Behold the Art of the Deal

So this happened.

President Trump slammed his hand on a table and stormed out of a White House meeting with congressional leaders on Wednesday after Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said she would not fund a wall along the southern border, dramatically escalating the confrontation over the government shutdown.

Stunned Democrats emerged from the White House meeting declaring that Mr. Trump had thrown a “temper tantrum.” The president’s allies accused Democrats of refusing to negotiate. Then he tweeted that the meeting was “a total waste of time.”

Yeah, you’d think after his masterful performance speaking to the nation last night the Dems would be ready to cave. (/sarcasm)

One of Trump’s many shortcomings that this episode has revealed is that he doesn’t grasp the concept of leverage. The only leverage he has is over Republicans who fear the wrath of his base. Over Democrats, he has none, according to the polls.

This is from the nerds at FiveThirtyEight — Trump Has Lost Ground In The Shutdown Blame Game.

Look at the polling data, and you can see why Trump (or his advisers) thought a high-profile move like a national address was needed. We’re currently on Day 19 of the shutdown, but Trump’s efforts to pin the blame on Democrats aren’t working, according to three pollsters who have conducted at least two polls in the two and a half weeks since the government first closed. Rather, polls show that Americans are increasingly blaming Trump.

The bag of tricks he employed as a real estate grifter isn’t helping him now.

President Trump has long said that keeping opponents off balance is the best way to win a negotiation. But nearly three weeks into a partial government shutdown, his usual playbook doesn’t seem to be working.

In his fight for a section of border wall, the president has dispatched aides to negotiate with lawmakers only to undercut their offers. He has declared a “crisis” at the U.S.-Mexico border but abruptly dropped a talking point about an influx of terrorists after it was proved false. And he has vacillated between threatening to declare a national emergency and professing to prefer a negotiated deal with Democrats.

On Wednesday, a day after delivering a prime-time Oval Office address to add gravitas to his public appeal, Trump abruptly walked out of a private meeting with lawmakers at the White House.

A “total waste of time,” Trump fumed on Twitter, lending credence to Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer’s accusations that the president is prone to “temper tantrums” when he doesn’t get his way.

Trump’s approach is a hallmark of a president who eschews strategic planning and preparation in favor of day-to-day tactical maneuvering and trusting his gut. But as he digs in against an emboldened Democratic opposition, Trump has found that his go-to arsenal of bluster, falsehoods, threats and theatrics has laid bare his shortcomings as a negotiator — preventing him from finding a way out of what may be the biggest political crisis of his presidency.

Apparently storming out of meetings is a trick that has worked for him in the past.

But, according to Jay Goldberg, who was Trump’s lawyer from 1989 to 2014 and handled two of his divorces, the president has reason to believe that walking out could be effective.

“He crafted that approach, it’s one he owns,” Goldberg said. “He has a tendency to argue, and if he is not satisfied he will leave the room, disappear, doesn’t come back and the people are on edge wondering where he is. And then when he feels it is the appropriate time he comes back.”

Goldberg said that Trump once attended a protracted meeting to reach a divorce settlement with his first wife, Ivana Trump. After hours of talks, he disagreed with the amount of alimony she wanted, and the two sides couldn’t agree. So Trump stood up and left.

“Everyone was looking for him because without his presence a deal couldn’t be done and he was gone for two hours and we didn’t know where he was,” Goldberg said. “When he came back, the other side was so concerned if they didn’t make a deal he would walk away again.”

In this case the walking out worked, because Ivana really did want a divorce. But Trump’s walking out had no effect on Pelosi and Schumer because he has no leverage. The only thing Pelosi and Schumer want from him now is for him to back down on the bleeping wall and allow the government to open. He’s backtracked on “deals” they thought they had with him too many times to trust him. And he hasn’t offered them anything.

Some GOP senators recognize that Trump needs help with the deal making thing and are trying to come up with one.

According to CNN, just after Trump’s abrupt departure, GOP senators — including Lindsey Graham, Lisa Murkowski, and Susan Collins — met in Graham’s office to discuss a path out of the second longest shutdown in U.S. history. The crew discussed a deal that would include Trump’s preferred $5.7 billion for the border wall, with a heap of policies that would encourage Democrats to sign on to get to the 60 votes needed, including the preservation of DACA, a change to H2B visas, and a boost to the Temporary Protected Status program, which allows nationals from crisis-affected countries to work and live in the United States for up to 18 months.

The group of senators then sent the idea to Trump adviser Jared Kushner, who believed that if he presented a plan that included the wall money that could pass in the Senate, his father-in-law would consider the deal. And according to NBC News, the president seemed amenable to putting DACA in the negotiating mix.

It’s possible Democrats would take that deal. However, that was yesterday, and I haven’t heard any more about it. Meanwhile the Creature has taken his one-man dog and pony show — no dog, no pony, just show — to McAllen, Texas, where residents are asking, “What crisis?” And he’s still making noises about declaring a national emergency, which I suspect would only dump us even deeper into consitutional crisis territory.


