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.”


Originally published at Political Irony.