I have not read Donald Trump’s 1987 book “The Art of the Deal,” which is why I had a doorstop for breakfast. Over the course of 384 pages — including some glossy pages at the center of the paperback version with photographs from Trump’s life and career — Trump spells out the principles that guided his success in the business world. To learn in detail what those are, you (or I) would have to read the book.
There are, it seems, 11 core tenets to Trump’s dealmaking. Trump would be among the first to admit that his ability to come out on top was not foolproof; he did, after all, also write a book called “The Art of the Comeback” which doesn’t get quite the same amount of play as the first. But it may gain new currency over the next few weeks as Trump and his Republican allies try to figure out a way forward after their big push to overhaul Obamacare, the American Health Care Act, flopped on Friday.
Why did the health-care bill founder? Perhaps in part because Trump — the guy who pledged during the campaign that only he could fix America’s problems, largely by making the best deals — didn’t adhere to those 11 key principles.
Trump failed to uphold a number of these principles in the health-care fight. Let’s walk through them.
Straightforward. Aim for a lot — perhaps more than you think you can achieve.
Did Trump do this on health care? Not really. Trump seems to have offered little input at all into what the health-care bill looked like, given that it strays from some of the pledges he made on the campaign trail and after, like “insurance for everybody” and protecting Medicaid.
Protect the downside and the upside will take care of itself.
In other words: If you can handle the worst-case scenario, you’ll always end up with some sort of success.
Did Trump do this on health care? We’ll see. Trump’s advocacy of the AHCA has already damaged how people view Trump. But lower approval may not be the worst-case scenario — in fact, it’s probably hard to determine what the worst-case scenario in this enormously complicated fight might be. Trump may be sheltered from it, or may be positioning others to absorb the worst effects. But it’s hard to see if that’s the case at this moment.
Maximize the options.
Leave a number of deals open, so that you can pursue or abandon them as it makes sense.
Did Trump do this on health care? Nope. The AHCA is and always has been the only game on the table for Republican leaders. There may be more options for restructuring Obamacare in the future, but the White House has gone all-or-nothing on the AHCA, explicitly. (Sean Spicer has said on at least one occasion that there is “no Plan B.”)
Of course, there could be a whole new deal that emerges. But by having only one option on the table now, it meant there was no possible victory at hand once the AHCA collapsed.
Know your market.
Another straightforward tip. Know as much as you can about the arena in which you’re fighting.
Did Trump do this on health care? Again, no. Trump’s never demonstrated a sense of how to move legislation through Congress, and at one point expressed surprise over the complexity of the health-care fight. Trump was not prepared to close this deal.
Use your leverage.
It’s always beneficial to negotiate from a position of power — but that means needing to know what power you hold in a relationship.
Did Trump do this on health care? Yes. Trump doesn’t have a lot of leverage over Congress, but he threatened to use his popularity against wayward Republicans. Granted, that threat is fairly hollow, but Trump did deploy it. What’s more, he used the leverage of the office, calling members of the Republican caucus to the White House and forcing them to negotiate a solution. It didn’t work, but he did it.
Enhance your location.
Here Trump twists the hoary old “location, location, location” mantra in real estate on its head. The location of a property is important, but location can be somewhat subjective. Make the location itself more appealing and you make the property more appealing. Or, conversely, make the location less appealing and you might make the case for revamping it.
Did Trump do this on health care? He and his allies tried. The latter is what Republicans tried to do. The location was the landscape of health coverage in the United States, and the AHCA the building that would replace the existing Obamacare structure. AHCA proponents argued that the location looked worse than they could demonstrate, but Americans weren’t convinced.
Get the word out.
Trump advocates for using the power of publicity to play up his successes and a vision of what he wants to accomplish.
Did Trump do this on health care? Yes — but it may have backfired. Trump is always willing to promote what he’s working on, and he did so with the AHCA, though more modestly than he promotes other things he’s more interested in. The problem was that publicity was detrimental to perceptions of the bill, which is one reason Republicans hustled the bill as quickly as they did.
Did Trump do this on health care? Sort of. The problem with this fight is that Trump was fighting members of his own party. As mentioned above, he leveraged at least one threat, but the combination of his own apathy and his position within the party made his opponents less clear-cut than they might otherwise be.
In the wake of the AHCA’s collapse, he identified a foe against whom he planned to fight: the Democrats. That could work, possibly — but for the next deal.
Deliver the goods.
If you make a deal, you have to uphold your end of the bargain. (Granted, Trump hasn’t always been great at fulfilling this ideal.)
Did Trump do this on health care? If the goods were “a deal,” then: No.
Contain the costs.
Trump advises that you not rely on spending more money to make up for a faltering deal. Spend no more than you have to — in money, energy or effort.
Did Trump do this on health care? Yes. On Thursday night, Trump cut off negotiations and demanded that the House vote up or down. He decided against expending more energy on a fight that it seemed clear was becoming intractable. Could the House have reached a deal if they’d kept pushing? Perhaps. But it’s also likely that they would have simply wasted more time and political capital.
Did Trump do this on health care? No.