President Donald Trump recently threatened to impose a 5% tariff on goods imported to the United States from Mexico, scheduled to go into effect Monday. But on Friday, he abruptly announced an agreement with the Mexican government: he would refrain from imposing the new import taxes, and Mexico’s newly formed national guard would help prevent migrants from reaching the United States.
If you see things from Trump's point of view, you might be inclined to see this as a win. But according to conservative Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin, Trump’s deal-making skills are largely imaginary — and the Mexico agreement is only the latest example of why this is.
Rubin’s Monday column could be titled “The Art of the Non-Deal," because that’s how she views Trump’s agreement with Mexican officials: as a “non-deal.” The Never Trump conservative writes that the president withdrew his “threatened tariffs” and “claimed victory by Friday night, but what had he gotten?” According to Rubin, not much.
Rubin notes that Mexico’s national guard, “was formed just in March, and there are real questions as to its capabilities.” The Post writer references a recent National Public Radio (NPR) interview with Jorge Castaneda, who served as Mexico’s foreign minister from 2000-2003 and told NPR that Mexico’s national guard “doesn’t really exist” at this point and “hasn’t really been set up yet.”
Rubin writes that Trump’s “penchant for creating chaos, confrontation and conflict” only to “resolve” the problem later “has become tiresome.” The president, she stresses, has a pattern of “getting nothing and claiming victory” — for example, “falsely suggesting progress on North Korea denuclearization, celebrating a win in the Rose Garden by reopening the government as Democrats demanded.”
“Trump’s antics threaten to create real economic and/or political turmoil at a time the economy might be going soft,” Rubin warns. Regardless, she says, Trump’s top priority with his “non-deals” is having a “heroic message he can feed to Fox News, which dutifully blasts it out to the Trump cult.”
Rubin wraps up her column by quoting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as saying that Trump’s “threats and temper tantrums are no way to negotiate foreign policy.” And the columnist adds, “But they are all that Trump knows. One wonders how long Trump’s own advisers, not to mention foreign powers, are going to indulge his playacting.”
Max Boot, another Washington Post columnist and anti-Trump conservative, also denounces Trump’s Mexico agreement as a glaring example of the art of the non-deal. In his Monday column, Boot asserts, “It was GOP opposition, not Mexican concessions, that made Trump back down from his tariff threats.” And if those Republicans who spoke out against Trump’s proposed tariffs on Mexican imports were honest, Boot writes, they would be taking some credit instead of letting Trump take all the credit.
“The striking thing is that Trump’s con-artistry continues to find so many willing marks who will remain forever convinced, notwithstanding all that is reported otherwise, that he made Mexico bow before his awesomeness,” Boot stresses. “They are abetted, these Trump dupes, by cynical Republicans on Capitol Hill who know that this achievement is as phony as a degree from Trump University but pretend otherwise to flatter the mercurial and egomaniacal occupant of the Oval Office.”
Boot cites Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina as two former Trump critics in the GOP who have become Trump sycophants and are jumping through hoops to give him credit for the Mexico agreement.
“You would think by now that even the president’s supporters might be slightly skeptical when he claims spectacular achievements with details to come,” Boot writes. “But like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football that Lucy always snatches away, they immediately tried to score political points off the nebulous Friday-night announcement.”