Donald Trump, dealmaker? Not so much.
Official Washington was stunned by the news, with Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who had been engaged in ongoing stimulus negotiations with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, speculating that Trump’s move might have something to do with the medicine he had been receiving to treat Covid-19.
“Believe me, there are people who think that steroids have an impact on thinking,” Pelosi told House Democrats on a call organized after Trump’s announcement, according to CNN’s Phil Mattingly. “So I just don’t know.”
Regardless of the reasons behind Trump’s sudden decision to call off the talks, the practical effect will be to ensure there is no further stimulus money allocated by Congress before the end of its current term. And for Trump personally, the lack of a deal represents a remarkable failing of one of the central promises of his presidency: That he could make deals that other longtime Washington politicians could only dream about.
“Deals are my art form. Other people paint beautifully or write poetry. I like making deals, preferably big deals. That’s how I get my kicks.”
Throughout the 2016 campaign, he leaned on the idea that the only solution to a broken Washington was an out-of-the-box business leader who understood the leverage needed to make deals.
In the White House, that rhetoric continued.
But viewed broadly, Trump’s first term has been defined by the deals he didn’t do. Trump promised to force Mexico to pay for the construction of the southern border wall. He said he would renegotiate the Iran nuclear deal. That he would make a peace deal between Israel and Palestine. That he would pass a new health care bill. That he would pass a new gun control measure.
Which, well, OK. But remember: Deals were very hard to come by prior to Trump’s arrival in Washington. Partisans with very different priorities as to what Congress should do — and how they should do it — are nothing new. And Trump cast himself as the one person with the resume, experience and skill set to break these logjams.
By any — and every — measure, Trump has failed to make good on that promise. His shutdown of stimulus negotiations on Tuesday are simply an exclamation point on that failure.