Trump’s style

I agree with my liberal friends on much, but I don’t agree that Trump is crazy. Better to assume that his style of leadership is related to his past. As a negotiator, he may have found that the strategy of creating chaos and outrage among the people he had to deal with was a good way to set the stage. Flustered, they see him as unpredictable and a little crazy. Meanwhile, he can observe the turbulence with some glee, knowing that he has sown these seeds of chaos and he can now manage his interlocutors from a position of greater control.

For all I know, that is a great negotiating tactic for a business person. But I ask my Trump-supporter friends to consider whether being the U.S. president calls for a different skill set. National (and international) security now rests upon a network of allies, all of whom must be willing to share highly sensitive security information; economic health depends upon an even broader network of formal and informal agreements. Is it possible that “unpredictable and a little crazy” is a good tactic to set up a solo negotiation, but a disastrous tactic where so much depends upon you being a predictable and trustworthy partner?

 

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43 thoughts on “Trump’s style

    • Partly agreed. Certainly he enjoys the attention. And, more shrewdly I think, intends to use the turmoil to enhance his bargaining position — with Democrats internally and internationally with Europe in particular. The problem is, I still say, that pressuring Europe, e.g., to pick up a larger NATO tab by acting like a slightly mad bull in a china shop, and by using friendly overtures to Putin as further leverage in negotiations with Europe — this is a very dangerous game. At the very least, it will give allies pause when it comes to sharing sensitive intelligence with the USA. And per your specific comment, Steve, I’ve seen many world leaders suggest that they are uncomfortable with Trump and scarce few suggest that they have found solace in private conversations with Trump.

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  1. I’m sure that Trump derives enormous pleasure from the way Liberals go beserk every time he says something. People call him a narcissist, yet social media feeds are awash with Trump-related stories. Don’t people realize that they are giving him exactly what he wants? Trump has the last laugh.

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    • I think your point is consistent with my blog entry and my comments in the comment section. Yes, he likes the attention. Yes, he feels that he can use the turmoil to gain leverage. He certainly has the intermediate laugh. But dissenters must continue to point out his problems, even if he enjoys the attention. The other option — silence to avoid giving him his precious attention — has too high a cost. So Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders and others may still get the last laugh. We have to see how far Trump can get with his platform.

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  2. By the way, you know I didn’t want Trump to be President, right? Similarly, I didn’t vote for Brexit. But both things happened, and you have to deal with the world as you find it. In the UK, some people are still arguing that leaving the EU will be bad. The decision is already made. Likewise, Trump is President. He’s going to be Trumpish. That might be terrible, but you can’t change it. Other people already took that decision out of your hands.

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    • I had thought you were against Trump, but you had me worried for a minute 🙂 And I agree that I have to accept him as president. But of course I should still vocally question his policies, tactics, and judgment whenever I find them questionable. That privilege is still FULLY in my hands. And I thought I was quite conciliatory in my post. I conceded that he is sane and shrewd (a quite generous concession in today’s political climate) but merely questioned whether his style might play out badly in foreign affairs.

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      • You are a lot more realistic than many on the left, I think. A lot of them cling to the idea that Trump is insane, or is going to be impeached, or something. The more they try to convince each other, the more they believe it. Trump is surely laughing at them, and also at the people who wring their hands or go on marches. The only thing that will curtail Trump is legal challenges based on constitutional law, and real pressure from outside forces (other governments) with the ability to speak Trump’s language (action).

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        • If the marchers are protesting the election results, I agree with you completely. But if they are protesting his policies, there’s some hope in that. Just as it is foolish to complain that the Brits should have voted against Brexit but not at all foolish to argue publicly about how to manage Brexit now that it’s a fact, so for my countrymen, it’s foolish to say, “You shouldn’t have voted for Trump,” but not at all foolish to try to manage the Trump presidency now that he’s in. Public opinion and pressure still count for something. Trump is not a dictator in our constitutional system, though he might tweet his heart out against every dissenter or about how “ridiculous” it is that our judiciary can act independently of his wishes.

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            • I know what you mean. I do think our president’s power is limited by the judiciary, by other elected officials, and to some extent by public input. I still think the parties (even the Republican one) need to maintain at least a semblance of being responsive to public opinion to stay in power. But you are right. I may eat these words. (Better than eating a kidney pie, I suppose.)

