The Art of Presidential Deal Breaking

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Did voters expect President Trump to make or break deals? Let’s count the deals he has made and kept versus those he has broken. He said making deals with politicians would be easy. Let’s see how he has done.

Accomplishments.

1. Executive Orders. President Trump has eagerly signed executive orders at public events in the Oval Office to undo Obama policies. Congressional Republicans had complained when President Obama dealt with issues they were unwilling to tackle by signing executive orders which were called illegal and even tyrannical. The same Republicans now cheer this president for executive actions on matters they would rather not have to vote on.

2. Tax Reform. Calling it a middle-class tax cut, President Trump celebrated a bill that rewarded wealthy donors and large corporations as it ballooned the national debt. Congressional Republicans considered this a major accomplishment they had worked toward for many years.

3. The Budget. A national budget was passed with Democrat support. Republicans who objected to the cost of items wanted by Democrats are now supporting President Trump in withholding spending – in other words, not following through on a deal.

Broken Promises and Deals.

1. Repeal and Replace Obamacare. Candidate Trump promised to replace Obamacare with better, less expensive, and all-inclusive healthcare. Once in office, it became clear there was no replacement plan. Failure to develop a replacement played a role in defeating legislative efforts at repeal. Now Obamacare is being slowly undermined in numerous ways, each of which hurts thousands of Americans without providing alternatives that help.

2. Political Deals. In a meeting with the four top congressional leaders, President Trump made a deal with Democrats for a “clean” DACA bill, to the astonishment of Republicans in the meeting. Soon thereafter he reneged, blaming the Democrats. Later he hosted a televised discussion with several members of Congress, promising to support whatever bipartisan bill the group proposed so long as it represented a “bill of love.” When a bipartisan group of senators presented a compromise to him, the president shouted it down and insulted African countries.

3. Multilateral Agreements. President Trump has made NATO allies uneasy with his insults, hesitancy to affirm the defense commitment that holds the alliance together, and even expressed reservations about defending Baltic countries being threatened by Russia. The Paris climate agreement and the agreement with Iran were rejected even though they were significant internationally supported achievements that worked. Traditional peaceful relationships with Canada and Mexico have been disrupted through attacks on NAFTA and mean-spirited comments directed at friendly neighbors. Refusal to join a Pacific trade agreement also broke commitments to Asian trading partners, leaving them at the mercy of Chinese economic power.

4. Pacific Defense. The single clear accomplishment of the summit with North Korea in Singapore was a betrayal of defense agreements with South Korea and Japan. Two previous administrations engaged in denuclearization talks with North Korea and gained written commitments at an early stage that were specific and required verification. At an advanced stage, North Korea balked at carrying out the agreements. The previous American administrations had negotiated with the participation of our South Korean and Japanese allies and did not give military concessions highly desired by China and North Korea.

But President Trump thinks making a deal with North Korea is not so hard. He launched the diplomatic process by having a personal meeting with Kim Jong Un. The summit included a private discussion between the leaders with only translators present so no one could make a transcript of their conversation. Records were not needed, according to President Trump, because of his fabulous memory of whatever would be discussed. The outcome of the summit was a short statement that was less specific than any previous diplomatic agreements with North Korea.

In a press conference at the end, the president announced a commitment to halt military exercises and eventually to remove American troops from North Korea. This was all based on verbal assurances from Kim Jong Un that North Korea would eliminate nuclear weapons and turn over bodies of American casualties from the Korean War.

Without consultation with South Korea and Japan, and also without specific written agreements including verification, President Trump jeopardized defense agreements with allies and announced, based on his personal confidence in Kim Jong Un, that the problem of nuclear weapons in North Korea had been solved.

Conclusion.

After a year and a half in office, President Trump has broken political deals, backed out of multilateral agreements, and threatened multilateral trade and defense treaties. Why has the dealmaker turned into such a deal-destroyer?

The answer is demonstrated before the American public every day of his term in office. If Trump did not make the agreement, it has no value. Multilateral deals involving equality and give-and-take among parties do not measure up to Trumpian standards. As seen in other situations, everything is always about him. Instead of multilateral pacts based on equity, all participants in agreements must now rotate around a Trumpian sun. One secret conversation with Kim Jong Un solved the North Korea problem even though allies and the world see no hard evidence of what was agreed upon. We must trust Trump, who swears we can now trust Kim Jong Un. If Trump makes the deal, we must believe it is good.

Finally, dear voter, look at what American bankers and those involved in business deals said during the presidential campaign: he doesn’t pay his bills. Trump bragged about leveraging bankruptcy to get ahead in business. The real specialty of Donald Trump is breaking deals in ways that profit him individually irrespective of who gets hurt. If North Korean and Russian propaganda outlets sing the praises of Donald Trump, he thinks America is finally winning respect no matter the damage to our allies or world democracy.