Oct. 22, 2020 – Four years ago, then-candidate Donald Trump pledged to be the greatest dealmaker in American history.He claimed to know deals “better than anyone knows deals.” During his last nomination acceptance speech, Trump told the audience: “I have made billions of dollars in business making deals,” and promised to leverage that supposed prowess for the national interest.

Like many of Trump’s other pronouncements, however, that turned out to be nothing more than a lie. That may be why Trump has taken to promising a series of deals both before and after the election — part of a broader effort to distract from his failed handling of the pandemic.

Trump tonight almost certainly will again portray himself as a dealmaker. He’ll go to great lengths to hide that his promised deals haven’t materialized, and that what he has brought forward has been hollow and worth little more than the paper it’s written on.

Afghanistan: Rather than initiate an immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan, as promised, Trump escalated the two-decade long conflict throughout much of his presidency. Meanwhile, Trump’s February deal with the Taliban is falling apart after months of delays and ceasefire violations.

  • Even as Trump promises that troops “should” be home by Christmas, his top uniformed general refuses to endorse that timeline, suggesting that thousands of service members will remain in Afghanistan into 2021.
  • Trump’s public pronouncements of troop withdrawals fit within a larger pattern: he quietly increased troop levels in the region by 20,000 since May 2019, only to publicly announce withdrawals when in his political advantage to do so.

Middle East Peace: Unsurprisingly, Trump’s so-called “deal of the century” — which was supposed to lay the groundwork for peace between Israelis and Palestinians — was pronounced “dead on arrival,” leaving peace and the prospect of a two-state solution farther out of reach.

  • Far from achieving peace, Trump has touted the normalization of relations between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain. While welcome developments, the Trump administration has failed to translate these burgeoning regional ties into progress towards a two-state solution.
  • To the contrary, the Trump administration has all but ignored the Palestinian people, egging on many of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s worst impulses.

Iran: When Trump abandoned the Iran nuclear deal, claiming that he would achieve a “better deal,” he did nothing but give Iran a virtual greenlight to advance its nuclear program, embolden Tehran and its proxies, sow division throughout the international community, shred American credibility, and increase the likelihood of conflict.

  • Three years later, the promised “better deal” with Iran is nowhere in sight. Meanwhile, Tehran has expanded its nuclear stockpile beyond the limits allowed in the deal, its proxies have attacked Americans and our partners, and America is more isolated than ever.
  • All told, these developments underscore what we’ve already known: Trump has no strategy, short of war, to verifiably prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon — precisely what the nuclear deal had already accomplished.

China: Trump made a trade deal with Beijing a key promise, but what he managed to deliver is entirely empty. In the first half of 2020, China’s purchases fell $120 billion short of the purchase agreement. And the price the American people paid for this failure was astronomical: Trump’s tariffs raised annual consumer costs by tens of billions of dollars, and — worse yet — Trump turned a blind eye to the Coronavirus in an effort to keep the trade talks with Beijing on track. 

  • Trump also abandoned efforts for a second phase of the deal that would address the structural trade issues Trump had promised to remedy. Today, China can continue massively subsidizing its industrial sector and its state-run companies that compete directly with U.S. firms. The level playing field Trump promised is even further out of reach.

North Korea: Trump’s eager outreach to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has failed to produce anything substantive, rendering little more than grandiose photo-ops and media spectacles that undermined our leverage for serious diplomacy and legitimized a murderous dictator. Instead of Trump’s promised “complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization,” North Korea’s nuclear program has grown more advanced than ever, even as Pyongyang has continued its provocations.

  • Just earlier this month, North Korea paraded a massive new intercontinental ballistic missile through the streets of Pyongyang, one of the largest road-mobile, liquid-fueled ballistic missiles ever made.
  • All the while, Trump has frayed the relationship with our treaty allies, Japan and South Korea, who now have reason to doubt where America stands.

Border Wall: Trump’s marquee pledge during the 2016 campaign, an inexpensive wall financed by Mexico, has failed in every respect. In reality, Trump has produced an ineffective, costly, and ramshackle border fence, and American taxpayers have picked up the tab to the tune of $20 million per mile. Much of the money has come from defunded U.S. military projects, including repairs and refurbishments needed to protect service members from hazardous materials.

  • Not only has Trump failed to produce a deal with Mexico or a cost-effective border security solution, but he has come up short of producing any comprehensive border barrier after plundering billions in taxpayer dollars from the Defense budget. 

The United States is stronger, safer, and more respected in the world when we use our power wisely, stand strong with allies and partners, pursue principled diplomacy, and remain true to the values that have long defined us at home and abroad. www.nationalsecurityaction.org