October 2, 2017

"No, no, no. That's not how you negotiate. You don't tell them they've got 30 days. You tell them, 'This guy's so crazy he could pull out any minute.'"

"That's what you tell them: Any minute. And by the way, I might. You guys all need to know I might. You don't tell them 30 days. If they take 30 days they'll stretch this out."

Said Donald Trump, allegedly, to Robert Lighthizer, a trade negotiator who was part of a discussion about the U.S.-Korean trade deal (along with Defense Secretary Mattis, Agriculture Secretary Perdue, and Secretary of State Tillerson), quoted in "Scoop: Trump urges staff to portray him as 'crazy guy'" (Axios).

Why are we hearing this? Is it an unauthorized leak or part of the art-of-the-deal game?

Axios has a lot of analysis but doesn't entertain those questions. From Axios:
Plenty of world leaders think the president is crazy — and he seems to view that madman reputation as an asset. The downsides are obvious: the rhetoric can unnerve allies and has the potential to provoke enemies into needless, unintended war....

The president's top aides argue his negotiating strategy has forced Mexico and Canada to renegotiate NAFTA, China to put more pressure than ever on North Korea, and NATO allies to spend more than they'd otherwise have spent on their militaries (a claim that's impossible to adjudicate.)....

Bottom line: Trump's threats can only produce short-term results, if he doesn't follow through on them....

60 comments:

rehajm said...

Throw it at the bull.

...threats can only produce short-term results, if he doesn't follow through on them....

At least someone leaned something from the Obama administration.

John Lynch said...

Nixon did the same thing.

BDNYC said...

"... can only ..."? Where do they get that? I think that claim is impossible to adjudicate.

Bob Ellison said...

Yeah, I don't get "Trump's threats can only produce short-term results". Wishful thinking by someone who maybe took a one-semester course in game theory in college.

David Begley said...

"potential to provoke enemies into needless, unintended war...."

No way.

Assrat said...

It does seem to be a desperate attempt to make up downsides.

Best job offers I even got were made after I made it clear I wasn't interested.

Henry said...

There is nothing new under the sun:

Madman Theory

The madman theory was a feature of Richard Nixon's foreign policy. He and his administration tried to make the leaders of hostile Communist Bloc nations think Nixon was irrational and volatile. According to the theory, those leaders would then avoid provoking the United States, fearing an unpredictable American response.

It's a great, short article, summed up with this:

In 1517, Machiavelli had argued that sometimes it is "a very wise thing to simulate madness" (Discourses on Livy, book 3, chapter 2). In Nixon's Vietnam War, Kimball argues that Nixon arrived at the strategy independently, as a result of practical experience and observation of Dwight D. Eisenhower's handling of the Korean War.

Roger Sweeny said...

The "rationality of irrationality" was one of the themes of Thomas Schelling's The Strategy of Conflict. It's still an amazing book, though as with all classics much of it has passed into "what everyone knows."

(FWIW, Schelling shared the Economics sort-of-Nobel a few years ago.)

Rusty said...

"potential to provoke enemies into needless, unintended war...."

If your opponent can't fathom your next move he isn't fully prepared for any move. He's in a constant state of uncertainty.

Henry said...

The irony is that the DPRK is using the Madman theory on us. That may all they got, really.

Mike Sylwester said...

Trump's threats can only produce short-term results

The word only is in the wrong place. The word order should be:

Trump's threats can produce only short-term results

Bob Ellison said...

Who is Axios? It looks like one guy with a talent for web sites.

Oh, Wikipedia says, "Axios (stylized as AXIOS) is an American news and information website founded in 2016 by Politico co-founder Jim VandeHei, Politico's former Chief White House correspondent Mike Allen, and former Politico Chief Revenue Officer Roy Schwartz. The site's name, based on the term Greek: ἄξιος (áxios), "worthy", officially launched in 2017.[2]"

So three guys, two of whom are only in it for the money, if there be any.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

He does need to follow thru. His hands are tied by all the bureaucrats and Clinton/Obama loyalists and useless political dick jerkers in the CIA and FBI.

tim in vermont said...

