President Trump: The Eternal Gambler

Iran, Trade, North Korea: Currently, the radical policy of the U.S. president seems successful. But we’ll be sorry if it fails.

If you want to understand Donald Trump, you have to look at his work as a businessman. No one believed that his first real estate project in New York, the renovation of the dilapidated hotel Commodore, would be successful. But then he managed a miracle, the hotel was rebuilt, and Trump earned millions – including through tax credits he received.

A few years later the next big bet followed — he planned the Taj Mahal mega-casino in Atlantic City. That was a spectacular gamble. The project was a disaster, above all for those who had bet on him: workers and craftsmen, banks and business partners. They all lost a lot of money, some even their financial stability. Trump nearly slipped into bankruptcy.

As a president, Trump acts exactly the same as he did when he was a businessman. He remains a gambler, and his presidency is a singular, giant bet. Trump dares to do the impossible, because he bets on the consequent triumph being even greater.

If you can set aside the theatrical thunder that Trump creates, it becomes clear that his policies could be very successful. Momentum is on Trump’s side at the moment. In gambling circles, they would probably say: He has a run. Trump is the guy at the casino who heaps more and more chips on the table while everyone stands around him, amazed.

Take tariffs for example. Europeans may feel that the enormous pressure and time constraints inherent in Trump’s threats to impose punitive tariffs on steel and aluminum are strenuous. But they could ultimately be forced to make trade compromises. That Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel took a pilgrimage to Washington and that Trump is now graciously granting them a one-month grace period for the tariffs, show who really has the final say in these negotiations. The Germans, with their export-dependent economy, fear above all an escalating trade conflict. The Chinese have similar concerns.

On tax reform, Trump’s massive tax cuts for U.S. corporations and citizens threaten to allow the budget deficit to continue growing, even if the nation initially profits. America becomes a more attractive investment location, unemployment decreases, the economy booms, and corporations make healthy profits.

On North Korea, even Trump’s strongest critics admit that he has brought in significantly tighter sanctions against Pyongyang. Trump brought the Chinese on board, and saw that the Chinese practically stopped trade with North Korea. That brought dictator Kim Jong Un to the negotiating table. Kim has already promised the “denuclearization” of the peninsula, fulfilling Trump’s central demand.

On Iran, similar to the case with North Korea, Trump bet that maximum pressure will result in a docile government in Tehran. Some signs point to the possibility of abandoning the nuclear deal with Iran on May 12, forcing new negotiations with the Iranians; for example, about Syria or its own missile program.

The rest of the world may shake its head at this president, but many Americans like what they see. From the viewpoint of his fans, he is doing exactly as he promised: implementing his “America First” agenda and giving them the feeling that he is a strong man fighting for their interests at home and abroad.

Trump’s popularity is recovering, with an average of 42 percent of U.S. citizens now saying they are satisfied with his work. It is an ascending trend. In an appearance before supporters in Michigan last weekend, Trump was celebrated with a fervor that hasn’t been seen in a while. In the meantime, Republicans are even hoping they can defend their majority in the Senate and House of Representatives during the midterm elections this fall. Trump is even being talked about for the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Catch

But naturally there is a catch – even if Trump is now on top and seemingly deciding the rules of the game, it is not yet clear if his gambling will pay off. A bet is a bet is a bet. And a policy that is aligned, above all, with one’s own interests and hardly takes others into account, others who are at political risk, can be successful, but it can also be a spectacular failure.

What happens when the North Korea negotiations blow up? Who can guarantee that a new trade war with the European Union and China will not ultimately push the global economy into a dramatic downward spiral – with new job losses in the U.S. as well? How will Trump stop his brash foreign policy from triggering a new wave of anti-American sentiment in much of the world? And what if the Middle East is pushed into a military conflict among Israel, Saudi Arabia and Iran?

The Trump administration has no answers to these questions and Trump’s supporters seem blind to the potential risks and fallout from his policies. They would rather believe Trump’s sweet promises.

“Everything will be great,” he assures us. But that’s what he said about the Taj Mahal.

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