Trump’s Criminally-Inspired Approach to Deal-Making

Prior to running for president, Donald Trump fed the mythology about himself as the ultimate deal-maker. This was done primarily through the production of his television show The Apprentice and biographies like the one ghostwritten by Tony Schwartz titled, “The Art of the Deal.”

During the campaign, those of us who had basically ignored him prior to his involvement in national politics learned that Trump’s business career included filing bankruptcy several times and stiffing his contractors after they had done their work. He also engaged in business dealings with some very notorious people. Nevertheless, a lot of people voted for the guy because they thought someone with a background in business would make better deals for the American public than all of those “failed politicians.”

Lately I’ve been noticing some of the analogies people have been using to describe Trump’s deal-making as president. Right here at Political Animal, David Atkins described him as an organized crime boss.

“Nice healthcare system you’ve got there.” Smash. “Ooh, that looks bad. Wouldn’t want anything like that to happen again. Stuff’s getting broken all the time.” Smash. “Maybe we should work out a deal, huh?”…

“Look at this terrible mess! We’re cleaning it up, but there’s so much broken glass everywhere.” Smash. “You should really take better care of your customers. Let’s talk about how to do that.”

It’s hard to believe that it has come to this, but the president of the United States really is running an organized crime racket on American healthcare, for the pettiest and lowest of reasons.

Josh Marshall picks it up from there.

Here is another analogy for the way Trump is dealing with health care.

Steve Benen suggests that, when it comes to deal-making, Trump is a demolition expert.

Donald Trump, apparently annoyed by a New York Times piece, was eager to point to some of his perceived accomplishments over the weekend. Among the presidential achievements he touted: scrapping the U.S. role in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, trying to end the U.S. role in the Paris Climate Accords, and the recent “cancellations” of EPA environmental safeguards.

What Trump may not have realized is that none of these things are actual accomplishments – so much as they’re attempts to take an ax to his predecessor’s accomplishments…

Having a former real-estate developer in the Oval Office might lead some to believe the president would be good at building things. But if there’s one thing that’s become painfully clear in 2017, it’s that Donald Trump’s political skillset, to the extent that it exists, is the mirror image of his professional background.

The president is a world-class demolitions expert, preoccupied with a retrospective vision of tearing down, not building up.

Ron Brownstein compares Trump to a hostage-taker.

As a candidate, Donald Trump sold himself as a deal maker. As president, he’s governing more as a hostage taker.

Across an array of domestic and foreign challenges, Trump’s go-to move has become to create what amounts to a political hostage situation. He’s either terminating, or threatening to terminate, a series of domestic and international policies adopted by earlier administrations — and insisting that others grant him concessions to change his mind…

Trump’s expectation is that his threats will strengthen his leverage over whoever he’s negotiating against — whether Democrats in Congress, foreign governments, or both. But the early experience suggests that Trump’s actions more often may have the opposite effects: to isolate him, divide his allies, and harden opposition to his proposals.

That’s quite a list, isn’t it? We have a president who is being compared to an organized crime boss, a slum landlord, a demolition expert, and a hostage-taker.

This is a whole different way that Trump has shown himself to be unfit for office. Usually that discussion centers on his mental state. But these analogies suggest that his approach to deal-making is rooted in a criminal mindset. Josh Marshall writes that it is all based on Trump’s assumption that, in order for him to win, you have to lose.

President Trump has no idea how to negotiate international accords or treaties or how to pass laws. These require building coalitions and trust because you’ll need to work with the same actors again in the future. You also need to build coalitions of people or nations each of whom think they have something to gain from the effort…Trump’s idea of business is basically cheating. That doesn’t necessarily mean breaking the law, though Trump does plenty of that. It means making money by trickery and hard dealing in which the other party usually ends up screwed. Those just aren’t the skills that end up being effective for a President. But that’s all Trump knows. That’s why we currently have what amounts to governance via chaos and outburst. Trump doesn’t know how to be President.

As with Trump’s mental unfitness for office, these patterns are not going to change. Instead, they are likely to escalate as his inadequacies lead to more failures.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.