The Art of the Deal – Donald Trump versus the Political Establishment

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Many pundits are saying that Donald Trump is an unhinged celebrity devoid of political sensibility.  They are hard pressed, however, to explain why his bombastic rhetoric appeals to an angry populace, who are sick and tired of politicians who constantly fail to deliver on their promises once they are in office.  Political observers say his policies are not only impractical but downright insane with no chance of ever becoming reality.  They mock his promise that Mexico will pay to build a wall to keep their citizens from entering the U.S illegally.  The political cognoscenti ridicule Trump’s assertion that he will deport all illegal immigrants, including their offspring who were born on U.S. soil.  They say there is no way the Supreme Court will deny the birthright entitlement of citizenship to anyone born in the U.S, as codified in the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.  (There are some exceptions to birthright amendment such as children born to foreign diplomats, children born to Native Americans on reservations, or children born to hostile occupying forces.)  Some say Trump is a misogynist who would defund all Planned Parenthood activities having to do with abortions, earning him the wrath of women voters.  They say his appeal is limited and he can never win in a general election.  In short, they believe Trump is unelectable.  But, so far, they can say what they want.  He is leading in the polls and he is leading by a significant margin, turning conventional political wisdom on its head.

Trump doesn’t concern himself much with sugarcoating his views and tells it like it is.  He is the bane of career politicians, who seek campaign contributions from well-heeled donors.  To make matters worse, he constantly embarrasses his political opponents by confirming what most Americans already know.  He who pays the piper, calls the tune. It is human nature that the recipients of such political donations would bend over backward to please their benefactors.  It is naïve to think it would be any other way.  Donors are businessmen and expect something in return.  Trump knows this from personal experience and he isn’t ashamed to let everyone know he benefited from pay-to-play politics in the past.  And people eat it up every time he says it.  Every time political analysts and establishment Republicans dismiss him as having a political tin ear, his popularity grows.  When his opponents say there is no way Trump can ever deliver on his promises, they are ignored.  And, to their great discomfort and dismay, they lose credibility the more they persist in denigrating Trump.

So, it begs the question: is there a method to Trump’s perceived madness?  One only has to read what he wrote in his book, The Art of the Deal, to see that Trump is being true to form.  The book was first published in 1987, so Trump has had many years before and after it first appeared on the bookshelves to perfect his art, which he now intends to apply to the world of high-level politics.

If one reviews some of the things he wrote in his book, it is easy to observe that his views haven’t changed much over the years.  For those who criticize Trump for promising things that he will find impossible to deliver, they might want to consider this statement from his book: “My style of deal-making is quite simple and straightforward. I aim very high, and then I just keep pushing and pushing to get what I’m after. Sometimes I settle for less than I sought, but in most cases I still end up with what I want.”  Isn’t that exactly what Trump is doing now as he adapts his craft to the political realm?  It would be out of character for Trump to stake out anything short of a strong position on policy issues.  In his view, mushy positions are the province of losers.

If you start off negotiations weak, the party you are trying to win over to your point of view will have less ground to yield because you conceded too much at the outset.  This might result in a deal but it will be one where you paid too much for what you got.  On the other hand, if you open negotiations strong and stay strong, your opponent will consume much of his energy trying to get you to budge and will eventually relent.  In other words, leverage is the name of the game and, from Trump’s point of view, this is the pathway to a winning outcome because the ultimate deal will be tilted strongly in his favor.  To Trump, it’s an art, not a science.  Therefore, politicians who are not adept at the game, which Trump calls the art of the deal, are destined to be losers and that’s exactly what Trump considers them to be.

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Trump says our elected officials are clueless and stupid when it comes to negotiating with China, Mexico, Japan, and the Middle East, all of whom are cleaning our clock. And then he goes on to cite indisputable examples of their stupidity such as China taking our jobs and our money.  Ditto Mexico. We go to war to defend countries like Kuwait and get nothing in return.  We pour U.S. blood and treasure into Iraq without taking a good portion of their oil to compensate for our losses.  From a business point of view, it is silly not to do so.  We foolishly keep leaving money on the table only to have foreign countries, which are the beneficiaries of our largesse, spit in our eye.  How bat-shit crazy is that?  Trump wants to know and so do many Americans.

One only has to contrast Trump’s philosophy with the achievements, or lack thereof, of President Obama to see the glaring gap between the two men.  For example, let’s take the deal the Obama administration has recently struck with Iran.  It is almost as if Iran was allowed to negotiate with itself because it appears Iran had empty suits sitting across the table from them.  Even the village idiot would know better than allow Iran, which wants us all dead, to stiff us on meaningful inspections of their nuclear facilities while getting us to lift crushing sanctions.  The U.S. might as well have delivered an arsenal of nuclear weapons to Iran along with the ballistic missiles needed to fire nuclear warheads to targets within our country.  Obama got played for a sucker and the consequences could be devastating.  Recent polls show that approximately two-thirds of Americans disapprove the deal.  Many of them are wondering if our hapless government officials are trying to get us all killed.

