Let us pause the resistance for a moment to wallow in the crapulance of Donald Trump’s reputation as a negotiator and great deal maker. Trump’s election to the U.S. presidency was based on the erroneous notion that he was a businessman par excellence, that he could run the government like a business and make the deals that career politicians cannot. In fact, there’s miles of evidence that shows Trump’s horrid track record as a businessman, and in just 64 very long days there’s now quite a collection of proof that the talents Trump doesn’t have in business are not helping him as president either.
Let’s consider this quote from The Art of the Deal, the book about business that Trump didn’t really write but has nonetheless taken credit for the last three decades. “Deals are my art form. Other people paint beautifully on canvas or write wonderful poetry. I like making deals, preferably big deals. That’s how I get my kicks.” Really? Because yesterday, it looked like this was how Trump was getting his kicks:
That was Thursday afternoon, you know when the Obamacare repeal was in a death spiral, and the president was behind the wheel of a truck pretending that he was a big boy or something. And then, like a kid that prays for a snow day to work on the book report he didn’t do and then kills daylight by sledding instead, Trump scrambled his senior staff on Friday to go up to the Hill and desperately turn all the Republicans working against him in the House. Another move straight out of The Art of the Deal. “The worst thing you can possibly do in a deal is seem desperate to make it.” That’s funny because the White House seemed pretty desperate to seal the deal.
NPR went to town on the lessons from Art of the Deal that Trump didn’t use in his negotiations with Congress. Again, weird that Trump wouldn’t follow the advice he himself set out in a book he once called second only to the Bible in terms of quality, but it’s somewhat less weird you consider the scrapyard of failed business ventures he’s left behind him. And with all those ventures, there’s no admission of mistake, or attempt to make self-evaluation and look at how the product might have been made better, or at the very least promoted better. Nope, healthcare reform, despite seven years of whining and complaining about Obamacare, is done after a mere 17 days of trying.
The immediate reflex for Trump was to blame Democrats, a group he never even bothered to try and engage with throughout the entire two-and-a-half week ordeal. “If [Democrats] got together with us, and got us a real healthcare bill, I’d be totally okay with that,” Trump said. “The losers are Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, because they own Obamacare. They 100 per cent own it.” Both Pelosi and Schumer seem fine with that, neither Trump nor Speaker Paul Ryan went looking for Democrat support (not that they would have got it). Their focus was on the Freedom Caucus, a group that would vote no on being thrown a life preserver if saving them from drowning meant spending one red government cent.
To his credit, the man who’s hand is more harshly felt in the crafting of the AHCA took some of the lumps for its failure. “Moving from an opposition party to a governing party comes with growing pains and, well, we’re feeling those growing pains today,” said Speaker Ryan at a press conference. His obvious comments echo those of the President’s at the beginning of this whole process when Trump observed that no one knew that passing healthcare reform could be so complicated. “I will not sugarcoat this: this is a disappointing day for us,” Ryan added succinctly.
But Ryan’s contrition might cost him, already far-right conservatives have the knives out, and on Saturday night, Trump tweeted for everyone to watch the Fox News program Judge Jeanine, where former judge, prosecutor, district attorney and Republican political candidate from New York Jeanine Ferris Pirro called on Ryan to “step down as speaker of the House … He failed to deliver the votes.” Ryan’s probably safe for the short term because no one, and I mean no one, wants the Speakership and be terminally caught between moderate Republicans vulnerable in 2018, and the “Hell, no!” squad safely ensconced in gerrymandered districts where no one’s going to get to the right of them.
That leaves poor Trump, adrift on a luxury raft in the middle of turbulent sea. His self-professed skills as a master negotiator have failed him. His allies in the House have failed. The sycophants and cronies he’s surrounded himself with in the White House have failed him. Heck, even his beloved daughter and son-in-law/senior advisor failed him, abandoning him during this crucial week to go skiing instead. Sucks to be Trump, even if he did become president and you didn’t!
In the board room, behind the protection of his limited liability partnership, no one need ever know that Trump’s business prowess is as non-existent as his unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud, New Jersey Muslims celebrating 9/11, or that Barack Obama personally wire “tapped” his eponymous tower in New York. That last one has really got Trump into the soup. Losing as badly as he did Friday, Trump might be able to recover if not for the fact that the real issue is the investigation into connections between his office, his campaign, and the Russians. This is the fire that’s been slowly burning beneath all the surface damage of healthcare, travel bans, and “alternative facts,” as the FBI has confirmed that they’ve been chasing Trump’s Russian ties since last summer.
Those revelations would have never been made so soon if not for the fact that Trump had sent out a disgruntled tweet early one Saturday morning alleging his predatory committed a crime against him without any evidence. You know what might have cut this off at the past? Humility. If Trump had come out later that day and said, “You know, I was angry, I was feeling discouraged, and I lashed out. I apologize.” It would have ingratiated himself to a lot of people. True, it would have won him no brownie points from the people that think they voted for an a-hole tough guy, but there’s absolutely no chance he’s going to lose any of those people anyway. Why not do some outreach?
What might have happened if Trump had said on Friday some variation of, “Look, we presented something the majority didn’t want, we couldn’t reach consensus, and this isn’t going to happen as quickly as I promised. I’m new to politics, I’m learning, and I’m going to keep working with Congress to reform healthcare for the better”? Americans like seeing their leaders be gracious in defeat, they like it when they confess their human failures. People, by their nature, are forgiving, but Trump didn’t build his reputation on forgiveness. He built it on ruthlessness, and now believing the hype he helped to invent, Trump is trapped by his own terrible instincts.
Being Trump, means never having to say you’re sorry. Even if you should.