Robert Reich: Trump’s Art of the No Deal (revised and updated)

July 9, 2018 – Trump promised to be America’s dealmaker in chief.

“We need a leader that wrote The Art of the Deal,” he said in the speech announcing his candidacy. “I’m a negotiator. I’ve done very well over the years through negotiation,” he said during a Republican debate. “That’s what I do, is deals,” he said in May. “I know deals, I think, better than anybody knows deals.”

Rubbish. So far, Trump has made no deals at all, and the ones he thinks he’s made have unraveled.

He has no deal with North Korea. Following his June 12 summit with Kim Jong Un, Trump declared on Twitter that “there is no longer a nuclear threat” from North Korea.

In fact, recent satellite images show that North Korea has upgraded a nuclear facility. It also appears to be finalizing the expansion of a ballistic missile manufacturing site.

Instead of surrendering its nuclear stockpile, American intelligence says North Korea is considering ways to conceal it at secret production facilities.

As if to drive home the point that there’s been no deal, just after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Pyongyang to start filling in the “nitty-gritty details” of Kim’s vague commitment, the North accused the Trump administration of pushing a “unilateral and gangster-like demand for denuclearization,” calling it “deeply regrettable.”

Trump apologists say the supposed deal with North Korea will take time.

Maybe. But Kim got everything he wanted from the summit – an American president appearing to grant North Korea co-equal status, and cancellation of joint military exercises with South Korea – without conceding anything on weapons and missile programs.

Trump has no trade deals, either. Instead, he’s launched  simultaneous trade wars with Europe, China, Canada, and Mexico.

After slapping tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese imports, China has retaliated with tariffs on $34 billion of American exports. Trump is now threatening tariffs on nearly everything China exports to the United States, as well as a clampdown on Chinese investment here.

After Trump raised tariffs on steel and aluminum from Canada, Mexico, and the European Union, they also retaliated. They promise further retaliation if Trump acts on his threat to place a 20 percent tariff on imported cars and car parts.

Are these Trump’s negotiating tactics? “Every country is calling every day, saying, let’s make a deal, let’s make a deal,” he boasted last week.

More rubbish. Trump’s actions have poisoned relations to such an extent that instead of joining the United States to, say, push China to open its markets, our trading partners – including China – are starting to join together to stop Trump from doing worse damage.

Meanwhile, talks to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada are dead, partly because Trump’s bullying has generated so much animosity across our two neighbors’ borders.

Trump has no deal on Iran, either. No deal on Syria. No deal on the Qatar blockade. No deal on Israel and the Palestinians.

Trump will soon meet with Vladimir Putin – with no agenda.

Over the past few weeks, Trump has given away his bargaining leverage with Putin, anyway. He’s called for Russia to be readmitted to the Group of 7 industrial powers, suggested it has a legitimate claim to Crimea because a lot of Russian speakers live there, and expressed more doubts about whether Moscow meddled in the 2016 presidential election.

Trump has no deal on climate change. He simply pulled out of the Paris accords.

No deal with the Group of 7 leading economic powers. He merely refused to sign the communiqué his own team had agreed to. And no deal with NATO countries on increasing their military spending.

“No deal” also describes Trump’s relations with the Republican Congress.

He got no deal on replacing the Affordable Care Act, so Trump is quietly repealing it administratively. At least 5 million people will lose coverage.

No deal on gun control. After the Parkland shooting, Trump promised to tighten background checks for gun buyers and said he’d consider raising the age for buying certain types of guns. He subsequently gave up, bowing to the NRA. 

No deal on DACA or immigration, despite Trump’s promises. No budget deal, despite his assertions.

The tax deal wasn’t really Trump’s – it was a deal between the Republican Senate and Republican House, with Trump bloviating from the sidelines.

One of the biggest cons from the biggest conman to occupy the Oval Office is that he’s a dealmaker.

He’s not. All he really knows is how to bully friends, stage photo ops with enemies, and claim victory.

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fifteen books, including the best sellers “Aftershock”, “The Work of Nations,” and”Beyond Outrage,” and, his most recent, “The Common Good,” which is available in bookstores now. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, “Inequality For All.” He’s co-creator of the Netflix original documentary “Saving Capitalism,” which is streaming now.