But it gets worse.  The Republicans who control both the Senate and the House of Representatives inexplicably agreed to treat the Iranian deal as an executive agreement instead of a treaty between two sovereign nations, which it really is.  Pursuant to the Constitution, a treaty would require two-thirds of the Senate to ratify.  Instead, congress agreed that this reckless deal with Iran should be regarded as an executive agreement requiring only one-third of the Senate and one-third of the House for approval.  Why would Republicans ever agree to such an arrangement when they control both chambers of congress, unless, as Trump says, they are stupid?  Be that as it may, why would even one-third of the members of the House and Senate agree to such an atrocious deal with Iran?  It turns out there are probably enough Democrats who think loyalty to a Democratic president is more important than the safety of Americans and our ally, Israel.  Needless to say, Trump thinks the Iranian deal is dangerous and sheer lunacy.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Main Street Americans are turned off by establishment politicians of both political parties and would welcome someone like Trump who thinks most of our elected officials are incompetent and beholden to the special interests who fund their campaigns. He says they are all show and no go.  And it appears a large portion of the electorate feel the same way.  As a result, Americans have given Trump wide latitude when he says things in a manner that is at odds with political correctness.  If fact, people don’t seem to give a damn about such niceties.  No one has ever seen a candidate like Trump.  There is no analogue from the past and there may never be anyone like him again in the future.  He is a singular sensation.

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Trump points out another glaring Obama failure.  The national debt is currently over 18 trillion dollars and growing exponentially; a significant chunk of it has accumulated over Obama’s two terms in office.  Trump says we are on the way to becoming Greece.  Some would say we have already passed the point of no return.  Others would say without fear of hyperbole that our government is trying to ruin us all financially and pulling out all the stops to do just that.  We have elected officials who couldn’t manage a lemonade stand.  Who can argue that our government needs to be run as a business for a change?  Perhaps, the time has come for a successful businessman to take the helm and put our house back on a sound financial footing, if it’s still possible to do so.  The enormous national debt is stealing our liberty.

Trump is fearless and is quick to counter his critics.  In his book, Trumps writes “if you’re fighting for something you believe in — even if it means alienating some people along the way — things usually work out for the best in the end.”  People want a street fighter who will get things done and they believe Trump is their man.  They are put off by politicians who try to spin bullshit into cotton candy.

Republican Party leaders are hoping Trump self-destructs.  In fact, they thought he was toast several times already, only to find him climb higher in the polls.  Establishment Republicans don’t know whether to scratch their watch or check their ass at this point.  To add to their considerable angst, Trump refuses to say he will endorse whomever the Republican Party nominates for president.  They fail to realize that Trump is being true to the art he perfected in his business practice; i.e., that one should always maintain leverage when negotiating.  Again, quoting from The Art of the Deal, “In the end, you’re measured not by how much you undertake but by what you finally accomplish.”  The Republican establishment got run over by Trump’s stretch limousine.  They just don’t want to admit it.

The Democratic Party is sorely mistaken if it thinks it will benefit from a Trump nomination.  Their party has its own problems, including the ongoing and escalating scandals with their nominee-in-waiting, Hillary Clinton, who is constantly besieged with questions about her private email server, her handling of the deadly assault on our embassy in Benghazi, and accusations about favorable governmental treatment she extended to donors to the Clintons and their Foundation.  Even if these scandals didn’t exist, Clinton would find a formidable adversary in Mr. Trump, considering his appeal as a non-politician.  Hillary is the epitome of a scripted career politician — just the kind Americans have had enough of.  If Trump turns out to be the Republican presidential nominee, Democrats may get what they wish for, but it might turn out very badly for them.

At the end of the day, independent voters, who represent roughly 40% of the electorate, will decide the outcome of the general election.  If public sentiment has strongly turned against establishment politicians, who over-sell and under-deliver, then independents could wind up supporting a quintessential outsider, who regards politicians with the same disdain that they do.

Love him or hate him, one thing is certain.  Politics will never be the same after Trump. You can’t make this stuff up.  Since politicians can’t be trusted to do what they say. Americans might conclude there isn’t much downside risk in electing someone other than a professional politician.  At the very least, Donald Trump is sure to entertain us along the way and, who knows, he might even accomplish his goal of making America great again.

–        LV

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