Donald Trump Slams GOP: How Would He Have Struck 'Fiscal Cliff' Deal?

Peter Grier
Donald Trump speaks at the Ritz-Carlton on August 26, 2012 in Sarasota, Florida.
Getty Images

Donald Trump slammed Republicans on Wednesday, saying they'd caved in to Democrats and agreed to a "terrible" deal on the "fiscal cliff."

"Does any Republican have the ability to negotiate?" tweeted the apparently exasperated real estate mogul/reality-show star after the House passed the cliff compromise and sent it to President Obama.

"Obama and the Democrats are laughing at the deal they just made ... the Republicans got nothing!" Mr. Trump judged.

OK then. Perhaps the former front-runner for the GOP nomination – albeit one who never actually flung his hair into the ring – could have done better. What principles would someone who wrote a book called "The Art of the Deal" have followed in pursuing cliff-avoidance legislation?

First, he'd have thought big. "Think big" is one of the "Trump cards" he listed in his 1987 book, after all.

Presumably that means he would have preferred the grand-bargain approach – one in which both looming tax hikes and budget cuts would have been avoided; Medicare, Social Security, and other entitlements reformed; the tax code scrubbed of loopholes, and the nation generally put on a fiscal path toward deficit elimination.

"[O]nly the big deal should be approved!" he tweeted back on Dec. 28.

Good luck with that. The problem here is that running the country is different from designing hotel lobbies. There are so many political participants with so many different points of view that lately, it's amazing if they can agree what day it is. Mr. Obama and House Speaker John Boehner have tried twice now to strike a grand bargain, and they failed. Perhaps President Trump would have done better in that regard; we doubt it.

Second, Trump would have "used his leverage," in another Trump card phrase. "The worst thing you can possibly do in a deal is seem desperate to make it," Trump wrote back in 1987.

Of course, that means he might have urged Speaker Boehner to pretend that he'd be just fine with going over the cliff. The problem with that is it would have been difficult for the GOP to shrug off raising taxes on all Americans, right? Also, Republicans aren't going to be able to pretend they are OK with deep cuts in the Pentagon budget. Move along.

In other words, the GOP had little leverage to use in this instance. That was one of Boehner's fundamental problems.

A third 1987 Trump card he might have invoked: "have fun." Gather everybody in the cabinet room for pizza and a screening of "The Hobbit." Play charades and make Sen. Mitch McConnell act out the word "sequester." Stuff like that.

OK, maybe that would have helped. But given an atmosphere in which Boehner was accosting Senate majority leader Harry Reid in the White House and using very bad language because Senator Reid had publicly criticized the GOP leadership – well, having fun wasn't in the cards.

Perhaps Trump was just angry because he's one of those billionaires whose taxes have just gone up. But if this deal is so bad, why is Wall Street so happy? The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped more than 200 points at the opening bell Wednesday. Presumably Trump owns a few stocks. So far, this deal is making him money.