There’s More to Being President Than Deal-Making

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Politically we appear to be living in the year of the outsider. Donald Trump has shocked the established political class and its loyal journalistic following. Senators Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders are upsetting governing elites almost as much as Trump. The public says it is angry and isn’t going to take it anymore.

Yet the prescription offered by these three candidates is very different. The Donald constantly trumpets that he is a deal maker. Cruz and Sanders are more interested in the substance of the deal and always ready to say no deal.

There’s no doubt that politics involves compromise. Even such dominant figures as Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, and Ronald Reagan had to accept less than what they wanted.

However, all of them started with strong convictions as to what needed to be done. From there they pushed to get as much as they could. And they compromised when there was no alternative. For them, deal-making was not a substitute for principle, but the culmination of principle. How do you put your beliefs into practice?

For Donald Trump deal-making appears to be the end, not the means. Hence his book, The Art of the Deal. Businessmen who’ve worked with him say he is most interested in the hunt and loses interest after he bags his prey.

In the presidential race he rarely offers policy prescriptions beyond generalities and platitudes. He will make Mexico build a wall, for instance. What seems to excite him about being president is the same thing which energized him in business. “The problem with Washington, they don’t make deals, it’s all gridlock,” he proclaimed. “I’ll get everybody together. We’ll make great deals for the country.”

But what precisely are those “great deals”? Trump complained that President Barack Obama “signs executive orders because he can’t get anything done.” Actually, the president has done pretty well politically — unfortunately!

He won passage of a budget-busting “stimulus” bill that enriched Washington more than the public. He pushed through a health care “reform” measure which turned American medicine over to the federal government. And he has used presidential power to pursue his agenda even against the Republican congressional majority — which was no more interested in making “great deals” with the president than he was with the GOP.

Trump made a similar criticism of Cruz, who “doesn’t have the support of one other Republican Senator.” Complained Trump: “Guys like Ted Cruz will never make a deal because he’s a strident guy.”

Actually, Cruz has resisted deal-making in Congress not because he is strident but because he is principled. Much the same can be said of Bernie Sanders. For these two senators, the reason to be in office is not to pass legislation, but to pass what they consider good legislation. If that proves impossible, they are unafraid of gridlock.

Think about some of the most celebrated political deals, which have proved to be disastrous in practice. Ronald Reagan’s 1983 tax-hike plan: the promised three-for-one in spending cuts never materialized. George H.W. Bush’s abandoned “read my lips” promise to oppose tax hikes. Before the Democrats lost control of Congress Bill Clinton won big increases in outlays and taxes, which he later admitted were too high. George W. Bush and the Republican Congress passed a huge Medicare drug benefit which they made no attempt to pay for.

Then, as mentioned earlier, there’s Barack Obama who, with the help of his Democratic friends in Congress, won approval of the “Affordable Care Act” that we never will be able to afford. They also gave us hundreds of billions of dollars in economic “stimulus” which spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, and sometimes even millions of dollars, for every job “created” — without boosting the economy. The president has made dubious agreements with Cuba and Iran; he’s trying to make another on Syria and there’s talk about him reaching out to North Korea. Imagine the other horrible “deals” which he might have made had Republicans not won control of Congress.

So the next time a presidential candidate, any presidential candidate, starts talking about making deals, the right question is: what kind of deals? Would the new policy protect Americans’ property and liberty? Would the new law respect our liberty? Would the new regulation advance our prosperity? Would the new measure bolster the moral foundations of our society?

If not, as president he or she should say “no deal!”

It’s true that Washington isn’t working. It certainly isn’t serving the people. But the answer is not to elect a dealmaker. Rather, Americans need to elect a maker of good deals.

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One thought on “There’s More to Being President Than Deal-Making

  1. princetonuniversity says:

    In 2008, I agreed with almost nothing Obama promised to do. But I did not believe he was telling the truth.

    In 2016, I agree with almost everything Trump promises to do. But I do not believe he is telling the truth.

    A man who is a liar should not be trusted, no matter what is said.

    “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”
    2 Timothy 4:3.

    Donald Trump says:
    “You’re gonna have to make deals. You’re gonna have to get these senators and congressman and all of these people, you’ve gotta cajole them. You’ve got to make deals.”

    This is an unwelcome stance. Obama made deals with the devil’s minions. Those “deals” violated the very foundation of America’s values. We must choose leaders who will stand on principles. Conservative ideology promotes individual freedom and rejects servitude to the state.

    Others may compromise, but my riposte is that of Patrick Henry:
    “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

    The behaviour of Donald Trump’s adulating followers is deeply unsettling:
    More subservient than even the enraptured acolytes of Obama.

    Trump’s rallies remind us not so much of a crowded Iowa fairground but of the party rally grounds in Nuremberg. One almost expects to catch a glimpse of Leni Riefenstahl.

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