Wars are started by people who think they know how things will play out. Most often.

And the DJIA is at a new record high, strangely, for a time when risks seem so high.

EDH said...

Isn't the negotiation of "a deal" a "short-term result" that nevertheless has long-term effects after the deal is made.

Isn't it precisely Trump's point that we are presently forced to live with the long-term effects of deals that are the short-term result of trade and other international negotiations?

tim in vermont said...

Kim has blinked at least twice. That's more than Obama ever accomplished.

jaydub said...

After all, Obama giving the Taliban our firm exit date from Afganistan worked out so well that Trump should definitely try it with the Norks.

Henry said...

As an aside, the spoof twitter feed DPRK News is hilarious

Marshal Kim Jong-Un dedicates book of his poems to suffering peoples of Puerto Rico.

Balfegor said...

Ah, the old "I hear what you're saying but my boss is crazy" gambit.

They wouldn't phrase it as "my boss is crazy," of course, but I hear that a lot in negotiations with the government. They appreciate our arguments, but their superiors or other constituencies in their office (to whom we do not have direct access) are going to need X or Y or Z if we want a settlement.

It works, I guess. We also saw Trump using this tactic in his call with the President of Mexico, where the role of "crazy boss" was taken by Trump's base.

tim in vermont said...

Even that moron McCain understood that a firm exit date from a conflict was nothing but giving the enemy a timetable to lay low and prepare. Obama never did, and it was so obvious a concept, it led many of us to wonder if he weren't working for the other side.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

Obama used nuanced red lines, and lies about red lines. Trump uses bluster and threats.

Same outcome. ("holds out hope Trump's threats are not empty) President isn't superman with super human powers. How do they penetrate Pyongyang?

Original Mike said...

"No, no, no. That's not how you negogiate."

This is how you negogiate.

Dave said...

The Left's goal is to undermine the president. If their is a war they will support starting it, then pull support when it gets ugly, as wars always do. That is a strategy that has worked twice, and will work again. It will be used again.

tim in vermont said...

LOL Original Mike.

SayAahh said...

Game playing is interesting but exhausting. An example: Was this leak intentional or not?

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Negotiating requires a certain amount of UNcertainty. I mean if you already know everything about the deal, the time frame, the conditions, then what is the point of pretending to negotiate.

You, of course, don't want to come off as being completely unpredictable or unable to hold up your end of the eventual deal. However, you do want the other party to understand that you are at any moment more than willing to just cancel the entire process.

Trump is smart in maintaining that level of uncertainty.

Ralph L said...

How do they penetrate Pyongyang?

China is the target audience.
They're the only people who can 'fix' this without mass death.

Bruce Hayden said...

"Who is Axios? It looks like one guy with a talent for web sites.

Oh, Wikipedia says, "Axios (stylized as AXIOS) is an American news and information website founded in 2016 by Politico co-founder Jim VandeHei, Politico's former Chief White House correspondent Mike Allen, and former Politico Chief Revenue Officer Roy Schwartz. The site's name, based on the term Greek: ἄξιος (áxios), "worthy", officially launched in 2017.""

Ok, we appear to have a left wing news aggregator claiming that Trump's crazy strategy can only provide short term benefits. Not sure why anyone would take this as anything beyond political spin. What real world expertise have they shown in this area? What extensive business survey have they done? Or, are they just blowing fetid air out of their left wing derrières?

tim in vermont said...

Trump's crazy strategy can only provide short term benefits.

They are making only the concessions that they are forced to make. I think that the fact that China told the Norks that if they start something with the US, they are on their own, is more than a short-term gain. China can't walk that back now without themselves creating a major escalation.

tim in vermont said...

By "they" I meant the left, who are behind this anti-Trump cultural revolution.

M Jordan said...

Axios pretends to have inside scoops. What it actually has is the same bubble boys talking to each other then presenting their "journolists" is a new format, not quite a blog, not quite a news aggregator.

