October 23rd, 2020


Undersold: Trump would honor Obama's foreign deals (but make them better, of course)

Amber Phillips

By Amber Phillips

Published March 14, 2016

While the rest of the Republicans running for president vow to overturn or even tear up President Obama's most significant international agreements on their first day as president, Donald Trump has a different approach. The dealmaker-in-chief has indicated he'd actually keep those deals, but he'd also make them better.

Take two that were heavily debated in Thursday's Republican debate in Miami: The Iranian nuclear deal and the historic reopening of diplomatic relations with Cuba.

It's true that Trump hates the Iran nuclear deal. He thinks it's "maybe the worst deal I've ever seen." But while his opponent Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, wants to "rip it to shreds," Trump would try to rework it.

"This is a perfect example of taking over a bad contract," he told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" a few months back. "I will find something in that contract that will be very, very well-scrutinized by us, and I think they will not be able to do it, whatever it may be."

Trump actually acknowledged in that interview that he wasn't taking the politically easy road by agreeing to keep the Iran deal intact. Just 4 percent of Republicans think the deal makes America safer, according to a Quinnipiac Poll conducted in August as the deal was being debated in Congress. He took some flak for his position in Thursday's debate, too. Cruz accused him of not understanding the gravity of Iran's leaders' death wish for America.

But Trump has said it just wouldn't be very business-like to walk away from an inked deal.

"I know it would be very popular for me to do what a couple of 'em said - 'we're gonna rip it up,' 'we're gonna rip it up,'" he went on to tell "Morning Joe." "Iran is going to be an absolute terror, and it's horrible that we have to live with it. Nevertheless, we have a contract."

And on Cuba, Trump said Thursday that he thinks 50 years of isolation between the two countries is enough. But he's wary of how Obama went about reopening diplomatic relations with the country. Trump said he'd "probably" close the U.S. Embassy in Havana for a while. But he wouldn't cut off relations with Cuba or reverse the deal like Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., would.

Instead, Trump would - you guessed it - try to ink a better deal.

"So I don't agree with President Obama, I do agree something should be - should take place," Trump said. "After 50 years, it's enough time, folks. But we have to make a good deal and we have to get rid of all the litigation that's going to happen.

"What I want is I want a much better deal to be made, because right now Cuba is making - as usual with our country, we don't make good deal. We don't have our right people negotiating; we have people that don't have a clue."

Politically, Trump's unwillingness to reverse Obama's international negotiations may not make much sense. Why signal you'd continue the policies of a president who's massively unpopular with the voters you're courting?

But for Trump, it makes sense. For one, voters seem to like his business background, so mentioning all the deal-making he'd do as president is a good way for him to talk that up. But Trump also indicated in that "Morning Joe" interview that improving upon deals is what he's good at.

"I have all my life - I love to buy bad contracts where . . . people go bust, and I make those contracts good," he said. "I buy buildings with horrible mortgages and I straighten out the mortgages, and I go after the banks, and I do lots of things."

In other words, taking a bad deal and making it great again worked for Trump in real estate. So why not do it as president?

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