Why President Trump Couldn’t Close the Deal on Obamacare Repeal | “Trump’s Takeover” | FRONTLINE

President Trump thought he could use his skills as a salesman to bridge a divide in the Republican Party over the bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. There was a problem, though. As the FRONTLINE documentary “Trump’s Takeover” reports, the president didn’t seem to understand or care about the details of the bill he was selling.

“The president was not particularly engaged in the policy details. That was pretty apparent,” Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Penn.) tells FRONTLINE. “The president seemed to defer to Congress, largely, and basically, ‘Whatever you guys pass, I’ll sign.’”

This scene is an excerpt from the new documentary, “Trump’s Takeover,” which goes inside President Trump’s high-stakes battle for control of the Republican Party.

It examines how the president, who vowed to defeat the Washington establishment, has worked to remake the party in his own image — counter-punching when criticized, and publicly attacking Republicans who defy him.

From Trump’s attacks on party leaders on Twitter after the repeal-and-replace bill died, to a split over what many in the party said was the president’s inadequate response to deadly violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, to when Congress ultimately delivered a major legislative victory for Trump with the passage of tax reform, the documentary traces the president’s takeover of the party, from the perspective of Republican lawmakers.

“Trump’s Takeover” premieres Tues., April 10 at 10/9c on PBS & online: https://to.pbs.org/2GNBtMc

FRONTLINE is streaming more than 200 documentaries online, for free, here: http://to.pbs.org/hxRvQP

Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Major funding for FRONTLINE is provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Abrams Foundation, the Park Foundation, The John and Helen Glessner Family Trust, and the FRONTLINE Journalism Fund with major support from Jon and Jo Ann Hagler on behalf of the Jon L. Hagler Foundation.

Foreign Leaders Have Realized Trump Is a Pushover

The president’s reported disclosure of classified information to Russia is only the latest example of the self-proclaimed great negotiator conceding to officials from overseas everything they want.

Politico’s Susan Glasser confirmed, the Russians had been pressing hard for an in-person meeting with Trump, “a man who is now known for starkly reversing his positions if exposed to in-person pleasantries.”

.. As it happened, the meeting with Xi was something of a love-fest. Trump and his spokesman have boasted since about the very good relationship they created with China’s leader, and hailed their friendship. If Trump was pleased with the outcome, Xi must have been ecstatic. The Chinese president emerged from the meeting with warm praise from Trump; a concession from the U.S. president that China was not manipulating its currency; and conciliatory statements about China’s ability to twist the arm of North Korea, its wild-eyed, nuclear-armed neighbor.

Trump explained the last of these flip-flops in an interview with The Wall Street Journal:

He then went into the history of China and Korea. Not North Korea, Korea. And you know, you’re talking about thousands of years … and many wars. And Korea actually used to be a part of China. And after listening for 10 minutes I realized that not—it’s not so easy. You know I felt pretty strongly that they have—that they had a tremendous power over China. I actually do think they do have an economic power, and they have certainly a border power to an extent, but they also—a lot of goods come in. But it’s not what you would think.

The explanation was remarkable not only for Trump’s frank admission that he knew little about the background of the Korean Peninsula, but for his equally frank admission that the leader of a foreign country—and not just any foreign country, but a major American rival that Trump had repeatedly savaged rhetorically—could reverse his understanding of a key issue with just 10 minutes of persuasion.

The explanation was remarkable not only for Trump’s frank admission that he knew little about the background of the Korean Peninsula, but for his equally frank admission that the leader of a foreign country—and not just any foreign country, but a major American rival that Trump had repeatedly savaged rhetorically—could reverse his understanding of a key issue with just 10 minutes of persuasion.

It is no wonder that the Russians were eager to get in a room with Trump, but Russia and China were not the only foreign countries to recognize how easily swayed Trump could be.

The pattern began even before he was inaugurated, with a December phone call between Trump and Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. Not only was the conversation a major breach of protocol, Trump seemed to be flirting with abandoning American recognition that Beijing considers Taiwan a part of a unified China. He was eventually talked down from this by advisers—and his vacillation is one reason Xi was so eager to meet—but his impressionability had been established.

