Despite most of the evidence pointing to the contrary, during the 2016 presidential campaign, candidate Donald Trump assumed the persona of an astute, uncompromising deal-maker. Many saw him as a man who would, through sheer gusto and time-tested business expertise, reign in congress and government spending while shattering party lines. He’d drain the swamp, fix healthcare, renegotiate trade deals, take China down a peg or two and build a wall with Mexico’s money.
He would redefine the office by running the country like a business.
Turns out being the chief executive of the United States is a bit different from being in charge of real estate and construction, airlines, steak, vodka, a USFL football team, a travel agency, a mortgage company, board games, bottled water, a magazine and a “university.” It’s worth noting that sans certain real estate ventures, all of these businesses failed.
Trump currently has the luxury of a republican-controlled house and senate, and yet, he hasn’t been able to make one deal with them—not one. He promised to repeal and replace Obamacare immediately, but he left the job to Paul Ryan who crafted the American Health Care Act, a monumentally unpopular bill that went out with a whimper. He tried a series of hardline tactics; he imposed an ultimatum and an attached deadline. Trump closed negotiations leading into his self-imposed deadline, and said that if republicans didn’t vote for this bill they were “breaking their promises to their constituents.” And there were threats. The president said I’m going to come after you,” to Freedom Caucus chairman, Representative Mark Meadows, one of the primary holdouts. And Press Secretary Sean Spicer remarked that the white house would “[m]ake sure to remember those who stood by us[.]”
As you may have heard, his attempt at bullying did not work. The president reneged on his ultimatum and pulled the bill before a failing vote could take place.
Trump later blamed democrats for the embarrassing ordeal, even though the bill could’ve passed along party lines. By in large Republicans hate Obamacare, but they didn’t hate it quite as much the American Health Care Act, and they didn’t seem to be too worried about the president’s threats.
This week the president took another hardline stance that turned out to be the consistency of mozzarella. A new operating budget needs to be passed by midnight on Friday, April 28th to avoid a government shutdown. Initially, Trump via his budget chief Mick Mulvaney said that funding for a border wall needed to be included in the budget. That was on April, 20th. When it became clear that democrats would not approve a budget that included a down payment for Trump’s wall (and he needs eight dems to pass the bill), the president quickly decided he didn’t need wall funding in the operations budget. This was on April, 25th. There may have been a bit of room here for Trump to negotiate, yet five days after asserting that wall funds must be included, he reversed his stance. Just like that.
And he’s been anything but concrete and decisive on foreign policy—he lets loose tweets and statements concerning Mexico, China, Taiwan, North Korea, Afghanistan and Syria, and then shifts, pivots or flips entirely.
Where is the famous wheeling-and-dealing?
Where did the tough, scowling negotiator go?
There is no nuance with Trump, no subtlety, he is a man who is used to slamming his fist and getting what he wants, but the federal government is complicated, convoluted and designed to function incrementally. Getting things done in government requires a level of deal-making Donald Trump knows nothing about. Before assuming office, Trump seemed to believe many prior presidents were just lazy, weak or stupid. Now he’s beginning to realize how the government actually functions. In an interview with The Associated Press this week, Trump was asked about the differences between running a business and running the country and he responded stating:
Well in business, you don’t necessarily need heart, whereas here, almost everything affects people. So if you’re talking about health care — you have health care in business but you’re trying to just negotiate a good price on health care, et cetera, et cetera.
He now realizes the decisions of the federal government affect people’s lives; I suppose that is a step in the right direction. But when you factor in the two failed travel bans, the failed healthcare bill, multiple executive branch vacancies, the lack of movement on renegotiating NAFTA and tackling infrastructure, and the immediate wall funding surrender, one thing is clear: Donald Trump is not some prodigious deal-maker. It’s time we end this fallacy.
All of his “achievements” thus far have involved unilateral power, which makes sense given his background. He’s rolled back some regs and dropped a bunch of bomb—but he hasn’t made deals.
Previously published on The Overgrown.