Deal making like Picasso

One of Donald Trump’s many attributes (as claimed by Trump) is that he is a great deal maker.

“Deals are my art form. Other people paint beautifully on canvas or write wonderful poetry. I like making deals, preferably big deals.” — Donald Trump, “The Art of the Deal”.

Trump’s current deal making skills look a bit Picasso.

The New York Times details the apparent lack of understanding of trump over the Mexican wall funding crisis – What Trump Could Learn From His Shutdown.

In this case, the president’s inability to reach some sort of deal rests heavily on several basic failures of understanding by him and his team. These include:

1. A failure to grasp how divided government works. The president somehow came to believe that he’d have more leverage once the Democrats took control of the House.

Unfortunately, Mr. Trump has been spoiled by two years of Congress being led by weak-kneed members of his party who, even when troubled by his excesses, largely let him run amok, lest he call down upon them the wrath of the Republican base.

2. A failure to understand the costs of playing only to the base. Time and again, Mr. Trump has chosen partisanship over leadership, doing nothing to expand his appeal. This puts him at a disadvantage in wooing the public to his side of the wall debate.

His job approval has slipped over his handling of the wall funding and partial Government shut down. Even both Rasmussen and Economist/YouGov has him falling to -9% – see RealClear Politics.

3. A failure to understand Nancy Pelosi. Apparently, Mr. Trump never got around to reading “The Art of War,” or at least not Sun Tzu’s admonition to “know your enemy.” If he had, the president would have tried to develop at least a basic working relationship with Ms. Pelosi. The White House clearly assumed that, at some point — maybe after she secured the speaker’s gavel — Ms. Pelosi would bend to Mr. Trump’s will. But the speaker is not impressed with bluster. She is seldom cowed by political pressure from her own team, much less the opposing one. She plays the long game, and her will is as formidable as Mr. Trump’s, possibly more so. One key difference: Ms. Pelosi knows how the legislative process works.

4. A failure to understand shutdown politics. If you don’t want to be blamed for one, don’t say you’re going to own it. Mr. Trump sacrificed that option when he boasted how “proud” he’d be to grind the government to a halt.

5. A failure to understand how the government works. Neither Mr. Trump nor anyone on his team had a clue how disruptive even a partial shutdown could be — and how they’d need to scurry to prevent millions of people from losing food stamps, housing or tax refunds.

Ignorance of the real life effects of suddenly having your pay stopped. It’s probably not something trump has ever come close to experiencing.

6. A failure to understand how members of Congress operate. Standing by the president when he’s tweeting out empty threats and insults is one thing. But when a shutdown starts causing pain and outrage back home, Republican lawmakers, especially those in vulnerable districts or states, start asking themselves which they value more — their president or their political hides. Even casual students of Congress know that this is not a tough call.

It may also grind down his support.

Business deals are quite different. You win some, you lose some (like gamblers, business deal makers only brag about their wins, not their losses).

But political deals are far more complex. When a shutdown becomes a part of the pressure it impacts on many people who need to feed their families and retain their homes, and on politicians who want to retain their support.

A president has far more power than a businessman – but most of that power is reliant on many other people. Doing political deals requires an understanding of how to get the support needed to use their power.  Bullshit and bullying may work in some situations, like when you have a gutless Congress. But when you are up against a bloody-minded Congress understanding how politics works is important.

It may be better to liken Trump’s current deal making to a different sort of painting.

Image result for child painting anger

But ignorant anger is not a strong hand in the art of the political deal.

Heat on National over accumulating problems

It’s normal for an incumbent governing party to accumulate problems, especially when well into their third term.

And it’s normal opponents to keep highlighting these problems and keep hammering the Government with them. As Greg Presland has done at The Standard in National’s terrible deal making.

John Key’s reputation as a formidable wheeler dealer deal maker is clearly mythological rather than real. And a series of deals have been completed based entirely on a prejudice that private enterprise does things better than the state.  But the reality does not match National’s ideologically blinkered view.

Attacking Key on one of his claimed or perceived strengths.

These deals include the following and there are multiple posts on The Standard on each one.

  • Novopay – the go live decision that has cost us $45 million was signed off by English, Joyce and Foss despite the awareness that there were multiple faultswith the system at the time.
  • Tiwai Point and Rio Tinto – where a foreign multinational corporation exploitedthe Government’s insistence of partially privatising our power companies and was paid $30 million dollars to continue in business for a short period of time.
  • Warner Brothers – a threat to move filming overseas when clearly this would not happen resulted in $30 million tax credits, rushed legislation and some manufactured news for John Key.  Irish Bill’s analysis here is compulsory reading if you want to understand the extent of the duplicity that National engaged in.
  • Saudi sheep – where we have the payment of a failed bribe, a sheep farm in a Saudi desert where most of the lambs died, negotiation of a MOU with a foreign state where National’s behaviour has been described as duplicitous and an active attempt to avoid legal and bureaucratic oversight.
  • Trans Pacific partnership – where we are giving up our sovereignty, Pharmac’s effectiveness and opening up our Government being sued whenever it acts in the public good all for the possibility of a minuscule increase in overseas markets for milk we currently produce at a loss.
  • Sky City – where the Government has sold legislative provisions, engaged in a contractual process described as banana republic stuff without the bananas and created future increased problem gambling and misery for a convention centre with hopelessly optimistic predictions of job creation and economic activity.
  • Serco – it has become abundantly clear that the so called innovative approach does not exist and Serco’s profits depend on cutting prison officer numbers and allowing the gangs to take over.  Inmate deaths, the hiding of violent incidents because they affect the bottom line, rampant drug taking and prisoner violence appear to have become the norm.
  • Charter schools – where instead of closing a failing charter school as recommended Hekia Parata gave that school more money.

And National’s economic strategy?  It appears to be a combination of trust private enterprise, multiple dairy conversions, a cycleway (remember that?), building holiday highways, an Auckland real estate boom and precious little else.  National clearly lacks the skills to create a modern economy and a modern state.  Without heavy borrowing and the Christchurch rebuild our economy would be in tatters.

It is not only the lack of substance that is becoming increasing clear.  It is also that National’s and Key’s style in creating a media narrative that does not match reality is now being increasingly clear.  About time.

I don’t think all of those should be much of a problem on their own. It’s easy to surmise Labour would have done something to rescue Tiwai Point, while one Charter School has severe problems others seem to be doing ok and Warner Bros/The Hobbitt have helped New Zealand’s tourism industry substantially – see Tourism set to overtake dairy as largest export earner.

But Novopay was a debacle, Sky City has looked shaky if not shonky at times and the Saudi sheep – what happened and how National have handled the issue over the last month – looks awful.

So accumulatively the heat is on National.

They are going to have to be seen to sort some of this stuff out or the voters will sort them out in 2017.