Didn’t he tell us during the campaign that big, beautiful jets would be landing safely like they’ve never landed safely before — so many safe landings that you wouldn’t believe it?
Well, promise made, promise kept.
This is one of his all-time great tweets, made better by the fact that so many media dorks are earnestly, aggressively fact-checking him.
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
That’s a “take him neither seriously or literally” comment if ever there was one. To me it reads almost like a winking joke: A guy who’ll reflexively take credit for anything good that happens on his watch isn’t going to let an aviation milestone pass without taking credit for that too, no matter how far removed the president is from the nuts and bolts of air travel. But the milestone itself is very real. No commercial passenger jet fatalities last year, anywhere in the world. Zero. In the United States, there hasn’t been a death from a passenger jet crash since 2009. I’m old enough to remember when those were still a highly unlikely but reasonably regular fact of life. TWA Flight 800 and ValuJet Flight 592 went down when I was a young adult; I saw the smoke from American Airlines Flight 587 with my own eyes from a skyscraper in Manhattan. But it just doesn’t happen anymore. There are still bizarre disappearances (Malaysia Airlines Flight 370), explosions caused by hostile action (Malaysia Airlines Flight 17), and the occasional near-crash averted by heroic pilot action (Sully!), but by and large the technology has been perfected. No more accidental crashes, especially here.
So what’s POTUS rambling about? If America hasn’t had a crash in eight years, how is MAGA policy making the friendly skies safer? I don’t think Trump’s seriously contending that it has (what the hell does it even mean to say “I have been very strict on Commercial Aviation”?) but his media critics are scrambling to, ahem, shoot this idea down before it becomes an article of faith among Trumpers. “Donald Trump can take no credit for a lack of aviation deaths in 2017,” warns Salon. “Trump Takes Credit for Air Safety System Run by Obama Holdover,” sniffs Bloomberg. “If anything, Trump has promised to loosen regulations on aviation,” notes David Graham of Trump’s alleged strictness, emphasizing that no regulations have actually changed despite the White House’s efforts. Matt Viser of the Boston Globe went for the windmill dunk, though:
A reminder of Trump’s record on aviation and how, three months after launching Trump Shuttle airline in 1989, the nose gear failed on one of his jets and forced a crash landing at Logan Airport: https://t.co/uKreElaR8m https://t.co/9jlamBbzTI
— Matt Viser (@mviser) January 2, 2018
The weird thing about Trump’s tweet is that he had something concrete he could have pointed to on aviation safety: Counterterrorism. Extreme vetting and alerts about laptop bombs designed by ISIS may have kept a few terrorists off of planes this year. The wrinkle in that, though, is that it seems Israel, not the U.S., pulled off the big intel coup that led to the discovery of ISIS laptop bombs. Trump’s main role in the process was, ah, leaking a key detail of the intel to Russian officials when they visited him in the Oval Office. Between reminding everyone of that and tweeting something bland about being “strict” on safety, he was better off doing what he did.
It’s funny too that he snuck this in among the many headier topics he’s been tweeting about lately. He’s calling for regime change in Iran, warning Pakistan that his patience with their support for terrorism has run out, urging the DOJ to indict Huma Abedin and James Comey(!), and advising the “failing New York Times” on how to make their coverage more balanced. And, oh right, there were also no jet fatalities last year so let’s pause amid all that to reflect and thank him. No matter how multfarious media gets in the digital age, it’s hard for them to keep up.