New York real estate tycoon Donald Trump ran for president as a political novice who claimed he could broker deals at home and abroad.
After more than 16 months in office, the author of Trump: The Art of the Deal has yet to close any major accord as he heads to an unprecedented summit on Tuesday with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Washington has yet to see serious negotiations between the White House and the Democratic opposition on promised domestic priorities, such as health care and immigration reform.
When it comes to international deals, Trump’s favoured tool has been a wrecking ball: he cancelled a previous trade deal with Asian allies, pulled out of the Paris climate agreement and the Iranian nuclear deal, and launched still incomplete renegotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
He has also opened major trade rifts with Europe and China, accusing them of unfair trade policies.
This hasn’t stopped the former game show host with the distinctive blond comb-over – who will turn 72 just two days after the Singapore summit – from talking up his abilities as a dealmaker, rather than dealbreaker. He has publicly speculated for example about brokering a settlement to the entrenched Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The whirlwind, soap-opera courtship leading up to the Singapore meeting follows a tense year in which Trump nicknamed Kim “Rocket Man” and ratched up a “maximum pressure” campaign of sanctions and diplomatic isolation in response to Pyongyang’s repeated weapons tests.
Trump’s best-selling 1987 book was a ghostwriter’s collection of bromides about succeeding at business. The then-candidate in 2016 claimed that his tendency to force creditors to renegotiate the terms of his debt was the “sign of a great dealmaker.”
Trump got into business through his father, the son of German immigrants, who himself had become a millionaire in the construction business in New York.
New Jersey lawmaker Robert Menendez, the ranking opposition Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, voiced grave concern at the “lack of deep preparation” for the meeting by the White House, after Trump initially cancelled it late last month.
However, the cancellation – according to Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani – was a master stroke that brought Kim to “his hands and knees,” and the summit was then put back on.