It's full Of crap, too, btw.

tim in vermont said...

Anybody can read Trump's book, BTW.

Bruce Hayden said...

I agree with Balfegor here - you hear about a crazy decision maker upstream from the person with whom you are negotiating a lot. One the parties to this dispute has published a well known book on negotiating, and one has not. Somehow, I would put my money on the party that published that book over the one who didn't. And maybe the billionaire over the non-billionaire.

I think that maybe why Trump here is causing so much consternation is that his predecessor was clueless when it came to negotiations. No prior real life experience translated into doing an abysmal job of it when he was President. You almost get the impression that if some foreign country asked for, say, $50 billion, Obama would have countered with an offer of giving them $60 billion. And, again we are finding the the President who promised, essentially, to stop the seas from rising, on his own say-so, was incompetent in comparison to his well hated successor. No wonder the left is still melting down 11 months after the elections.

tim in vermont said...

Kim has achieved a lot of long term gains with his strategy.

Reagan brought down the Soviet Union with his "irrational leadership" which is why so many lefties hat his guts.

Bush was too calm in his negotiations with Saddam, so the French were able to convince Saddam that if he just gave them the rights to something like a quarter of their oil, they could stop Bush with their Security Council veto. If Saddam had been dealing with Trump, he would probably be enjoying his billions on some private island somewhere, after taking the offered helicopter ride.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

Our Broken Obama Military Can’t Even Manage to Toss Out Traitors

Earnest Prole said...

In other words, "Don't call my bluff." I think you've posted this one before.

Trump is the White Obama: an empty vessel into which we pour our hopes and dreams.

tim in vermont said...

No wonder the left is still melting down 11 months after the elections.

Has it been that long? Time flies when you are having fun!

Assrat said...

>I think that maybe why Trump here is causing so much consternation is that his predecessor was clueless when it came to negotiations.

I seem to remember someone quoting Obama saying that he could make anyone believe that Obama agreed with him.

That'll get you elected, but I don't see that helping to implement anything.

Bruce Hayden said...

In regards to my latter point, about Obama's incompetence- it must be remembered that implicit in leftist and socialist theory and theology is the claim that the rest of us aren't smart enough to run our own affairs. They are so much smarter tha the rest of us, so we should trust them with power over the rest of them, grow government giving them more and more control over our lives because of their greater brains, competence, and morality. And that was the problem with Obama and his Presidency. His best traits were an ability to read a TelePrompTer well, keep his mouth shut the rest of the time, and to dress well, with a sharp crease in his pants. Brains? No evidence. Morality? There the evidence was mostly negative. We were assured that this crew of the best and brightest would save the world if he were elected. Instead we got a bunch of small time political hacks setting up their fiefdoms to ne'er his benign neglect incompetent management style. Adults are now back in charge, and the party of the best and brightest no longer looks very bright, or very competent in comparison.

rhhardin said...

Somebody wants Trump's negotiations to be less successful.

Chuck said...

But, Bruce Hayden;

Obama was getting things done. He got his health care reform passed. His party passed Dodd-Frank. He got his massive "stimulus" package. He moved government in a way that he wanted.

Don't get me wrong; I think that they were mostly bad things in the Obama era. I'd have opposed them if I had been in government. I'm ideologically opposed to Obama and the Dems.

And Trump has done a few good things. The good things that he has done (Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, DeVos to the Department of Education, etc.) were the LEAST-Trump things about this administration so far. I expect that neither Gorsuch, nor Mitch McConnell, nor Betsy DeVos ever wanted Trump to get the Republican nomination. So Trump has indeed stumbled into a few positives. But to call Trump an "adult" replacing "non-adults" in the prior administration is just weird. Hard to imagine anyone less adult than Trump. Hard to imagine anyone less competent than Trump.

As David Frum wrote in a great Tweet, "Regular reminder that Donald Trump’s core competency is not dealmaking with powerful counter-parties. It is duping gullible victims."

tim in vermont said...

