In early 2018, Donald Trump hosted immigration talks at the White House and shared his vision for the road ahead. In fact, the president surprised many by saying he'd sign a bipartisan agreement -- no matter what was in it.
"I'm not going to say, 'Oh, gee, I want this or I want that.' I'll be signing it," Trump said. He added that if lawmakers negotiated a policy "with things that I'm not in love with," he'd embrace it anyway.
In the weeks that followed, the president turned down six bipartisan immigration deals. Even after congressional Democrats, desperate to protect Dreamers, offered him tens of billions of dollars to construct a giant border wall, the Republican told Fox News, "I have to get more."
Trump ended up with nothing. What could've been the most meaningful policy accomplishment of his presidency was instead one of his many failures. Democrats offered the White House a gift, which Trump refused to accept.
A few months later, Trump said he wanted the international nuclear agreement with Iran to be "tougher." Our allies and partners grudgingly agreed to give the Republican what he said he wanted, offering to strengthen key elements of the policy.
All the American president had to do was take "yes" for an answer, at which point he could claim credit for "fixing" the Iran deal. Trump betrayed our allies and abandoned the policy anyway.
Now, against a backdrop of high unemployment and an economy stifled by a pandemic, Trump's political opponents have offered to invest trillions of dollars into the economy, giving it a much-needed boost as Election Day nears. In fact, Democrats, indifferent to the electoral effects, have left this on the table for months.
Workers, businesses, and state and local officials have pleaded, for months, for more fiscal help. In recent days, it finally looked like that help was coming, as House Democratic leaders and the treasury secretary reportedly worked toward a compromise, perhaps one somewhat less generous than the bills the House had already passed. Then, on Tuesday afternoon, less than a month before the election, President Trump pulled the plug.
Time and again, Donald Trump has been offered gifts that would help him, his country, and his re-election prospects. Indeed, in each instance, the Republican didn't even have to work hard or invest much effort to have these gifts delivered to him on a platter, gift-wrapped and ready to open.
All he had to do was say, "Yes." But he didn't.
On the Iran deal, he wanted to destroy an effective policy, not make it better. On immigration, the president seemed interested in a bipartisan agreement, before far-right voices started whispering in his ear.
On the economy, well, I honestly don't know why Trump is so reluctant to give the nation a pre-election boost.
Whatever the motivations, if the president loses next month, he'll have plenty of opportunity to reflect on the gifts he should've accepted, but didn't.