Another example came in a bizarre 24 hours of kabuki geopolitical theater in late April. With Trump reeling from a series of legislative and judicial defeats, White House officials told reporters the president was close to signing an executive order announcing that the U.S. would pull out of NAFTA. That evening, the leaders of Canada and Mexico both called Trump. As the president told it, they begged him to reconsider, and to renegotiate the terms of the deal instead. Trump presented this as a triumph: He’d gotten them to agree to renegotiation. Savvier observers saw a different picture: Trump’s threats were empty and his bluster easily dispelled. After issuing an intemperate threat, Trump had to be talked down by foreign leaders, whose only “concession” was agreeing to a renegotiation they had both long-since agreed to.

Even as Trump seems to get rolled by adversaries, his relationships with allies have been troubled. While Canada and Mexico are both close friends, the U.S. has notably vexed relationships with Russia, China, and Taiwan. Trump had a warm visit with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, but a visit from German Chancellor Angela Merkel was downright icy, marred by an ill-considered joke from Trump as well as his conspiracy-mongering about Barack Obama. Trump even managed to set off a feud in a phone call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, though they smoothed things over during a recent visit by Turnbull to the U.S.

Trump Almost Always Folds

From trade deals to gun control and immigration to military deployments, the president has a consistent pattern: Talk a big game, then back down.

President Trump’s May 8 announcement that he was withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal should not have come as a surprise. He’d spent years railing against the plan—“the worst deal ever,” he dubbed it—and had promised to rip it up. And yet up to the moment when the president made the final call, there was still some suspense about what he would say.

Nancy Pelosi ran rings around Trump. Imagine what Kim Jong Un and the Taliban will do.

On Jan. 17, President Trump tweeted: “No ‘Cave’ on the issue of Border and National Security.” Eight days later, he caved, agreeing to reopen the government for three weeks without getting a penny for his border wall. His right-wing allies are spluttering in rage, but they shouldn’t be surprised. This debacle confirms that Trump is not the “ultimate negotiator” he purports to be. He is, in fact, a lousy negotiator. Now he may be on the verge of concluding the worst deals of the century by pulling U.S. troops out of South Korea and Afghanistan in return for empty promises from Kim Jong Un and the Taliban.

Trump is preparing for a second summit at the end of February with Kim even though the North Korean dictator continues to expand, rather than dismantle, his nuclear and missile programs. In his New Year’s address, Kim demanded substantial concessions before he would begin to make good on his vague promises of denuclearization made at the June 12, 2018, Singapore summit. He wants a relaxation of sanctions, an end to U.S.-South Korean military exercises, a peace declaration ending the Korean War and the removal of U.S. nuclear weapons from the region.

National security adviser John Bolton, supposedly a hard-liner, just signaled that the administration may give North Korea what it wants. He told the Washington Times, in an interview published Friday, that “what we need from North Korea is a significant sign of a strategic decision to give up nuclear weapons, and it is when we get that denuclearization that the president can begin to take the sanctions off.” So much for the administration’s previous position that the United States would not relax sanctions until North Korea agreed to “complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization.” Bolton is signaling that in exchange for some “significant sign,” perhaps such as dismantling the antiquated Yongbyon nuclear reactor, Washington might grant North Korea sanctions relief and a peace declaration, even if the North Korean nuclear and missile arsenal remained intact.

..Given that Seoul and Washington are currently deadlocked over the terms of an agreement to retain U.S. troops in South Korea — Trump initially wanted South Korea to nearly double its financial contribution, to $1.6 billion — it’s not hard to imagine the president using an empty agreement with North Korea as an excuse to begin pulling the troops out. Combined with a peace declaration and a relaxation of sanctions, this could effectively leave Japan and South Korea to confront the North Korean nuclear threat on their own.

The same thing would almost surely happen in Afghanistan if U.S. troops withdrew. Even with U.S. military assistance, the democratically elected government in Kabul is losing ground against the Taliban. The government controls only a little more than half the country’s districts, and it is suffering heavy casualties, with President Ashraf Ghani admitting that more than 45,000 security personnel have been killed since 2014.

