When Donald Trump conned his way into the White House just over two
years ago, part of the biographical myth he constructed was his
reputation as an unrivaled negotiator.
But Trump's self-professed prowess as a deal-maker was pure fantasy. The obvious truth is that the only negotiating tactic that he knows is to threaten to burn everything down when he doesn't get his way.
Trump's deal-making incompetence is evident everywhere you look. Candidate Trump claimed dealing with China would be "very easy", and now we are in a trade war that is hurting American farmers and automakers, decreasing U.S. exports while imports from China continue to rise.
During Trump's phone call with President Erdogan of Turkey, he reportedly had a set of firm talking points to oppose the Turkish incursion into northern Syria. Instead, in an act of petulant ignorance, Trump gave away the farm. By announcing the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria, in one fell swoop he simultaneously gave Putin and Syria's Assad early Christmas presents, doomed our Kurdish allies to certain defeat and threw a lifeline to the terrorists.
It is hard to imagine a hostile foreign power doing so much damage to the U.S. with such great efficiency.
Trump's gambit to get his wall is to continue the government shutdown until he gets his way. Unsurprisingly, Trump does not seem to realize - or more likely just does not care- that a government shutdown is a very bad thing for the country. On a practical level, shutdowns disrupt government services, taking billions out of the economy, disrupting the lives of many, and the GDP takes a hit. Politically, a shutdown would be worse for Republicans than for Democrats, as Trump has already planted the GOP flag on the shutdown by foolishly boasting that he would be 'proud' to shut the government down.
In addition to the shutdown, the "king of the deal" has threatened to close the southern border completely, terminate trade deals with Mexico, and cut off foreign aid to several Central American countries if he does not get funding for his ill-conceived wall. This is not negotiating, this is political terrorism.
Trump's inadequate bargaining prowess is exacerbated by his willful ignorance. He doesn't bother to read the daily intelligence briefings; he ignores information provided to him by our intelligence agencies regarding Russian interference in the elections, the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and a host of other issues; and he mindlessly advocates conspiracy theories including birtherism and climate change, just to name a few.
A perfect example is his proposed wall, which has always been more of a campaign slogan than serious policy. The idea was not the result of exhaustive research on immigration or a deep understanding of immigration. Rather, he was playing to his xenophobic supporters in a way that would get the adulation that he so desperately craves.
Even Trump himself, in one of his 'instinctual' moments, where even he does not know what is coming out of his mouth next, explained exactly why the wall would be utterly useless. First claiming that no one would ever try to climb the wall with a ladder 'because there would be no way down' he then inadvertently stumbled into the obvious solution: 'well maybe a rope'.
He is now resorting to the claim that he can make an end-run around Congress by declaring a national emergency to fund his wall. By all accounts this is a non- starter, but it begs the question: If Trump is such an unrivaled negotiator, why is Mexico not paying for the wall; why couldn't he get the Republican controlled Congress to fund the wall; and why can't he reach a deal with the Democrats?
Trump is clearly not the master deal-maker he pretended to be. The damage caused by Trumps ignorance and utter lack of negotiating acumen is damaging to America. His incompetence makes America less secure, less financially stable and less relevant on the world stage. At this point even a President Pence would be preferable to the incompetent man-child at the helm. That is how desperately bad things have gotten.