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Negotiating Failure

It should be obvious to anyone that Donald Trump’s claims to be a skilled negotiator are completely hollow (that’s a euphemism for “lie”).

He isn’t even very good at being a bully. His entire history of negotiating is full of examples where he belligerently refused to settle a lawsuit… and then settled.

Let’s concentrate at what Trump has tried to negotiate as president. Trump loudly guaranteed that Mexico would pay for the border wall, and that he would be able to negotiate a great deal with them. That failed. He couldn’t even start that negotiation. More recently, he threatened to shut down the government if congress didn’t fund the wall, then immediately caved and backed down. That’s right, he couldn’t even get his own party to go along with him.

Speaking of his own party, Trump didn’t need a single Democratic vote in order to repeal Obamacare, a core promise of his campaign. But he managed to fail at that. He couldn’t even get it to a vote. Then he tried again, and failed again. What kind of negotiator loses even when negotiating with their own side?

Trump promised to stand up to China. But he rolled over like a dog. First he cozied up to Taiwan, but as soon as China barked he immediately capitulated and acknowledged their “One China” policy. Trump also promised he would sanction China for being a currency manipulator on “day one”. What happened to that?

He promised to renegotiate NAFTA, and then immediately capitulated after Canada and Mexico phoned him and called his bluff.

I thought we were supposed to get tired of winning, not losing.

About the only accomplishment Trump can hold up for his first 100 days is getting a Supreme Court nominee confirmed. But Trump had almost nothing to do with that (other than trying really hard to take credit). It was the Senate who did that, no thanks to Trump. And the Senate even had to cheat by changing the rules. There wasn’t any “negotiating” at all.

So it is obvious to anyone that Trump is a terrible negotiator, but now we know why. Slate has published an article that talks with both real, successful negotiators, and with experts in the field of negotiating, and they explain that Trump doesn’t seem to understand even the basic concepts and rules of negotiating. We know Trump didn’t write “The Art of the Deal”, but it appears that he didn’t even read it.

He’s lazy and gets bored easily. He makes ultimatums and then capitulates without getting any concessions from the other side. He insults the people he is supposed to be negotiating with, then for good (bad) measure, he insults his own side. He poisons relationships. He’s arrogant and tries to bully people, and is easily flattered. He’s like a cartoon, reality-TV version of a negotiator. Instead of speaking softly but carrying a big stick, he blusters and brags and lies, then backs down.

He makes every mistake in the book, and then is surprised when he fails (“Nobody knew health care could be so complicated”).

About the only asset the article could find about Trump that helps him achieve deals was “his complete lack of core principles”. “It allows him to stay open to any agreement that will let him sign papers, take credit, and hold a photo op.” As long as Trump can claim to be a winner, it doesn’t matter if we — or even he — actually loses. Or as one expert put it, “When you don’t know where you’re headed, any road will take you there.”

UPDATE: Now, Trump has sabotaged the new negotiations to repeal Obamacare. The bill being negotiated in the House would allow states to opt out of key aspects of Obamacare, including allowing insurance companies to charge patients with pre-existing medical conditions more for coverage. But in an interview on Sunday, Trump insisted “Pre-existing is going to be in there, and we’re also going to create pools.” When pressed to confirm this, Trump insisted:

Pre-existing conditions are in the bill. And I just watched another network than yours, and they were saying, “pre-existing is not covered.” Pre-existing conditions are in the bill. And I mandate it. I said, “Has to be.”



  1. Wildwood wrote:

    The man is basically dumb as dirt. He is a world class conman, loud, a bully, a bloviating fool, a liar extraordinaire, attention seeking buffoon. As long as he is getting lots of attention, he is happy. He is also, to some degree malleable with the right nudging. Whoever talks to him last sets the agenda, until someone else changes his mind. He needs round the clock keepers and Ivanka and Jared can’t keep up by themselves so he strays off the reservation often. He has more character flaws in one body than I think I have ever seen. At least seen out of jail or a mental institution. Both of which are distinct possibilities in his future. (One can dream can’t one?)

    Monday, May 1, 2017 at 8:56 am | Permalink
  2. Iron Knee wrote:

    Congress passed a budget at the last minute, and it looks like Trump and the Republicans were soundly out-negotiated. The Democrats managed to defund the border wall and actually managed to increase domestic spending (including additional money for Medicaid). Trump wanted to slash spending for the National Institute for Health by $1.2 billion. Instead, their budget was increased by $2 billion. Trump also wanted to completely defund the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy; instead it is getting a $15 million increase. And speaking of defunding, Republicans were not able to defund Planned Parenthood, and the government will continue to pay Obamacare subsidies. Also, the crackdown on “sanctuary cities” didn’t happen.

