Saturday, March 25, 2017

Response to All-American Deal-Making

(See: Just Above Sunset: All-American Deal-Making)

One problem with having someone ghost your best-selling book about how good you are at making deals is that you end up spending the rest of your life playing the “other people’s expectations" game, since everybody is left with the impression that you are a whiz at making deals, even if you aren't really, and that leaves you trying to live up to your own hype.

Having your reputation precede you wherever you go can, I guess, be great for your ego, but I would think it could also cramp your style.

One of my last duties at CNN was to represent the satellite needs of the network pool on President Reagan’s one-day visit to the European Parliament building in Strasbourg, France, in the summer of 1985, starting with my own advance trip to Paris in the spring.

I found myself sitting in a meeting hall with just me and Francoise Husson, CNN’s French-born former London Bureau Chief who was serving as my translator, on one side of the table, and about forty representatives from the EU Parliament and various French entities, mostly of the government and TV networks, the telephone company and power company and whatnot, on the other. Through Francoise, I informed them of what we would be needing and when we would be needing it, and after about ten minutes of anguished (and, to me, incomprehensible) French words exchanged among themselves, they came back to let me know why they wouldn’t be able to deliver the workspace in the Parliament building, or the power, or the phone lines, or the security, at least not in time for the event in June.

To which I shrugged my shoulders and replied that I understood the problems (I lied), thanked them in advance for their efforts and suggested that all we all can do is do what we can, and hope for the best.

With that, the meeting was over, and Francoise and I went out to dinner, at which time she told me that what I said to them seemed to baffle them, since, me being an American, they expected a whole lot of that hard bargaining that we Americans are famous around the world for. In fact, she thought they were pleased with the lack of fuss. After all, Americans are also famous for skipping all the jibber-jabber, cutting through all the ceremony, and just getting to the point, one of our famous foibles that is sometimes actually appreciated overseas.

In any event, the next day, I flew home. Over the next month, bit by bit, I learned that I was receiving even more than I had asked for, and way ahead of schedule. That June, back in France, Reagan's visit came and went with nary a hitch. The French were wonderful to work with. Sometimes, the best bargaining is no bargaining at all, especially if nobody involved in it is in the mood for any of that foolishness anyway.

Unfortunately for Trump, his reputation, undeserved as it might be, precedes him. One of my old bosses who was famous throughout broadcasting for his haggling skills, had that same problem. It was often said of him, “He knows the price of everything but the value of nothing”. Word got around, and eventually, everyone saw him coming, and — well, there’s that old saying about those who are forewarned are forearmed.

In fact, if everyone suspects that Donald Trump cares more about his precious image than the details of any one deal he’s working on, the deal will probably suck in ways he won't even recognize, assuming it ever gets closed at all, or else his deal may just implode, which has happened more than once to...

Hold the phone! BREAKING NEWS!! This just in!!! As I am writing this, while waiting for the voting in the House to begin, word arrives that, instead of voting, they’ve withdrawn the bill!

At first, I thought this meant they postponed it, which is what I had been predicting would happen, but it’s even better than that! Our long national nightmare appears to be over, sort of.

And it seems that Trump has already started doing what, early on, he himself promised to do if the vote failed — he’ll start blaming it on the Democrats and Obama! So, in truth, Sean “Slick” Spicer was wrong when he told reporters there was no back-up plan:
Spicer told reporters during a daily press briefing that there is no back-up plan for the American Health Care Act ... because the bill would pass. 
"No, there is no plan B," said Spicer. "There is a plan A, and plan A. We're going to get this done. We're going to get it done, that's it, plain and simple." 
During a recent meeting, Trump told conservative groups that are against the bill that his plan B was to allow Obamacare, officially named the Affordable Care Act, to "collapse" and then blame Democrats for any negative outcomes.
Hey, good luck with that! And thanks for the heads-up.

Of course there’s a “Plan B”! We’ve just entered it. Trump planned for this and warned us it was coming, that in the event of failure, he would somehow blame it on the Democrats, I guess for not voting for Trumpcare. 

Which is preposterous, of course.

Weren’t they saying through all those years that they would repeal Obamacare in the first five minutes of Day One, once they were able to get one of their own guys into the Oval Office? That didn’t happen, but it wasn’t because of the Democrats, who, yes, were prepared to cast exactly as many “Yes” votes for Trumpcare as Republicans cast for Obamacare, way back when.

The difference between the two votes was that Obama himself turned out to be a more-successful wheeler-dealer than Mr. King of the Big Deal himself. Surprise!

Repeal, which once seemed like a surefire thing back in Republican Dreamland, before the inauguration, back when the moderate “Tuesday Group" was dreaming of “Repeal and Replace”, while, seemingly unbeknownst to anyone, the take-no-prisoners "Freedom Fries Caucus" was envisioning only the “Repeal” part.

That doesn’t sound like a big thing, but it turned out to be quite a deal-breaker. It was the fact that the distance between the two extremities of the GOP is too great to allow consensus on any one bill that queered this deal, and had nothing to with whatever the Democrats were doing at the time — which, of course, was that they were probably quietly watching all the Republican shenanigans with bemusement.

And yes, I suppose we could blame the Democrats for not barging down to the Oval Office to pitch their own healthcare plan, which is known as “Obamacare” — which has already been proven popular with a plurality of Americans who have said they’d rather see it changed than repealed — and which could also be called “Obamacare: New and Improved”, including within it all those upgrades that Barrack Obama was referencing the other day, when he talked about always envisioning the program being improved upon as we went along.

But then, in that same vein, I guess Trump can blame himself for not inviting Democratic input (in which case, I think there’s a chance he could have won!), instead of placing all his faith in all those hopeless congressional Republicans, who have, after years of practice, demonstrated that they still can't organize a one-car funeral.

But think of it! This may be the closest we ever get to a face-to-face contest between Trump and Obama, and after all that negotiating, look who's healthcare version ended up as "the Law of the Land!"

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