French President Emmanuel Macron appears to have bought into the myth that President Donald Trump is a skilled dealmaker — even though Trump’s entire history clearly shows that his talents lie in breaking deals.
The media, which helped create the dealmaker myth, has naturally jumped all over the story that “France’s Macron says his charm offensive may soften Trump’s climate stance,” as the AP and NBC news put it. The UK media went further: “Emmanuel Macron thinks he has convinced Trump to rejoin Paris agreement on climate change.”
I hope Macron isn’t so easily duped. In reality, there is no substance supporting any of these stories. They are all based on Macron’s belief that Trump actually listened to his arguments in favor of the Paris agreement and was persuaded by him — whereas Trump’s entire history, and his public remarks, suggest otherwise.
“Donald Trump listened to me. He understood the sense of my approach, notably the link that exists between global warming and terrorism,” Macron told a French newspaper. “He told me he would try to find a solution in the coming months. We talked in detail about what could enable him to come back into the Paris accords.”
Trump’s version of their conversation, from his joint press conference with Macron, is slightly different (video here):
“Yeah, I mean something could happen with respect to the Paris Accord, we’ll see what happens. But we will talk about that over the coming period of time. And if it happens that’ll be wonderful. And If it doesn’t, that’ll be OK too. But we’ll see what happens. but we did discuss many things today including the cease fire in Syria, we discussed the Ukraine, we discussed a lot of different topics. We briefly hit on the Paris Accords and we’ll see what happens.”
Those words don’t exactly square with most of the media coverage or the French President’s spin, as seen in the UK Times headline “I’ve won Trump over on climate change, says Macron.”
Either Macron was trying to make something out of nothing or he actually was duped by Trump, failing to realize the president does not have a stellar record when it comes to truth-telling. This is especially true in policy discussions, with Trump already showing a tendency to flip-flop on an issue based on the last person he spoke with.
Unfortunately for Macron, he is never going to be the last person Trump talks to on climate change.
Remember that when Trump abandoned the Paris deal in June, he called the agreement “very unfair, at the highest level, to the United States.” He said, “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” and thus was only open to staying if he could “negotiate a far better deal.”
But right after those remarks, Macron — together with Germany’s Angela Merkel, and Italy’s Paolo Gentiloni — put out a joint statement bluntly asserting “the Paris agreement cannot be renegotiated, since it is a vital instrument for our planet, societies and economies.”
No specifics have ever been offered by Trump’s aides on what such a better deal would look like — indeed, advisers won’t even say whether the president no longer believes climate change is a hoax.
The simple fact of the matter is that the Paris agreement is a ridiculously good deal for the United States, and abandoning it is unequivocally bad for the country.
Even if there were someone for Trump to renegotiate with (and there isn’t) there is nothing to renegotiate because, as the independent analytical team at Climate Action Tracker put it, “the U.S. climate plans are at the least ambitious end of what would be a fair contribution.” America had committed to do the least we could possibly do, and Trump won’t even do that.
Most importantly, no matter how many times he says it, or how many times the media repeats it — if you search “Trump the dealmaker” or “dealmaker in chief” you get thousands and thousands of media hits — Trump is not actually a good dealmaker.
The latest and most prominent evidence of this is Trump’s historically bad decision to exit the Paris climate deal, which threatens to destroy both a livable climate and his brand. The fact that he has no major legislative victories in his first six months in office is yet more evidence.
After all, Trump is a man with six bankruptcies, someone who managed to lose money running casinos, who lost $900 million in one year alone in fact, and who, as Fortune explained, “would be richer if he’d have invested in index funds” with the money he inherited, rather than real estate deals.
Moreover, as USA Today reported last summer, in the last three decades, Trump has been involved in more than 4,000 lawsuits. He appears to be the plaintiff about as often as he is the defendant, turning “to litigation to distance himself from failing projects that relied on the Trump brand to secure investment.”
In addition, USA Today reported that “he and his companies refuse to pay even relatively small bills” with contractors, explaining in one deposition, “I don’t feel that these people did very much, if anything, with respect to this deal.” That seems to happen a lot to Trump.
The bottom line: Trump is not a great dealmaker, he’s a great deal-breaker. These dismal outcomes are what await Macron or anyone else who thinks they are going to somehow negotiate a deal to get Trump back into the Paris agreement.