If U.S. troops pulled out, while Pakistan continued to support the Taliban, the insurgents could march into Kabul. And if the victorious Taliban reneged on their pledge to break with international terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda, what would we do about it? Presumably launch more cruise missiles of the kind that proved so ineffectual in 1998. If the pro-Western regime fell, the United States would be devoid of allies on the ground to fight the terrorists — and, in any case, there would be no appetite in the United States for a resumption of our longest war.

The surest way for the Taliban to achieve its objectives would be to agree to whatever conditions the United States demands for a troop withdrawal, knowing that, once the troops are gone, it would not be bound by mere pieces of paper. Likewise, Kim could vastly expand his power if he tricks the United States into withdrawing its forces from South Korea. The Taliban and the North Koreans may have just found the perfect patsy in Trump. Now that he has failed to build his wall, he will be even more desperate for a foreign policy “win.” If I were a South Korean or an Afghan, I would be worried about being abandoned.

Comments:

So far, the world’s ‘greatest negotiator’ has been rolled by:
  • Putin
  • Xi
  • MBS
  • Erdogan
  • Kim Jong Un
  • and, Nancy Pelosi…

    It appears that Trump is all big mouth and small everything else.

.. It’s ironic that hawks like Pompeo & Bolton are facilitating the abject surrender of long term American objectives because the toddler-in-chief requires constant praise and has a very short attention span.

In Business and Governing, Trump Seeks Victory in Chaos

Three decades ago, Donald J. Trump waged a public battle with the talk show host Merv Griffin to take control of what would become Mr. Trump’s third Atlantic City casino. Executives at Mr. Trump’s company warned that the casino would siphon revenue from the others. Analysts predicted the associated debt would crush him.

The naysayers would be proved right, but throughout the turmoil Mr. Trump fixated on just one outcome: declaring himself a winner and Mr. Griffin a loser.

As president, Mr. Trump has displayed a similar fixation in his standoff with Congress over leveraging a government shutdown to gain funding for a wall on the Mexican border. As he did during decades in business, Mr. Trump has

  • insulted adversaries,
  • undermined his aides,
  • repeatedly changed course,
  • extolled his primacy as a negotiator and
  • induced chaos.

He hasn’t changed at all,” said Jack O’Donnell, who ran a casino for Mr. Trump in the 1980s and wrote a book about it. “And it’s only people who have been around him through the years who realize that.”

..Mr. Trump was expected to sign off on the deal, but then came the suggestion from conservative critics that he had caved in to Democrats — that he was a loser. It was a perception Mr. Trump could not bear, and he quickly reversed course.

He also reverted to lifelong patterns in business. People who worked with him during those years say they see multiple parallels between Mr. Trump the businessman and Mr. Trump the steward of the country’s longest government shutdown.

His lack of public empathy for unpaid federal workers echoes his treatment of some construction workers, contractors and lawyers whom he refused to pay for their work on his real estate projects. The plight of the farmers and small-business owners wilting without the financial support pledged by his administration harks back to the multiple lenders and investors who financed Mr. Trump’s business ventures only to come up shortchanged.

And his ever-changing positions (I’ll own the shutdown; you own the shutdown; the wall could be steel; it must be concrete; then again, it could be steel) have left heads in both parties spinning. Even after his televised proposal on Saturday to break the deadlock, Mr. Trump has no progress to show.

That book, published in 1987, was intended to be an autobiography of Mr. Trump, who was 41 at the time. Mr. Schwartz said that he created the idea of Mr. Trump as a great deal maker as a literary device to give the book a unifying theme. He said he came to regret the contribution as he watched Mr. Trump seize on the label to sell himself as something he was not — a solver of complicated problems.

Rather, Mr. Schwartz said, Mr. Trump’s “virtue” in negotiating was his relentlessness and lack of concern for anything but claiming victory.

If you don’t care what the collateral damage you create is, then you have a potential advantage,” he said. “He used

  • a hammer,
  • deceit,
  • relentlessness and
  • an absence of conscience

as a formula for getting what he wanted.”

In a brief telephone interview on Sunday, Mr. Trump was not specific in defending his tactics, but he described himself as successful in his chosen fields of real estate, entertainment and finally politics. “I ran for office once and I won,” Mr. Trump said.

