President Donald Trump speaks before signing an executive order establishing regulatory reform officers and task forces in US agencies in Washington, DC on February 24, 2017.
Olivier Douliery - Pool/Getty Images

Donald ‘The Closer’ Trump didn’t know how to close the deal

Not long before launching his presidential campaign, Donald Trump identified what he saw as his greatest strength. “Deals are my art form,” the Republican boasted. “Other people paint beautifully or write poetry. I like making deals, preferably big deals. That’s how I get my kicks.”

The Rachel Maddow Show, 3/24/17, 9:26 PM ET

Schumer: 'Art of the Deal is out the window'

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer talks with Rachel Maddow about the failure by Donald Trump and Republicans to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, and the power of the grassroots effort to thwart Trump.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer talks with Rachel Maddow about the failure by Donald Trump and Republicans to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, and the power of the grassroots effort to thwart Trump.
Many voters actually believed this. There was never any evidence that Trump actually excelled in negotiations or deal-making, but he kept talking about his expertise in a way that managed to persuade quite a few people.

The White House has only fed the hype. Sean Spicer bragged this week, in reference to the president, “He is the closer.” Kellyanne Conway added that the GOP’s health care plan would pass because it enjoys Trump’s “presidential leadership.” She added, “Some people suggested that he be the closer. Some people suggested that he be the lead-off batter.”

It was, however, all nonsense. He started with an unrealistic promise to the nation that Trump would never be able to keep – insurance for “everybody,” which would be far better than the status quo, at a lower cost – and he proceeded to break his commitments left and right. As the pressure mounted, the president further abandoned his own stated principles and effectively offered recalcitrant Republican all kinds of enticements, in exchange for nothing, which they discarded as pathetic.

Business Insider’s Josh Barro, writing before the formal collapse of the American Health Care Act, explained quite well that the GOP bill struggled “because Trump is a bad dealmaker.”
You don’t walk into a negotiation and tell your counterparty that you’re desperate to make a deal fast and on any terms. But Trump did just that, which is why Freedom Caucus members knew the White House was bluffing when it claimed the bill was closed and wouldn’t be amended further.

Trump invited the Freedom Caucus to squeeze him dry. Weak! Bad!
To understand the costs of having a clueless, amateur president, look no further than today’s developments.

It’s never been altogether clear that Trump knows what a “deal” is, in a literal sense. He’s accustomed to private-sector agreements in which he leverages his celebrity status to make money, but can anyone think of a situation – from any point in his entire career – in which Donald J. Trump has set a goal, delved into complex details, and persuaded a variety of groups to work cooperatively along mutually agreed upon terms?

Of course not; that’s not his style at all. Voters who assumed that Trump’s wealth and boardroom experience would translate well into the Oval Office made a terrible mistake. As Ezra Klein noted, the president has developed a very different kind of skill set that’s not all applicable.
The answer can be found in Trump Steaks. And Trump University. And Trump Vodka. And Trump Suits. And Trump’s fragrance line, his board game, his ghostwritten books, his energy drink, his eyeglasses, and his chocolate bars.

Yes, these are all real Trump products. And they expose the reality of Trump’s dealmaking. Trump is not a guy who makes particularly good deals so much as a guy who makes a lot of deals — many of which lash his name and reputation to garbage products.

Trump, a lifelong teetotaler, didn’t scour the globe to find the very best vodka. No — someone offered him an opportunity to make a quick buck by putting his name on a product he wouldn’t ever touch and he took it. Trump University was a far darker scam. Trump Steaks were, and are, a joke.

This is Trump’s pattern: He licenses his brand and lets others worry about the details of the products. Trump’s partners often end up going out of business and his customers often end up disappointed, but Trump makes some money, and he gets his name out there, and it’s all good.
This model has made Trump very wealthy, but it won’t make him a successful president. On the contrary, he’s already failing miserably, proving himself to be a hapless amateur, unprepared for the tasks at hand.