Donald Trump released the latest in a series of policy videos this week, with the former president devoting the latest installment to national security and international affairs. The rhetoric was predictably superficial — as has been the case in each of the previous videos — though the Republican took the opportunity to once again insist, “We could end the Ukraine conflict in 24 hours with the right leadership.”
It was a familiar line. In fact, as regular readers know, Trump has repeatedly argued in recent weeks that he knows how to negotiate a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine “within 24 hours.” He’s even boasted that it would be “easy“ to end the crisis.
How? The former president has largely refused to go into any detail — aside from suggesting that the United States could put Chinese flags on our F-22 fighter jets, for reasons that have never made any sense — though he recently raised the prospect of a secret plan.
There are things he could say to Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Vladimir Putin, Trump said earlier this month, that he could “guarantee” would end the war “immediately.” The Republican added that he wouldn’t “reveal now” what those things might be.
“The saddest part about the war is that this is a war that should have never happened. So now it happened. Now you have to get people in a room, you have to knock heads, and get it done. That would mean saying things to Putin and saying things to Zelenskyy that they’re not going to want to hear, and getting them into a room, and getting it done.”
First, this isn’t a plan to negotiate a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine within 24 hours. Rather, this is an idea about getting leaders into a room and hopefully thinking of something.
Second, for those who’ve listened to Trump for a while, the rhetoric might sound familiar for a reason.
When then-candidate Trump was running for president seven years ago, the Republican assured voters that, thanks to his extensive experience as a private-sector dealmaker, he knew exactly how to get important legislation through Congress. In January 2016, he explained, “You know, it’s supposed to be negotiated. You’re supposed to cajole, get people in a room, you have Republicans, Democrats, you’re supposed to get together and pass a law.”
A few months earlier, the future president told voters, “You’ve got to close the door and get things done.”
While in office, Trump quickly discovered that the policymaking process was far more difficult than he realized. It’s why, over the course of four years, he negotiated exactly zero major bipartisan agreements.
The Republican apparently learned very little from the experience. Before taking office, Trump said the key to working out solutions was to “get people in a room” and “get things done.” After leaving office, Trump still believes the key to working out solutions is to “get people in a room” and “get it done.”
What the former president doesn’t seem to realize is that meaningful work requires more than doors, tables, and chairs. Negotiated solutions require things such as vision, attention to detail, and a sophisticated understanding of competing parties’ needs and expectations.
In Trump’s mind, he can simply “knock heads” and resolve seemingly impossible crises. If that were true, his presidency wouldn’t have been such a failure.