I'm reading these quotes in yesterday's Washington Post, in "Trump’s health care ultimatum is straight out of ‘The Art of the Deal.’ It just might work."
But is anyone talking about Trump's "walk away" approach today, after the ultimatum failed? Or is everyone saying: Trump failed. And: So much for the "Art of the Deal." And: Trump got a stark elementary education in the complicated reality of Washington politics — that art-of-the-deal stuff doesn't fit the exquisite complexity of Congress.
The "walk away" strategy isn't just a bluff, is it? Sometimes, you really do walk away. Long term, that builds your game, doesn't it? Or, maybe it's wrong to say "just a bluff," because in poker, if you need your opponents to think you bluff, so they'll stay in when you've got a good hand. Poker bluffing is not a good analogy for what Trump did in saying the vote had to happen on Friday or that was the end. What corresponds to the hidden hand? All that's hidden is whether Trump really will declare it over if those hearing the ultimatum don't believe this really is their last chance. They know what the bill is, and if they decide not to vote for it because they want something else, then Trump might follow through with his threat and back out. But the balky members of Congress are the ones who are staying in and taking the risk that Trump won't stay in, so they seem to be the ones doing the bluffing. Isn't it Trump who's in the position of a poker player who folds because he thinks the other guy has a better hand?*
Whether poker bluffing is a good analogy or not, we still need to think about how well Trump's approach to Congress is working. In this analysis, we need to think about what Trump really wants. I'm not sure. He may want to fulfill a campaign promise, but that promise was always contingent on Congress doing what he wants, and it's questionable whether the bill was even what he promised. If nothing passes, it ends an intra-party fight, a fight that would have continued into the Senate, straight into the wheelhouse of Rand Paul...
Tonight I joined members of the @freedomcaucus to discuss how to defeat Obamacare Lite. #FullRepeal pic.twitter.com/a7adpmL3zB— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) March 16, 2017
... who likes to stand in front of a poster with Trump's "Art of the Deal" words on it.
But I'm not sure Trump wanted to keep that promise. I think maybe he could see that there would be terrible problems under any bill that might pass, and that his name (and his party's name) would be on all those problems — which the Democrats and their many friends in the media would elaborate and amplify in the run up to the mid-term elections.
With the bill rejected — swiftly thrown away in a grand gesture — Obamacare remains, and the coming problems are all (or mostly) on the Democrats. They passed that slow-toppling disaster, with no buy-in from Republicans, and they refused to participate in the earnest effort to save America from the collapse.
I don't think Trump gave up. He saw a better path and set up a quick way to get on it.
Now, I expect that the media will belabor the defeat and the proof that Trump is no artist of the deal and that Trump will get moving on different, better, happier deals like walls and airports — tangible, buildable things.