Politics & Policy

The Art of the Deal-Breaker

(Justin Sullivan/Getty)

For the past year, one political power player after another has tried to negotiate with Donald Trump, and gotten bitten for the effort. Yet, like lemmings, each successive figure stepped up to meet the same fate, convinced despite all available evidence that gravity would give them a better deal.

These movers and shakers seemed to think they could control Trump, and attempted to reach a bargain with the man who wrote The Art of the Deal. It did not end well for any of them.

Ted Cruz bent over backward to avoid criticizing Trump, in hopes that the billionaire’s campaign would eventually flame out, leaving his supporters to flock to the man who’d treated him best. Trump responded by repeatedly insisting Cruz’s Canadian birth renders him ineligible for the presidency. Just three days ago, Trump called Cruz “an anchor baby” and declared that the Texas senator “may not be a U.S. citizen.”

Fox News’s Roger Ailes gave Trump every conceivable venue and outlet to make his case, often letting him literally phone in interviews. Last week, Trump turned around and skipped out on the network’s debate because he didn’t like Megyn Kelly’s questions back in August and a snarky press release had offended him. Not only did Trump skip the debate, but he staged a competing event for veterans, stealing viewers away from the candidates who did participate.

RELATED: In Face of Controversy, Trump Supporters Stand By Their Man

Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus got Trump to pledge that he would support the party’s nominee rather than running a third-party campaign should he lose the primaries; Trump periodically says he may break the pledge because he thinks he isn’t being treated fairly.

Yet no matter how many times he burns those who try to deal with him, there’s always some new high-level Republican convinced he’ll be able to reach an amiable agreement with the unpredictable real-estate mogul. Charlie Black, a lobbyist and former GOP campaign staffer, seems convinced that Trump will, at some point, eagerly seek out advice from more-experienced party insiders, hat in hand: “You can coach Donald. If he got nominated, he’d be scared to death. That’s the point he would call people in the party and say, ‘I just want to talk to you.’”

RELATED: In The Art of the Deal, Trump Shows His Soft Side

While Trump finds a way to pull one over on every GOP power broker who approaches him, his true believers remain convinced that they’re the ones he would never betray. All those other past statements, promises, and pledges mean nothing to him; you, the fans, are his one true love.

And his fans believe him, no matter what. When he flip-flops in such a way as to render their past arguments inconvenient, they simply make a U-turn, declaring, “I changed my mind.” Svengali had less influence.

#share#Which is a good thing for Trump, because over the course of his campaign, he’s changed positions more times than could be counted. On September 9, he told Bill O’Reilly he believed the United States had to take in Syrian refugees; on September 10, he said the country shouldn’t take in any. He’s called for fully de-funding Planned Parenthood, then argued that some funding should be preserved, then gone back to advocating full de-funding. He’s gone from arguing that Russia should take the lead against ISIS to promising that he’d bomb the excrement out of the group as president.

What does Trump stand for? Whatever benefits him the most at a given moment.

What does Trump stand for? Whatever benefits him the most at a given moment. When Cruz was low in the polls, Trump didn’t give the fiery Texan’s birthplace a second thought. As soon as he posed a real political threat, the great Canadian menace began showing up in his rival’s stump speeches.

The ability to quickly and completely change positions is even a perverse point of pride for Trump: He brags about it, and flatly says that the man you see now is different from the one you’d see in the Oval Office.

#related#“When I’m president, I’m a different person,” Trump said at an event in Fort Dodge, Iowa. “I can do anything. I can be the most politically correct person that you’ve ever seen. I can be the most politically correct person in the world and I can be the opposite.”

Trump undoubtedly believes his mutability is a strength. In an interview last month, he told CBS News’s John Dickerson, “You want to be unpredictable. And somebody recently said — I made a great business deal. And the person on the other side was interviewed by a newspaper. And how did Trump do this? — And they said, ‘He’s so unpredictable.’ And I didn’t know if he meant it positively or negative [sic]. It turned out he meant it positively. We have to be somewhat unpredictable in this whole thing.”

At this point, the easiest thing to predict about Trump is that he’ll renege on a deal the moment it becomes inconvenient.

— Jim Geraghty is the senior political correspondent for National Review.

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