Donald Trump is the dealmaker who can’t make a deal.
The pattern is now familiar:
Deliberately create chaos and inflict pain. Claim it’s somebody else’s fault, even though you were the one who did it. Say that your adversaries can fix it, but only if they make concessions that they clearly can’t make. Fail to make a deal, and move on to the next fiasco, leaving behind only the chaos and pain that you created in the first place. Then do it all over again.
To borrow Trump’s own words, “That’s what I do!”
Not one of Trump’s signature “achievements,” the ones he brags about incessantly, resulted from making a deal.
Not one of Trump’s so-called “achievements” resulted from making a deal
The tax cut was a purely partisan, party-line bill passed by Republicans. There was no deal even attempted with the Democrats.
Regulatory “reform,” the gutting of protections for workers and the environment, has been accomplished by administrative fiat and executive orders, again without input or support from Democrats.
Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch was placed on the court by a presidential appointment that could be confirmed only by changing the rules of the Senate to disenfranchise the Democrats. That’s the opposite of a deal.
When Trump has tried to deal, he has failed time and again. His formula of inflicting chaos and pain as a negotiating tactic has resulted in, well, chaos and pain.
In Trump world, pain equals negotiating leverage
Last summer, after Trump failed to get a bill through Congress to repeal Obamacare, he began a campaign to inflict so much pain on the individual health care market that Democrats would be forced to come to the bargaining table with concessions. The Trump administration discouraged people from signing up, took steps to halt payment of the cost-sharing subsidies that made Obamacare work, and undermined the prohibition against denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions.
By inflicting pain on millions of Americans, creating chaos in the insurance market, and then falsely blaming Democrats for it, Trump thought he could back Democrats into a corner. Here’s how he put it: “The Democrats [sic] Obamacare is imploding. Massive subsidy payments to their pet insurance companies has [sic] stopped. Dems should call me to fix!”
But it didn’t work.
Instead of bringing Democrats to their knees begging for a deal, Trump’s bullying had the opposite effect. It didn’t cow his adversaries, it stiffened their spines. Democratic voters refused to provide their congressional representatives with political cover to make unpalatable concessions just to make Trump go away or behave like a normal person.
In the end, the country was stuck with the chaos and pain inflicted by Trump in his attempt to force a deal, but no deal. Lose-lose.
Same with DACA. Last September, the Trump administration announced that it was rescinding DACA, the Obama administration program that defers the deportation of hundreds of thousands of young “Dreamers” who were brought to the United States as children. Predictably, after personally giving the order to kill DACA, Trump blamed the Democrats. “DACA is dead because the Democrats didn’t care or act,” Trump tweeted. “The Democrats have really let [the DACA kids] down,” he told CNN’s Jim Acosta.
What Trump really meant by this was that he had once again failed as a dealmaker. Trump thought that ending DACA would create sufficient negotiating leverage to force congressional Democrats to accept Trump’s full anti-immigrant package in exchange for reinstating DACA. In other words, Trump used the Dreamers as negotiating chips.
But he failed to get his deal, or any deal. And left only pain in his wake.
Less than a year later, he tried again to use immigrant children as hostages – literally, “hostages” taken from their parent and held to extract concessions – to force a deal with Democrats. Only this time, he upped the level of pain by implementing a “zero tolerance” immigration policy that ripped young children, including infants, from their parents.
True to form, Trump blamed Democrats for his own cruel policy, and tried to use the pain of the children as negotiating leverage to force the Democrats into agreeing to immigration restrictions that they could never accept.
And once again, he failed.
But he didn’t only fail to make a deal. Although the deal evanesced, the chaos and pain didn’t. Children remain separated from their parents, and the Trump administration may not be able to reunite some of them even if it wanted to because of the incompetence with which the separations were executed.
Trump has repeated this same negotiating tactic over and over again, always with the same dismal result.
Trump’s tactic of manufacturing leverage by inflicting chaos and pain has not led to any deals, only more chaos and pain
He started trade wars by levying tariffs on Europe, Canada, and China, in the hope that the resulting chaos and pain would force those countries to negotiate new trade deals.
What did the manufactured trade wars get us? Well, trade wars. But no deals.
He tried to bully Mexico into agreeing to pay for his beloved border wall. No deal there, either. Instead, largely in response to offense at Trump’s insults, Mexico elected as its new President a bombastic left-wing populist, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the so-called “Tropical Messiah.”
He moved our embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, claiming that this would somehow ease the path to a peace agreement. So far, no agreement has even been proposed, much less reached, and the Palestinian Authority was so offended by the embassy move that it now refuses to recognize the US as a negotiating partner.
He engaged in provocative name-calling and brinksmanship with Kim Jong-un, the unstable dictator of North Korea, in the naïve hope that Kim would be frightened into making a deal to give up his nuclear arsenal. Although Trump pretends that he has made a world-changing deal with Kim, in fact there is nothing even resembling a deal. You don’t have a deal to sell your house if you haven’t even agreed on the price. And you don’t have a deal to obtain nuclear concessions if you haven’t even discussed, much less agreed upon, exactly what the other party is willing to give up, and what it demands in return.
The only remaining question on North Korea is what fresh hell awaits when Trump finally stumbles upon the reality that Kim is playing him for a fool, and is never going to give up his prize possession without extracting concessions Trump will never make, and probably not at all.
Trump withdrew from the Paris climate accords, supposedly to negotiate better deals with individual countries. But there are no deals, only isolation from our allies and positioning ourselves on the wrong side of the fight to save our planet.
He withdrew from the Iran deal, promising to negotiate a better deal. But there is no new deal, only increased risk that Iran will re-start its nuclear program.
In the end, Trump’s tactic of inflicting chaos and pain has not led to any deals, only more chaos and pain.
Hopefully, someday it will dawn on him that his negotiating tactics don’t work. Maybe then he will change course or, better yet, just stop trying.
Because Trump’s inability to make deals is bad enough.
Even worse is the havoc he is wreaking by trying.