The Theater of the Deal

Some of us never quite believed Donald Trump’s “Art of the Deal” self-image as the ultimate negotiator. It was an image crafted for the tabloids and for television, and Trump imported it straight into politics, promising he would employ his astounding powers of negotiation to achieve unprecedented results in public policy.

But then where are the deals?

President Trump’s “renegotiation” of the North American Free Trade Agreement consisted of superficial changes and a rebranding of the name. Mexico has not agreed to pay for the border wall, nor did Trump make a deal with Congress to get the money. Instead, he has declared a state of emergency so he can take the money anyway—not from Mexico, but from the taxpayers—without the need for a deal. Even what Republicans accomplished in the last Congress, when they still had control of the House, was whatever was already on the Republican leadership’s wish list, like Paul Ryan’s tax reform, and nothing so difficult that they didn’t really want to do it, like repealing Obamacare.

The big trade deal with China that Trump officials have been teasing to the press looks more like a return to the status quo ante—for example, China is likely to agree to buy American agricultural products, which they were already doing before Trump imposed his tariffs—with little or no enforceable progress on key issues like theft of intellectual property.

Then of course there is Trump’s big diplomatic push with North Korea, where after a year and two personal summits, he just walked away with nothing. Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, on the other hand, got exactly what he needed.

Read the rest at The Bulwark.

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