You can see the sadness in Chuck's writing for the good old days when Republicans joined the Democrats in taking America's freedoms as long as Chuckervatives got to dip their beak.

Big Mike said...

When you tell whomever you are negotiating with that they have 30 days, all too many of them will hear it as "you have 29 days to posture and grandstand before you need to get serious."

Balfegor said...

RE: Chuck:

Obama was getting things done. He got his health care reform passed. His party passed Dodd-Frank. He got his massive "stimulus" package. He moved government in a way that he wanted.

Almost none of these involved the administration negotiating with opponents, though -- remember that at the start of his term, Democrats were in an historically dominant position, controlling the Presidency and the House, and a supermajority in the Senate. His party passed health care reform essentially without any negotiation with Republicans, let alone opponents (negotiating with insurers about a law that penalises people for not buying their product doesn't count). Indeed, at the end, rather than negotiate, they decided to use reconciliation to squeeze health care reform through precisely to avoid negotiation.

Similarly, his most dramatic moves on the regulatory front weren't the result of negotiation -- they were unilateral exercises of rulemaking authority.

Now, in terms of the straight exercise of power, Trump has been pretty weak -- he's mostly failed to get people who will execute on his policies into offices where they can execute on his policies (assuming the policies he campaigned on -- protectionism and cracking down on illegal immigration -- are actually his policies), and this is in part due to a failure to negotiate with his opponents in Congress, both Republican and Democrat. I think it's also due to lack of experienced candidates who would support such policies. Probably since the mid-80s, the policy of the US has been pretty uniformly in favour of some form of trade liberalisation and against tariffs. On immigration, the government has been trying to avoid cracking down on illegal immigration where it can since at least Bush II. There's just not a deep pool of candidates who would be willing to advance Trump's policies on trade and immigration, who also have experience moving the levers of power in government.

Similarly, Republicans have failed to capitalize on their majorities in Congress to pass legislation they've been promising for years (e.g. repeal of Obamacare). But Trump seems a bit ambivalent about that agenda, e.g. when he called the Republican health care reform proposal "mean", so I'm not sure I would score that as a failure for Trump.

Big Mike said...

The downsides are obvious: the rhetoric can unnerve allies and has the potential to provoke enemies into needless, unintended war ....

No one intelligent believes that you can spook an enemy into a war they didn't mean to get into anyway.

pacwest said...

"Obama was getting things done."

His handlers were getting things done. Then they had to tell him what a really big deal it was.

Balfegor said...

Also, specifically regarding negotiating with the Moon Jae-In administration, Moon is the ultra-leftist who was vociferously opposed to THAAD -- so much so that the US and Korean military seem to have installed THAAD batteries in Korea secretly in advance of his anticipated election.

And then he takes office and immediately rolls over for Trump and begs for more THAAD.

I mean, I want Korea to be a loyal ally, so, um, I guess that's good? But that was just pathetic. I've never seen a Korean President grovel like that in front of the Americans. The civil service is probably going to push hard in KORUS renegotiation, especially since Koreans are fanatically nationalistic (there's propaganda posters everywhere about Dokdo/Takeshima, like Germans agitating for the Sudetenland) and any concessions are inevitably going to be spun as another national humiliation . . . but I feel like this dolt Moon is just going to collapse like a house of cards.

Original Mike said...

"Obama was getting things done. He got his health care reform passed. His party passed Dodd-Frank. He got his massive "stimulus" package. He moved government in a way that he wanted."

The topic was his negogiating skills, which were zero. The fact that he got no buy-in from the other party is one reason his "accomplishments" are such disasters.

TreeJoe said...

I work within a very successful PE firm environment where this brand of negotiation is used and promoted a lot. I came in and thought it was crazy, but I've seen it work far better than I expected - and thus have practiced it myself.

It's actually fairly structured.

You start from a position of: "What do they want and why should I give it to them? I am ready to sever all ties from them."

And you work forward from that position.