    According to Reuters “While Republicans control the House, Senate and White House, Democrats scored … significant victories in the deal.” The LA Times called the budget “something of an embarrassment to the White House”. After all, it was Trump who insisted after the election that Congress should fund the government for only a few months so he could put his stamp on federal spending as the new president. Hah!

    And how does Trump respond? By running a freakin’ campaign ad!

    Monday, May 1, 2017 at 9:14 am | Permalink
  3. Ralph wrote:

    Notice the wording in that ad, specifically “the biggest tax cut plan in history”. That’s right, it’s a PLAN, not really a thing or anything even approaching an actual bill. And even there, it’s not really a plan either with any real specifics, just a single page wishlist of bullet points that, even from it’s barely meager description, experts agree would explode the national debt while giving enormous tax cuts to himself and other uber rich.

    It’s Trumpworld, all hype and bluster, and if your own tweets and other verbal diarrhea conflict with reality he just simply walks away or conflates some other gibberish into the mix, as he did during his interview with John Dickerson on Face the Nation over the weekend when confronted about his baseless accusations of Obama bugging Trump Tower. Not before childishly mocking the show as “Deface the Nation”, of course. Classy.

    Monday, May 1, 2017 at 2:01 pm | Permalink
  4. Wildwood wrote:

    Ralph, I find it hard to believe he comes up with those, in his mind, clever insults like “Deface the Nation” all by himself.

    Monday, May 1, 2017 at 3:06 pm | Permalink
  5. Iron Knee wrote:

    Ralph, and even as vague as the ad is, it is still full of lies.

    In particular, think about the statement “the biggest tax cut plan in history”. There have been plenty of *plans* for cutting taxes that are WAY bigger than Trump’s plan. There have been plans for abolishing personal income taxes entirely — that’s much bigly better!

    Heck, how about if I come up with a plan to eliminate all taxes entirely? Can’t get much bigger than that! The point is that having a big plan is worthless unless you can execute on your plans and make it a reality, and Trump clearly cannot.

    Monday, May 1, 2017 at 4:18 pm | Permalink
  6. Suann wrote:

    I still think the country is WINNING when Trump’s crazy ideas don’t go through. To my mind, it would be far worse if he did repeal Obamacare, pull out of NAFTA and NATO, build a horrendously expensive wall, etc. etc.
    There are many ways to win. Donald Trump’s inability to pull off his crazy schemes may be one of them. May he be equally unsuccessful at polluting the air and water and damaging our national monuments.

    Tuesday, May 2, 2017 at 4:58 am | Permalink
  7. Ralph wrote:

    It’s not often that you see a late-night (or any) comic breaking down on stage. But on Jimmy Kimmel’s show last night he did just that, at least in part, while recounting the ordeal he and his wife went through recently when, shortly after the birth of their son, he was found to be experiencing heart failure, necessitating open heart surgery to save his life. The upshot being that were it not for the ACA his son may not have been eligible for insurance coverage because of his pre-existing condition. Now a wealthy guy like Kimmel could probably afford any medical bills thrown at him, but he stressed that many others of lesser means finding themselves in a similar position would not be so fortunate but for provisions within the ACA mandating coverage for pre-existing conditions. Here’s the clip for those interested. The first half and last couple minutes are particularly relevant, the middle section being mostly a list of thank-you’s he ran through.

    Here’s the real kicker. A recent interview by Jake Tapper on CNN with Rep. Mo Brooks, he of the “Freedom” Caucus, argues that people “who lead good lives” and do things “the right way” should pay less than those with pre-existing conditions.

    Now in all fairness, he does go on to qualify that those with pre-existing conditions that are no fault of the person (like Kimmel’s baby, presumably) should not be penalized as such, but the wiggle room he appears to slip into this argument looks a lot like leaning strongly in favor of our hallowed profit-driven health insurance companies. And as we all know, the devil is in the fine print. (Besides, even under the ACA, I was still required to report on any smokers coming under the policy, so there’s at least that much allotted for). Combined with Ryan’s recent address to his congressional colleagues, which proposed “risk pools” placing sicker people into separate categories, and you get a pretty good idea of how far-right Republicans still envision how they want healthcare to regress from where it is now, despite its admitted shortcomings, like rising premiums (thanks to Republican sabotage).

    I mean, what don’t these people get about the concept of insurance as being about spreading risk, not punishing misfortune? Simply mind boggling.

    That’s my sick story of the week and I’m stickin’ with it!

    Tuesday, May 2, 2017 at 10:14 am | Permalink
  8. Iron Knee wrote:

    Ralph, thanks for bringing the Kimmel video to my attention. I just posted about it.

    Wednesday, May 3, 2017 at 6:30 am | Permalink
  9. Ralph wrote:

    Most welcome, always happy to contribute to a quality blog like this when possible. Thanks for the insights and keep up the great work!

    Wednesday, May 3, 2017 at 7:10 am | Permalink