The president’s supporters say he gets an unfair rap as a poor negotiator, saying that his style and unusual approach — and unwillingness to accept defeat even in the worst situations — have often had positive results. And in a Washington that doesn’t like outsiders, he has clearly forced his adversaries out of their comfort zones.

“President Trump’s success in business has translated into success as president,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said. “He’s

  • ignited a booming economy with
  • rising wages and
  • historically low unemployment,
  • negotiated better trade deals,
  • persuaded our allies to contribute their fair share to NATO, and
  • secured the release of American hostages around the world.”

.. The bank eventually settled with Mr. Trump, saving him from having to pay the $40 million. Mr. Trump expressed his gratitude to the lawyer who fought on his behalf by not fully paying his bill. “He left me with some costs,” said the lawyer, Steven Schlesinger.

From the time he built his first Manhattan apartment building, Mr. Trump left a string of unpaid tabs for the people who worked for him.

The undocumented Polish workers who did the demolition work for that first building, Trump Tower, eventually won a $1.375 million settlement. Since then, scores of lawyers, contractors, engineers and waiters have sued Mr. Trump for unpaid bills or pay. Typically, he responds by asserting that their work did not meet his standard.

That might sound familiar to furloughed federal workers. Mr. Trump recently retweeted an article, attributed to an anonymous senior official in his administration, arguing that 80 percent of federal workers do “nothing of external value” and that “furloughed employees should find other work, never return and not be paid.”

Mr. Trump has claimed, without evidence, that “maybe most” federal workers going without pay are “the biggest fan” of his use of the shutdown to fund a border wall. In ordering thousands back to work without pay, he has put the pain for the shutdown on them.

Mr. Trump has also embraced his business practice of giving the most latitude and trust to family members, no matter their prior experience.

He put his first wife, Ivana, a model, in charge of an Atlantic City casino and the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan. He put his younger brother, Robert, who had some background in corporate finance, in senior positions at the casinos. Not long after three of his children graduated from college, he vested authority in them over golf courses, hotels and licensing deals.

.. In the White House, Mr. Trump has increasingly leaned on his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, for guidance on dealing with Congress amid the current stalemate. Mr. Kushner, who like Mr. Trump is the son of a wealthy real estate developer, has not always impressed old hands on Capitol Hill.

.. With Democrats now in charge of the House of Representatives, Mr. Trump also has a new set of adversaries, and other old habits from his years in business have re-emerged.

Through his Twitter feed, he has verbally pummeled Senator Chuck Schumer, the minority leader, and tried to drive a wedge between Mr. Schumer and his fellow Democrat, Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

.. Barbara Res, who said she enjoyed much about working for Mr. Trump as a construction executive in the 1980s and 1990s, sees in Ms. Pelosi a new challenge to Mr. Trump’s lifelong tactics. One blind spot she observed was that Mr. Trump “believes he’s better than anyone who ever lived” and saw even the most capable of women as easy to run over.

“But there was never a woman with power that he ran up against, until Pelosi,” she said. “And he doesn’t know what to do with it. He’s totally in a corner.”

In the interview, Mr. Trump described Ms. Res, Mr. O’Donnell and Mr. Schwartz as disgruntled workers whom he had shunted aside, who had experience with him for relatively brief periods and who were simply using his name for attention.

During his years in business, Mr. Trump rarely displayed an interest in details or expert opinions that might have informed whether his plans would actually work. That pattern has also emerged in the shutdown dispute.

Thirty years ago, his claimed defeat of Mr. Griffin turned out to be a Pyrrhic victory.

Within months of completing construction on his third casino, the Trump Taj Mahal, he could not pay interest to the bondholders who had financed the project. Having overpaid and overleveraged himself on other deals, banks forced him to turnover or sell almost everything.

His wealthy father helped bail him out. But Mr. Trump blamed everyone else. He fired nearly all his top executives and stopped paying contractors who had built the casino.

In describing the border wall, Mr. Trump has expressed unending confidence in its efficacy. Others, including Representative Will Hurd, a Republican whose Texas district includes part of the border with Mexico, have described it as a tall speed bump, nearly useless without technology to spot illegal crossings immediately and dispatch border agents to quickly respond.