It is not a great tactic for long-term individual relationships but it is an excellent tactic between two large entities where personal relationships are not as important. It forces you to justify each concession against a willingness to walk away. It makes sure the other side understands you are willing to walk away.

It prevents the common negotiating failure of giving concessions to advance the deal and "get it done." which results in many bad deals (see: Iran). The goal of the negotiation should NEVER be to get the deal done; the goal is to achieve your own objectives in the deal.

Balfegor said...

Also, whether it's authorized or unauthorized, I don't think it seriously undermines Trump's principal negotiating advantage which is that his opponents (helped by the media) genuinely think he's crazy and worry about setting him off. Telling his subordinates to use the "my boss is crazy" strategy slightly undermines that -- but here's the key question:

When he says:

You tell them, 'This guy's so crazy he could pull out any minute.'"

"That's what you tell them: Any minute," Trump continued. "And by the way, I might. You guys all need to know I might.


Do you believe him?

I, ah, I kind of do.

Char Char Binks said...

Stupid people like to think of their slowness as depth of intelligence, and bold action is seen as madness by pussies who are incapable of boldness.

TreeJoe said...

Just to share, I literally took a similar position this morning on a call with a french company. Let me share how it went:

Company: "You are asking for a 50% price increase vs. your rate 3 years ago. That is hard to justify."

Me: "I completely understand. We priced our service incorrectly three years ago and lost money. Our advice to you was to find another provider and we'd help you transition. We understand you still wanted to consider moving forward with us and so we've prepared our proposal accordingly."

Company: "So you are saying there is no flexibility in your fees?" *outraged voice*

Me: "If you wish to commit to a longer term, then we can work on a modest fee reduction. But at the term discussed, no, there is no flexibility."

Company: "This will demand a discussion internally to determine whether we should go with someone else."

Me: "Absolutely - please have that discussion. I'll send you the background on this rate increase we've been discussing with your organization for 3-4 months. I'll also include my deadline for your decision before we cease our services."

....

What did I establish:

- I don't need their business
- I've been reasonable and offered to transition them
- My proposal is firm
- I'm not desperate to get the deal done
- They have a firm and upcoming deadline against which they would either need to accept my deal, find another provider, or face immediate business consequences.

What have they established:

- They are disorganized
- They are outraged
- They probably still need this deal
- They haven't fully considered the consequences of me walking away

...

I'm not some experienced negotiator. This stuff is fairly basic.

Big Mike said...

The topic was his negogiating skills, which were zero.

@Original Mike, less than zero, if that's possible. Obama's sole negotiating tactic was to say "Here's what I want, now give it to me."

Original Mike said...

"Obama's sole negotiating tactic was to say "Here's what I want, now give it to me.""

He learned that as a Community Organizer which, as it turns out, provides an awful preparation for an executive position.

rehajm said...

Obama's sole negotiating tactic was to say "Here's what I want, now give it to me."

There was his famous ''...or I'm going to the American People with this." gambit, too.

Eric, don't call my bluff.

Ann Althouse said...

"In other words, "Don't call my bluff." I think you've posted this one before."

Thanks for remembering that old post (which I'd forgotten). I reread it. It's pretty good!

Big Mike said...

I looked at the comments on that post. The final comment, by Brad, was all too prescient.

tim in vermont said...

You know who was gullible, Chuck, workers who believed the free trade rhetoric of both parties.

Ray said...

Trump has exceeded my expectations. The best negotiation of Trump so far, was the cruise missile strike in Syria. That targeted, surgical strike, and done while he was having dinner with the Chinese Leader.

The change in how the rest of the world saw the US, from the Obama Era, was huge. All of a sudden the world was forced to realize Obama era of empty threats was over.

Per the NY Post:
Trump told Chinese President Xi Jinping about the US cruise missile attack on Syria while the two were savoring “the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you’ve ever seen.”

Unknown said...

What do you do in a negotiation when you are in a weak position and have no leverage? Anything you can to improve you position and create some.

-sw