casual spontaneity as Donald Trump.

What Trump is quickly learning is that running the White House is not the same as running a business, and that some of the "truthful hyperbole" he doled out on the campaign trail and in the first few months of office aren't holding up to the reality of Washington.

Tax reform

Border wall

  • Promise: Trump has repeatedly stated that Mexico would pay for the border wall.
  • Reality: Congress is now exploring funding options for the wall.


  • Promise: Before the election, and dating back to as early as 2011, Trump was an outspoken critic of keeping troops in Afghanistan.
  • Reality: Trump laid out his plan to continue the Afghanistan war in August, admitting, "All my life I've heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk of the Oval Office."

North Korea "fire and fury"

  • Promise: Following reports that North Korea had successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead, Trump vowed to meet further attacks with "fire and fury."
  • Reality: Following Trump's warning, North Korea has since launched several other missiles into the Pacific, including one this week over Japan. But Trump has yet to unleash his "fire and fury," while administration officials continue urging for a more diplomatic approach.

Health care

  • Promise: Trump repeatedly vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act "on Day One" of his presidency.
  • Reality: After several failed efforts to repeal and replace the ACA, Trump admitted that health are is "an unbelievably complex subject," and "nobody knew health care could be so complicated." He's also acknowledged that reform will take much longer than he initially thought.



  • Promise: Trump initially said NATO was "obsolete" and pledged to ditch the agreement if other member countries didn't start pulling their weight.
  • Reality: When he hosted NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the White House in April, Trump admitted, "I said [NATO] was obsolete. It's no longer obsolete."

China as a currency manipulator

  • Promise: Trump vowed that one of his first acts as president would be to label Beijing a "currency manipulator"
  • Reality: He later told the WSJ that they hadn't been currency manipulators for some time, while also acknowledging that a U.S. declaration of Chinese manipulation could jeopardize efforts to secure the country's help with North Korea.


  • Promise: During his campaign, Trump said he believed "torture works" and vowed to "immediately" approve waterboarding and other techniques that are "much worse" once in office.
  • Reality: Following his inauguration, the president said he would defer to the opinion of his Defense Secretary James Mattis and CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

Correction: The North Korea section of this article has been corrected to remove the reference to nuclear missiles. None of the missiles launched are thought to have carried a nuclear warhead.

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