Mr. O’Donnell, the casino manager, said long-term consequences never concerned Mr. Trump. He was always willing to pay too much in order to get a deal signed so he could declare victory, he said.

“He just wants to get the deal,” Mr. O’Donnell said.

Trump Threatens Shutdown in Combative Appearance With Democrats

President Trump on Tuesday vowed to block full funding for the government if Democrats refuse his demand for a border wall, saying he was “proud to shut down the government for border security” — an extraordinary statement that came during a televised altercation with Democratic congressional leaders.

“If we don’t have border security, we’ll shut down the government — this country needs border security,” Mr. Trump declared in the Oval Office, engaging in a testy back-and forth with Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California.

“I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it,” Mr. Trump added, insisting on a public airing of hostilities even as the Democrats repeatedly asked him to keep their negotiating disputes private.

“It’s not bad, Nancy; it’s called transparency,” Mr. Trump snapped after one such interjection by Ms. Pelosi, who appeared to trigger the president’s temper when she raised the prospect of a “Trump shutdown” over what she characterized as an ineffective and wasteful wall.

.. “The American people recognize that we must keep the government open, that a shutdown is not worth anything, and that we should not have a Trump shutdown,” Ms. Pelosi said.

“A what?” Mr. Trump shot back.

.. It also showcased the interplay of two politicians playing to very different bases: Mr. Trump appealing to his core anti-immigration supporters and Ms. Pelosi to the young liberal lawmakers she needs to keep in her camp ahead of next month’s speaker election.

Outside the West Wing after the meeting Mr. Schumer said Mr. Trump had thrown a “temper tantrum” over the wall, saying: “The president made clear that he wants a shutdown.”

.. Mr. Schumer and Ms. Pelosi said it was up to Mr. Trump to avert the disaster he had promised, by embracing their proposals to essentially postpone the dispute for another year, either by passing the six noncontroversial budget measures that are outstanding and extending Homeland Security funding for one year at current levels, or passing one-year extensions for all seven remaining spending bills.

“We gave the president two options that would keep the government open,” they said in a statement. “It’s his choice to accept one of those options or shut the government down.”

Mr. Trump had begun the day appearing to soften his stance somewhat on the wall. In a series of morning tweets, he falsely stated that substantial sections of the “Great Wall” on the southwestern border that he has long championed have already been completed, and he suggested that his administration could continue construction whether Democrats fund it or not.

That would be illegal, but it suggested that he was looking for a way to keep the government funded past Dec. 21, even if Democrats balk at wall funding.

It quickly grew personal for Mr. Trump, who aides say respects what he sees as Ms. Pelosi’s strength as a negotiator and toughness in the political trenches, but who sought on Tuesday to publicly undercut her position by raising questions about her job security.

.. Mr. Trump’s approach to Mr. Schumer was initially friendly, but it soon turned sour... 

“It is called funding the government, Mr. President,” a stern-faced Mr. Schumer said, going on to point out that Mr. Trump had made false statements about the effectiveness of the wall and how much of it had been built.

.. a brief shutdown in January when Democrats insisted that protections for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children must be part of any funding measure. “The last time that you did, you got killed.”

.. The president has suggested, repeatedly, that a shutdown might be necessary to compel Democrats to swallow $5 billion in wall funding. But on Tuesday morning before the meeting, he had appeared to be softening his stance.

.. the administration has yet to spend much of the $1.3 billion Congress approved for border security last year.

.. Under restrictions put in place by Congress, none of that money could be used to construct a new, concrete wall of the sort the president has said is vital.

The president does not have the legal authority to spend money appropriated for one purpose on another task, such as wall-building.

.. The president’s conservative allies in Congress have urged Mr. Trump to hold firm to his insistence on wall money, and use all means necessary to include additional immigration restrictions in the year-end package.

.. “Securing the border isn’t going to happen in a Pelosi-run Congress,” Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio and Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina, the co-founder and chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, said in an op-ed Tuesday on the Fox News website. “We still have three weeks. That’s more than enough time to do what we said.”