Trump, in reality, was never a peerless or even a particularly skillful dealmaker, and many of the most significant business transactions he engineered imploded. Instead, he made his way in the world as an indefatigable self-promoter, a marketing confection and a human billboard who frequently licensed his name to buildings and products paid for by others.

In Trump’s professional life, his inept dealmaking often came home to roost in unmanageable debts and serial bankruptcies. In his more recent political and presidential life it has revealed itself through bungled, hapless efforts to overturn the Affordable Care Act; forge a nuclear agreement with North Korea; wage trade wars with China, Mexico and Canada; retain control of the House of Representatives; turn military and diplomatic strategy on its head; lay siege to sensible immigration policy; and, now, force a government shutdown to secure funding for a prized project — a wall along the U.S.’s southern border.

He just had a press conference that demonstrated how out of his depth he is.

Over the course of roughly 15 minutes, Trump poured scorn on several groups of people — including Democrats, the media, and undocumented immigrants. For the second-straight day, he also undercut the case he’s trying to make that the situation at the border warrants a national emergency declaration.

Democrats, according to Trump, don’t give a damn about crime or about evil people with knives cutting people up. And they’re crazy.

“They’ve been taken over by a group of young people, who frankly, in some cases, I’ve been watching, I actually think they’re crazy,” he said. “They have been taken over by a group of people that don’t care about gangs, they don’t care about human trafficking and drugs — they don’t care about anything.”

Trump also showed off his skills at press relations.

Asked by a reporter to specify at which point in history he thinks a crisis on the southern border began, Trump instead went on the attack against the press.

“Look, you can all play cute, and I’d say 80 percent of you are possibly in cooperation with the opposition party,” Trump said. “I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous.”

Trump singled out NBC. At one point, seemingly out of nowhere, he described the network as “maybe the most dishonest reporters of all time.”

So now he’s floundering around trying to act tough to please his base. That’s really all that he wants; to get something so he can brag to his base. He has no end game. He has no clue what he is doing.


30 thoughts on “Behold the Art of the Deal

  1. "President Trump has long said that keeping opponents off balance is the best way to win a negotiation. But nearly three weeks into a partial government shutdown, his usual playbook doesn’t seem to be working."

    Maybe it is working, except that Trump is the one being kept off balance. laugh "Just say no" to Trump.

  2. When the president is prepared to destroy the national government on an issue like the wall as a symbol for his own ego, which no leader in his own party, much less the opposition, thinks is a worthwhile venture, one hopefully imagines the national government coming together to preserve itself on purely institutional (or constitutional) grounds. For instance, how long a shutdown and/or a 'national emergency' coup-d'etat attempt will it take for both parties in Congress to pass a veto-proof funding law, without anything for the wall?

    The missing piece here is the Republican senate and the conservative Republican caucus in the House. The wild card is the federal court system's more conservative justices. I said hopefully just now, but this whole horror show tends to defeat hope.

  3. Ezra Klein made the point on Lawrence O'Donnell last night, that Trump consciously or unconsciously doesn't really want the wall. What he wants is to dominate others, to appear tough to his base, to get something for nothing, zero-sum.

    When he wanted silence from Stormy Daniels, he gave $130,000. If he wanted the wall, he would offer something to the Democrats as an exchange.

  4. The key thing is when Mitch McConnell decides he's had enough. I'm certain his vote-counting skills are among the best; when enough of his delegation folds to override a Trump veto, the government re-opens.

  5. The only thing tRUMP lacks is blue pee in order to be nicknamed 'Mad King Donald I.'

    He's nuttier than a Planters processing plant!


  6. "he’s still making noises about declaring a national emergency"

    If he does, it will go to the courts. If the courts go against him, he can say he went to the mat for his country but the courts are against him. He comes off as both a hero and a martyr to his base. He is already running 2020 campaign ads that feature his call for the wall, so I suspect he plans on losing in the courts.

  7. I agree Trump's not negotiating and he's not a negotiator. There is a strategy – when other people are sufficiently antagonized by the shutdown, they will put forth the negotiating effort and bring Trump what they hope will appease him.

    The crucial thing is for Democrats to pound three things.

    1) Trump did the shutdown. It's on video. Play it over and over. It's a move to create a hostage situation – a gun at the heads of federal employees. Trump is holding that gun.

    2) The Democrats are trying to open government at previous spending levels and asking for nothing in return, but they won't bargain for the hostages.

    3) Two Republicans – Trump and McConnell are blocking any votes on reopening government which the Democrats keep doing while asking for nothing in return.

    If we bargain for hostages, we have ushered in the era of government by the most ruthless. It will happen again if it works! I'd feel the same way if Democrats were trying to legislate by extortion rather than by the majority.

  8. It’s worse than that. The Idiot wants to divert disaster relief money from CA and Puerto Rico to the Corps of Engineers using emergency powers. It is hard to see this succeeding in court, but if it does, you might as well just jettison the legislative branch; every demented whim would be a “national emergency”.

