Trump Excels at Destruction, Not Deals

When Trump announced on Tuesday that the United States would unilaterally violate the terms of the Iran nuclear agreement, he said this:

In 2015, the previous administration joined with other nations in a deal regarding Iran’s nuclear program…A constructive deal could easily have been struck at the time, but it wasn’t…

As we exit the Iran deal, we will be working with our allies to find a real, comprehensive, and lasting solution to the Iranian nuclear threat. This will include efforts to eliminate the threat of Iran’s ballistic missile program; to stop its terrorist activities worldwide; and to block its menacing activity across the Middle East.

As Daniel Drezner pointed out, that covers step 1 (exiting the agreement) and step 3 (full compliance from Iran), but step 2 is completely missing. Will Marshall captured it perfectly with the suggestion that “petulance is not a strategy.”

What we are witnessing from Trump on Iran is actually a persistent pattern for the president. For example, he railed about TPP being negotiated badly and immediately pulled out of the deal, saying that he preferred bilateral agreements and would focus on negotiating with Japan. That is going nowhere because Japan is firmly committed to the agreement reached between the eleven remaining countries. When the administration floated the idea of rejoining the TPP, they got this response.

Officials in Japan, Australia and New Zealand reacted coolly on Friday to Mr. Trump’s remarks that he would be interested in joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership after rejecting it so publicly just a year ago. While the United States would significantly bolster the pact if it signed up, its entry would require intense negotiations — and current members will expect significant concessions from the American side.

Trump also threatened to pull out of NAFTA if our partners didn’t adhere to his demands. Those negotiations aren’t going very well either.

Finally, the president has been threatening a trade war with China, even going so far as to suggest that it would be “easy to win.” Here’s the latest on that front:

President Donald Trump’s top economic advisers are returning home from Beijing with little more than glaring proof of how far apart the U.S. and China stand on trade issues.

A U.S. delegation led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin wrapped up two days of negotiations with Chinese economic officials Friday with only an agreement to keep talking. No time or place for further discussions was announced, with Trump’s threat to impose tariffs on as much as $150 billion in Chinese goods still looming.

The two sides appear to be at loggerheads, with both making long lists of demands the other won’t meet, analysts say.

Beyond trade, Trump also announced that the United States would pull out of the Paris Climate accord, suggesting that “something could happen … and if it happens, that’ll be wonderful.” The passive voice not only tells us that the president has no interest in working on climate change, it has been backed up with zero effort on the administration’s part to find a way to rejoin the global effort.

This pattern hasn’t been limited to foreign policy. Trump also railed on and on about how bad Obamacare was, promised to repeal it immediately, and said that coming up with an improved plan would be easy. So far, all he’s been able to accomplish is to undermine Obamacare, making coverage more expensive and less available.

It is clear that a lot of what motivated the president on all of these issues was an attempt to take a sledge hammer to Barack Obama’s legacy achievements. But in doing so, he has consistently touted the idea that he is the ultimate deal maker.

That is a lie. He’s a two-bit con man who, as president, now has the power to destroy, but not a clue about how to repair the damage.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60 .