Maybe we have been making this whole “why does President Trump do what he does?” thing too complicated.
Albert Einstein said, “The definition of genius is taking the complex and making it simple.”
In this regard, Donald Trump is a genius. Trump makes every complex problem simple. Health care is an exception, but it was Trump himself who discovered that health care was complicated. Before that, “Who knew?”
Critics (or “losers” in Trump’s parlance) have made complicated attempts to analyze and decode the president. Psychological explanations that use 25-cent words such as “narcissist” are most popular. There are also a slew of articles claiming that his best-selling nonfiction treatise, “The Art of Deal,” reveals all you need to know.
That seems very close to the mark but still too complicated. Maybe Trump’s special genius is simply that he is able to take every allegedly complex issue and make it into a simple real estate situation.
The evidence is beautiful.
The Civil War. “But why was there the Civil War?” the president asked this week. “Why could that one not have been worked out?” Exactly. Historians have made it all very complicated, but the bottom line is that the Civil War is a case study in bad negotiation. Lincoln was a great American, no doubt, but he was obviously a low-energy guy. The times called for a great negotiator, not a philosopher. This was a basic land dispute, right? North vs. South. It’s that simple. Same deal with the Israelis and the Palestinians. That leads to the next example.
U.S. embassy in Israel. Some days, Trump says he’s moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Some days, he says he isn’t. What he understands is that this is a simple zoning problem. It’s actually a classic case of NIMBYism (not in my backyard). The Palestinians don’t want the embassy in Jerusalem so they’re using a bunch of old grievances, treaties and stuff to keep the U.S. from building there — or to get a better deal, more likely. This is what every single zoning fight in the history of real estate has been about. Get over it. It isn’t complicated.
Russian meddling, the popular vote. What we have here is a simple title dispute. Various parties claim that Trump does not possess a clear title to the White House. Again, this happens in probably 60 percent of commercial real estate deals. Why? Because people want something for nothing! That is human nature. So the Democrats say Trump doesn’t have a legitimate title because he lost the popular vote. Pathetic: The rules clearly state that electoral votes count, not popular votes. Then the Democrats say Trump’s title to the White House isn’t legit because of Russian shenanigans. Case closed. Sorry. Trump has the deed.
Obamacare. This is a simple teardown deal. Maybe 90 percent of the time, when a developer buys a property to tear it down and build something gorgeous and iconic, people are going to complain — maybe 95 percent of the time. You’ve got the tenants or neighbors or historic building committees. It’s a fact of life. Same with Obamacare. Most of the time, the developer can wait them out. If not, bye-bye. Here, “The Art of the Deal” is relevant. “I never get too attached to one deal or one approach,” Trump wrote, or had written for him. This is especially true of teardowns. If you want something, you have to try every approach and then you have to be prepared to walk away.
Avoiding the government shutdown. The president took a lot of guff from critics (“losers”) and even some fans when they saw the positions and promises Trump backed down from recently to avoid the government shutdown: cutting funds for Planned Parenthood, ending Obamacare subsidies, huge new funding for the military, cutting all discretionary domestic spending, slashing medical research budgets and much more. The key here is that Trump is playing with other people’s money. You know what Donald J. Trump gave up to keep the government open? Zero, nada, nicht, bupkis. You know what would have happened if the government had closed? Very bad publicity for Donald J. Trump.
As Trump wrote in “The Art of the Deal,” “I discovered, for the first time but not the last, that politicians don’t care too much what things cost. It’s not their money.” Trump is a politician now.
His book is actually a lousy guide to how he operates — very dishonest. For example:
“You can’t con people, at least not for long. You can create excitement, you can do wonderful promotion and get all kinds of press, and you can throw in a little hyperbole. But if you don’t deliver the goods, people will eventually catch on.”
Either this is wrong or the people will eventually catch on.
Dick Meyer is chief Washington correspondent for the Scripps Washington Bureau and DecodeDC.