  9. I'm with ya, Doug!

    And like you, if D's were doing this instead of R's, I'd want their feet held to the fire too!  (What a cruel term that is!   It never occurred to me before).

  10. Doug, as the Brits would say you are always spot on,  I guess today then you are spot spot on. Tallyho.

  11. After watching years of tRUMP use bigotry, hate, and fear to gin-up demands for his idiotic wall, and then listening to his fan's responses in interviews, I am proud give you "gulag's Postulate:"

    'The farther away from our borders a person lives, the greater his/her fear of immigrants – especially brown ones – is.'

  12. If Republicans want to do a deal and get the shutdown over with (and avoid being stuck to the Trump tarbaby next election) they can easily do so.  Just pass the CR they passed unanimously a few weeks ago and override a Trump veto.  Treat him as irrelevant or be stuck to him; those are their choices.

  13. What puzzles me is the fact that Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell both seem to be goading Trump to declare a state of emergency. They both are pushing Trump in that direction by using  different methods, one directly by encouragement, and the other indirectly by cutting off an exit strategy for his use of threats to end the shutdown.

    It seems to me that they want Trump to blow up the situation, but it's not clear to me whether they are setting him up for a fall, or they really believe he can break the Democrat's power. I know Graham has stated that if Trump falters and fails to "win" in the current situation it will be the end of Trump's presidency and the Republican party. McConnell, on the other hand, appears to just have washed his hands of Trump and will let him proceed on his own course of self destruction.

    It's been said early on that once Trump has served his usefulness to the GOP they would jettison him. I'm wondering if that time has come. The Repug's only source of power remains with the Senate. It would make sense that McConnell would do everything in his power to insure that that power remains intact if Trump becomes a liability to threaten McConnell's stronghold.

     Things are starting to look ominous on Trump's presidential horizon, so it might be in McConnell's best interest to prepare for any eventuality.

  14. If Il Douché declares a state of emergency and says he will build the "wall" without appropriation by Congress, then the Senate can pass a continuing resolution that does not appropriate any money for the "wall". Graham and McConnell are then off the hook. If the Senate is forced to reopen the government by overriding Trump's veto (or having the votes to do so), then they risk alienating the Trump/Republican base, a politically dangerous thing for them to do. Trump still has a very high approval rating from Republican voters.

  15. The democrats also need to remind everyone that republicans had complete control for two years, and didn't pass funding for the wall to the levels Trump is demanding now, which means they weren't even for it and McConnell is only backing Trump now to see to it that he gets a political victory to satisfy Trump's base.  Given that a clear majority of Americans are opposed to the wall, there is no other explanation for it other than politics Trump is playing, and playing at the expense of over 800K federal workers.

    Democrats need to hammer on that point as well.

  16. Agolf Twitler hasn't grown a millimeter in office. He’s the same real estate flim-flam artist with the same little bag of tricks that he's always been, and has no interest in being anything more.

  17. In regard to Doug's comment about showing the video of  Trump owning the shutdown. There's another video out there where Trump makes reference to us needing a "GOOD" shutdown. That's a video they should be pumping into the airwaves. WTF is a good shutdown? Does good mean by Trump's definition… a lot of suffering?

  18. Thanks for the reference, cam! smiley

    From the interview/infomercial:

    Il Trump: "So it’s not a money thing. It’s a political thing. They look at the 2020 race and not feeling too good about it; they will do whatever they can to win."

    That makes me glad that I once studied Freud. Classical projection. wink Projection shows up so often in political speech these days. When one politician criticizes another, it usually means the accuser is doing it.

  19. The state of emergency is having Trump in the White House pretending to be a president.  I do not understand Lindsay and McConnell.  Maybe they have some strategy I can't figure out.  I hope so.

    I have a thought on a "border structure" that might work.  An electrified fence.  A fence is cheap to build and I'm sure the juice can be fixed up.  Not enough electricity to really harm anyone but enough that they will avoid touching it.  I thought of this because of a memory of my childhood.  We lived in a neighborhood in Indianapolis and we had a small back yard with a big cherry tree in it.  When the cherries were ripe, there were thieves who would come in the middle  of  the night and steal some.  Because my Dad knew electronics he was able to electrify the fence and that solved the problem.  This may have been illegal but he didn't get in trouble.  I don't know enough to determine if this would be a viable solution on the southern border, just a thought I had.

  20. This one goes out with love from Donald Trump to all the federal workers and contractors affected by the shutdown.

  21. Of course Trump has leverage over Pelosi and Schumer.  This is a game of chicken.  They care about the damage that results if neither car swerves to avoid a collision, Trump doesn't.  The Ds will quite predictably swerve first if Trump persists in refusing to sign clean CRs.

    • “Of course Trump has leverage over Pelosi and Schumer. This is a game of chicken. They care about the damage that results if neither car swerves to avoid a collision, Trump doesn’t.” You are leaving out the public opinion factor. So far, polls show the public blames Trump and Republicans for the shutdown. Until that changes, he has no leverage. Further, if Schumer and Pelosi fold it’s going to piss off the Democratic base.

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