Saturday, March 26, 2016

With Donald Trump, deal-making drives policy

In The Trump Diagnostic, I determined that deal-making is at the core of Donald Trump's value system. Unlike most candidates running for public office, Donald Trump doesn't have a political ideology that translates into policy; rather, it's a deal-making ideology that translates into policy.

In a recent interview he gave at the New York Times, Trump solidified just how much deal-making is at the core of his value system, and how it would inform his policies. It's remarkable how cohesive and consistent his policies are once you identify what's at the core.

It's also a fascinating study on how a Populist candidate can tie the political analysis class into knots. There truly is no left/right dimension to his slew of proposals, yet there is certainly an element of innovation to most of them. He essentially wants to re-negotiate almost all treaties, including those with Japan, South Korea, and even NATO. And, with typical Art of The Deal bluster, he of course threatens to abandon treaties that are no longer in America's favor.

In this interview, we also learn that he prefers to get foreign policy information from former generals, and not foreign policy experts. This fits neatly into his authoritarian style, and re-enforces the notion that he thinks very highly of his own ability to determine the appropriate tactics, coupled with a mistrust of any kind of establishment that reeks of elitism or political correctness. He does not want to hear "You just can't say that to the Saudi's." If anything, that's just ammo for him to go guns blazing with a snappy retort like "Oh yeah? Watch me." Some Americans will see this kind of response as a breath of fresh air when it comes to leadership because it reflects a belief that all the existing social morays are just there to sustain a status quo that is no longer acceptable. It almost has an action movie protagonist quality to it - where quick-wittedness and absolute strength break down oppressive systems and the world is saved in between 90 and 120 minutes. Others, of course, see this kind of person as an overconfident and under informed blowhard who is so full of himself that he can't get out of his own way, and will end up blowing up the planet as a result.

Which is to say that, despite all of Trump's clear shortcomings as a presidential candidate (oh, can  people count the ways), it would be wise to pick apart and disassemble some of the novel and politically innovative ideas he's advancing. Should we break away from NATO? Of course not. But should NATO be significantly reformed to address the new challenges the West is facing? Absolutely. The thing is, nobody was even talking about re-thinking treaties at all until Trump arrived.