For the past decade, I have been writing an end-of-the-year column recalling memorable examples of blame-shifting during the previous 12 months. At first, these compendiums featured various public figures, including Barack Obama. But then Donald Trump took up residence in the White House, providing such a rich trove of examples that no one else could compete.
Although Trump had never held public office before he was elected president, he outdoes professional politicians in his obstinate refusal to accept responsibility for any problem or failure. For Trump, as these highlights from 2018 show, self-love means never having to say you're sorry.
—Election deflection. "If Republicans were to lose control of the House on November 6th," the Associated Press asked the president on Oct. 16, "do you believe you bear some responsibility for that?" His response: "No, I think I'm helping people." When AP reported that Trump "won't accept blame" for losing the House, he denied that he had denied responsibility, calling it "FAKE NEWS." After the elections, Trump blamed Republican losses on candidates who had failed to show him sufficient "love."
—DACA dodge. Trump said he favored citizenship for people who entered the country illegally as children, who had been protected under the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy. But Trump also said he would only support a legislative fix if it included border wall funding, penalties for sanctuary cities and a sharp cut in family-based legal immigration — conditions he knew Democrats would never accept. Then he claimed "Democrats are nowhere to be found on DACA."
—Kidnapping credit. The Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy of prosecuting all illegal border crossers, including those accompanied by children, resulted in widely condemned family separations. The president blamed Democrats for "the horrible law that separates children from there (sic) parents."
—Proscribed proclamation. Trump decreed that people who cross the border between ports of entry would not be allowed to apply for asylum, even though the Immigration and Naturalization Act allows applications by "any alien who is physically present in the United States or who arrives in the United States ... whether or not at a designated port of arrival." When a federal judge blocked the new policy because it contradicted the statute's "clear command," Trump blamed Obama — for appointing the judge.
—Anger issues. In October, an ardent Trump supporter mailed pipe bombs to several of the president's critics and to the New York offices of CNN, which Trump habitually derides as an "enemy of the people" purveying "fake news." Three days after the bomber's arrest, the president blamed "The Fake News Media, the true Enemy of the People," for causing "great anger in our Country."
—To Russia with love. Trump's fawning July 16 press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin was widely criticized, and not just by anti-Russia hawks. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), for instance, said Trump "went out of his way to appear subordinate" and spoke "like the head of a vassal state," adding that "a person can be in favor of improving relations with Russia, in favor of meeting with Putin, and still think something is not right here." The president blamed — you guessed it — the "Fake News Media," which "wants so badly to see a major confrontation with Russia."
—Farmers' friend. Trump started a trade war with China, which had a predictably pernicious impact on American farmers who sell crops to that country. Last week, he bragged about providing compensatory aid to those farmers, saying he had to "defend" them from "unjustified trade retaliation by foreign nations."
—My bulls, your bears. Trump is quick to take credit for rising stock prices, but deflects responsibility for falling stock prices — even when they coincide with his market-unsettling tweets. Last month, he claimed that "the prospect of Presidential Harassment by the Dems is causing the Stock Market big headaches!"
This is my second totally Trump inventory of irresponsibility, and I expect there will be more. Don't blame me. Blame him.
Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @JacobSullum. To find out more about Jacob Sullum and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.