Before his election, President Trump promised that everything’s going to be great. He positioned himself as a great businessman and dealmaker, and he disparaged his predecessors for giving away too much for too little on the deals they made. His supporters believed him, and many of them still do.
With regard to healthcare, he joined the chorus of Republicans that demonized Obamacare – promising that TrumpCare would offer more coverage for less money. With healthcare, it is possible to offer greater coverage for less money if the risk is spread over a very large population – where the lower-risk of younger people getting sick balances out the higher-risk of older segments. According to the Congressional Budget Office, TrumpCare would reduce the number of Americans insured by 24 million – the opposite of what is needed to balance the risk, and contrary to Trump’s campaign promise.
Making promises versus delivering on them
Those with real-world business and political experience know that “talk is cheap” and delivering on promises is not easy. In business, the marketplace is very unforgiving if you don’t give customers what you promise them. In a democracy, you cannot dictate, and get away with it for very long. You have to sell your constituencies on why they should support what you are recommending to them. In the case of TrumpCare, too many in his own party did not like the bill that was presented, and some resented the fact that the President gave them an ultimatum. In business, ultimatums don’t work because they drive prospects to competitors. In a democracy, they rarely work because politicians are elected rather than appointed. They depend on voters to get re-elected, and as many claim Lincoln once said, “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”
TrumpCare goes down in flames
In the end, the ultimatum and threats did not work. TrumpCare went down to defeat. The President (who does not admit to losing) immediately blamed the Democrats – labeling leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer as losers. It reminds many of his reaction to Meryl Streep when she accepted a Golden Globe award. Even though many consider her to be the greatest living actress, he called her “one of the most overrated actresses in Hollywood.”
Weakened by numerous missteps
No matter how he tries to position this defeat, it is another blow to the Trump political brand. Many believe that there is little doubt that this setback along with the problems enumerated below will weaken his Presidency.
1. Ties to Russia being investigated. FBI Director James Comey told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that (1) he is investigating the Trump Administration’s ties to Russia and its efforts to influence the 2016 election and (2) there is no evidence to support the President’s claims that his predecessor, Barack Obama, wiretapped him.
2. Court-blocked travel bans. The courts have blocked the Trump Administration’s travel bans, and many believe the implementation of the first ban was mishandled – disrupting air traffic throughout the country and the world. Even Trump supporters thought the implementation showed the new administration’s incompetence.
3. Cabinet pick problems. Trump’s national security advisor, Michael Flynn, resigned under pressure and his labor secretary pick, Andrew Puzder, dropped out under fire. Others have passed on the opportunity to work with the Trump team. Contrary to his promise to “drain the swamp,” Many believe his picks for certain cabinet posts are examples of foxes guarding henhouses.
5. Credibility issues. Trump Administration actions have damaged its own credibility. There are numerous examples. I will cite one. Trump repeatedly criticized Obama for his taking vacations to play golf. During his campaign, he said many times (with TV cameras rolling) that when he is president he would be too busy working for the country to play golf. As of this writing, Trump has made 13 golf trips in his first 9 weeks in office at taxpayer’s expense. Since these trips are to golf courses he owns, critics are saying that he is using them to promote his properties.
6. Repeated attacks on the media and judiciary. The Trump Administration has repeatedly attacked institutions that help to protect our democracy – our judiciary, intelligence services, and news media. Trump tweeted that the media is “the enemy of the American People.” This has many disturbed including Republicans, such as John McCain. It’s also ironic because many believe he is President as a result of the media giving him more coverage. He has also attacked justices ruling on his travel ban and Trump University.
7. Violation of Emoluments clause and other conflicts of interest. Prominent constitutional scholars and ethics lawyers have filed suit because they believe that President Trump is violating the Constitution by allowing his businesses to accept payments from foreign governments. Some believe his early filing to run in 2020 provides additional ways for the Trump campaign to funnel campaign funds to Trump coffers.
Conflicts of interest do further damage to the Trump brand
While the President has said his presidency will save taxpayers money because he is forgoing the President’s salary, the evidence paints a different picture. Not only has he accepted full paychecks (without evidence he is donating them to charity as he promised), his weekend jaunts to Mar-a-Lago are costing taxpayers roughly $3 million per trip. Protecting his wife and son because they chose not live in the White House is estimated to cost taxpayers an additional $1 million a day. Much of that money is paid to landlord Trump by the Secret Service for leasing space in Trump Tower. Adding the costs of protecting the other Trump children as they operate family businesses, the total bill to taxpayers during Trump’s presidency could conceivably reach $546 million.
Some also believe that giving his daughter an office in the White House with the highest security clearance raises additional conflicts of interest.
Impact on the American brand
It’s bad enough that a damaged brand can negatively impact Trump’s ability to govern effectively. What’s even worse is that his administration’s image issues are spilling over to hurt the American brand. America has benefitted from our image of being welcoming to immigrants that want to make a better life for themselves and their families. This image, as represented by the Statue of Liberty along with our “class-less” infrastructure, has attracted the best, brightest, and most hardworking people from all over the world. After the Trump Administration started disparaging immigrants and rolling out travel bans, Forty percent of American colleges are already seeing a decrease in foreign enrollments. Leaders of Silicon Valley companies have expressed concern directly to the Trump Administration over its immigration posture. They know that, for centuries, immigrants have been at the forefront of innovation and growth – renewing America’s lead in everything from space exploration to entertainment. Two of America’s most successful businessmen – Warren Buffett and Bill Gates are quoted as saying “America is already great, thanks to immigrants.”
We all want a better deal
Donald Trump positioned himself as a great dealmaker. He promised to provide Americans with a great healthcare plan that gives us far more healthcare coverage for less. Instead, he promoted a plan that does the opposite. What’s more, he was unable to close the deal with the “deck stacked in his favor” – a Congress controlled by his own party. The failure of this deal cannot be good for the Trump brand or the image of America.