Juan Williams: Trump's lying strategy on the economy

You don’t need a cheat sheet on President TrumpDonald John TrumpTwitter CEO: 'Not true' that removing Trump campaign video was illegal, as president has claimed Biden formally clinches Democratic presidential nomination Barr says he didn't give 'tactical' command to clear Lafayette protesters MORE’s 2020 campaign strategy.

Step one — the former “wartime president” now wants you to forget his stumbles on the battlefield of the coronavirus pandemic.

Next, playing the role of “CEO president,” Trump will stage pep rallies full of promises of a quick economic recovery.

ADVERTISEMENT

Polling gives the president good reason to campaign as a master of job creation and stock market highs.

While most Americans disapprove of his job performance as president, a poll released last week by Navigator has 51 percent of Americans approving — strongly or somewhat — of Trump’s handling of the economy.

And in a head-to-head comparison with presumptive Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden formally clinches Democratic presidential nomination The Memo: Job numbers boost Trump and challenge Biden Chris Wallace: Jobs numbers show 'the political resilience of Donald Trump' MORE in a recent Reuters poll, Trump held a big lead, 45 percent to 32 percent, as the better candidate to create jobs.

Trump’s campaign is already playing to his image as an economic leader by running television advertising declaring he is the man to bring back jobs and high investment returns.

My only question is: How can any voter fall for it?

It is a repeat of the same empty economic promises he made in the last campaign.

Even Trump’s most loyal backers know that despite his promise to create 4 percent or higher economic growth when he became president, he has never produced such results.

The truth is that he has averaged about 2 percent growth.

And that was before the virus hit.

That 2 percent rate of growth is basically the same as the growth rate under President Obama. Trump mocked that growth rate as piddling even though Obama started out in a deep hole, dealing with the deep recession that took root under President George W. Bush. As Chuck Jones of Forbes noted earlier this year, “Trump’s economic growth is slower than Obama’s last 3 years."

Obama also reduced unemployment from 10 percent at the height of the recession in 2009 to 4.7 percent by January 2017 when Trump took office. Yet, Trump brags that he took unemployment down to 3.5 percent without mentioning that he inherited a growing economy.

Now that jobless claims have soared to depression-level highs, Trump is selling himself to voters once again as a rich man who knows how to pull the economy out of the ditch it fell into due to his failed handling of the pandemic.

But to buy his sales pitch, the voters will have to forget that January day when the ‘CEO President’ sold Americans on the idea that the virus is “totally under control,” and no threat to Americans or the American economy.

Trump’s Commerce Secretary, Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossOn The Money: US tops 100,000 coronavirus deaths with no end in sight | How lawmaker ties helped shape Fed chairman's COVID-19 response | Tenants fear mass evictions Ross: Trump considering 'whole menu' of options against China on Hong Kong law OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Government predicts busy hurricane season | Report: BLM says oil and gas operators should set their own royalty rates for public lands drilling | Michigan flooding risks damage to hazardous waste sites: report MORE, even predicted in January that the virus was good economic news because it was sure to “accelerate the return of jobs to North America” from overseas.

In late February, Trump was bragging that he had the virus “very much under control in the USA… stock market starting to look very good to me!”

By mid-March, as businesses began to close, Trump was still selling smoke and sizzle: “I think we’re going to get through it very well.”

Trump’s happy talk ignored his failure to prepare to contain the virus, specifically in terms of tests and medical supplies.

Without the tools to contain the spread of the virus in the U.S., the economy came to a near-halt as scientists and doctors advised people to keep their distance from each other and when possible stay home.

Let me preempt my Trump-supporting friends right here, because I can feel them getting ready to interject.

ADVERTISEMENT

No, I am not saying that Trump caused the deadly virus. I am saying that Trump’s failure of leadership, constant spewing of misinformation and lack of a coherent national strategy allowed the virus to do greater damage to the economy than it otherwise would.

Yet an upbeat Vice President Pence is still selling the illusion that the nation will be done with the punishing virus by the end of May. And Trump is forecasting a “phenomenal” economy in time for the November election.

Any voter applauding Trump’s bluster has to close their eyes to the obvious. With the virus still spreading and many people out of work, there is not a lot of consumer confidence in an economy that thrives on consumer spending.

Majorities of Americans tell pollsters they have no plans to spend money to go to a movie, to go out to dinner, to attend a ballgame or travel.

Biden needs to remind voters of the Obama administration’s success in pulling the country out of recession and specifically its success in pushing the stimulus plan that got the economy back on track.

There will be Trump supporters who ignore the candidates’ track record on the economy. They don’t like to let simple facts stop them from endorsing — and enjoying — his latest sales pitch.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.