WASHINGTON — Dear Donald,
We've known each other a long time, so I think I can be blunt.
You know how you said at campaign rallies that you did not like being identified as a politician?
Don't worry. No one will ever mistake you for a politician.
After this past week, they won't even mistake you for a top-notch negotiator.
Unless you're careful, you will end up turning into what you started out scorning. And you, Donald, are getting a reputation as a sucker. And worse, a sucker who is a tool of the D.C. establishment.
Your whole campaign was mocking your rivals and the D.C. elite, jawing about how Americans had turned into losers, with our bad deals and open borders and the Obamacare "disaster."
And you were going to fly in on your gilded plane and fix all that in a snap.
You mused that a good role model would be Ronald Reagan. As you saw it, Reagan was a big, good-looking guy with a famous pompadour. But Reagan had one key quality that you don't have: He knew what he didn't know.
You both resembled Macy's Thanksgiving Day balloons, floating above the nitty-gritty and focusing on a few big thoughts. But President Reagan was confident enough to accept that he needed experts below, deftly maneuvering the strings.
You're just careening around on your own, crashing into buildings and losing altitude, growling at the cameras and spewing nasty conspiracy theories, instead of offering a sunny smile, bipartisanship, optimism and professionalism.
You promised to get the best people around you in the White House.
Instead, you dragged that motley skeleton crew into the White House and let them create a feuding, leaking, belligerent, conspiratorial, sycophantic atmosphere. Instead of a smooth, classy operator like James Baker, you have anarchist Steve Bannon.
You knew the Republicans were full of hot air. They haven't had to pass anything in a long time, and they have no aptitude for governing. You knew that Paul Ryan's vaunted reputation as a policy wonk was fake news. Republicans have been running on repealing and replacing Obamacare for years and they never even bothered to come up with a valid alternative.
And neither did you, despite all your promises to replace Obamacare with "something terrific" because you wanted everyone to be covered.
Instead, you sold the DOA bill the Irish undertaker gave you as if it were a luxury condo, ignoring the fact that it was a cruel flimflam, a huge tax cut for the rich disguised as a health care bill. You were so concerned with the "win" that you forgot your "forgotten" Americans.
As The Times' chief Washington correspondent Carl Hulse put it, the GOP falls into clover with a lock on the White House and both houses of Congress, and what's the first thing it does? Slip on a banana peel. Incompetence Inc.
You can jump on the phone with The Times' Maggie Haberman and The Washington Post's Robert Costa — ignoring that you've labeled them the "fake media" — and act like you're in control. You can say that people should have waited for "Phase 2" and "Phase 3" and that Obamacare is going to explode and Democrats are going to get the blame. But it doesn't work that way. You own it now.
You were humiliated right out of the chute by the establishment guys who hooked you into their agenda — a massive transfer of wealth to rich people — and drew you away from your own.
You sold yourself as the businessman who could shake things up and make Washington work again. Instead, you got worked over and set up by the Republican leadership and the business community.
That's why they're putting up with all your craziness about Russia and wiretapping and unending lies and rattling our allies.
You got played. It took W. years to smash everything. You're way ahead of schedule.
And I can say you're doing badly, because I'm a columnist, and you're not. Say hello to everybody, OK?
New York Times News Service