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        • Steve,
          I read the 9th circuit’s recent opinion upholding the TRO on his immigration Executive Order. The remarkable thing to me, as a lawyer, is how poorly the government lawyers argued it. Perhaps they had no choice given the language of the order. I have read the Executive order and a smart law student could have written a better one. But the opinion is full of references by the court pointing out that the government presented no evidence, or no authority, for the positions it took. A 2nd year law student knows that is the sure way to lose. This is only a TRO so it may still get reversed but I agree with you that the courts—who Trump has routinely attacked—will have to be one of the bulwarks against stupid policies.

          The media will have an impact on some as well. Even our local newspaper now runs a section on Trump daily comments and whether they are true, mostly true, false or mostly false. This won’t change the minds of the die hard Trumpees, though some of my friends who voted for him are already saying they wish he would just shut up. But it may get more people in the street and effect the politicians.

          You don’t like marches, I get it. But they can also have an effect. (Think Vietnam. Think civil rights marches). I doubt it will effect Trump but it may effect the Republicans running for re-election many of whom just got an earful when they returned home to their districts recently. That is democracy in action and I remain puzzled over my more conservative friends dismissal of all such actions as “ridiculous.” I agree protesting the election result is fruitless. But keep the pressure up on his policies and it may effect the Republican block supporting him.

          I consider myself a Jack Kemp Republican. I only resigned from the Republican party when they refused to censor the former Klan leader David Duke when he ran for office (and was elected in Louisiana in the late 80s—tell you anything about our citizenry?) but I find Trump and his administration to be going in all the wrong directions domestically and internationally.

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  3. I disagree – he’s totally predictable. We expect him to say or do something unhinged and he never lets us down. Can’t see how that’s going to help us get along in the world. You’ll have to elaborate.

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    • Not sure what you mean. I thought my point was that his style is NOT going to help us get along in the world (?) … although I do think it’s hard to predict which unhinged angle he will take in his next encounter with foreign officials … or at least he tries to make it so (not that I think that helps us in any way).

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  4. Nope, I fear I think he’s crazy. And stupid. Profoundly stupid in fact. If Daddy hadn’t been rich, he’d have been a guy in a bar telling tall tales with everybody laughing at him. I also think he doesn’t have a set of beliefs at all – just going where he thinks his fans want him to, and being a mouthpiece for the hideous people he’s surrounded himself with. Which worries me most of all, since they seem largely to be a bunch of gun-totin’, white supremacist nutters. And misogynists. Can you tell I don’t like him much? And yes, everyone should keep screaming about every rotten, racist, stupid word that comes out of his mouth, till he’s impeached and gone…

    And, in the meantime, I and millions like me around the world will be screaming at our own leaders to share nothing with America till he’s gone, though no doubt they’ll ignore us. We didn’t shout loud enough when Hitler came to power – let’s not make the same mistake again. It’s not a far step from Guantanamo to concentration camps for Muslims… already he’s talking about creating a register. The winning side in America seems to have lost sight of the values we used to share.

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    • I share your distaste for Trump but I don’t think he’s crazy (as in clinically insane) and I am open to dialogue with Trump voters. I think they made a mistake, but I think that permanently shutting off half the country from dialogue will make matters worse. Now I’d better shut up and get out of the way, because you sound like you’re ready to slap someone 🙂

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    • Don’t want to upset the apple cart here, but I agree with Fiction Fan. I do not see him as being intelligent or having a plan. He is in way over his head, and I do believe he has some sort of mental issue.
      He really can’t even carry on an intelligible conversation. That really shows how uneducated he is. He s the wrong person for this position. He does not have the temperament or finesse. He is lacking in so many areas, and if that is part of some crazy strategy he has, it is going to backfire. It is dangerous.
      Even George Will had a column about abilities, and in essence, his mental state,

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  5. I have to wonder that if sowing confusion, enmity and chaos is an effective negotiating tactic, then why is he the only entrepreneur I’ve ever heard of who uses it? There are plenty of psychopathic people at the top of business, yet to my knowledge (and I’ve known one or two), none use such tactics. ‘Crazy’ doesn’t seem a helpful term in any case, although admittedly ‘psychopathic’ perhaps isn’t either. I think we probably meet on ground in agreeing that focusing upon Trump’s pathology may not be the best way of dealing with the situation, as whilst we’re all busy doing that, and poking fun at him, and being entertained by him and his cohorts, and virtue signalling by showing our disdain, then the disastrous agenda is being pushed through at great speed. Better to get organised and ready to rebel against pernicious new legislation.

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    • I’ve dealt with a lot of CEOs and a very few pursue a management style that is purposely chaotic. My observation is it is normally done to cause internecine fighting so no one can challenge the CEO. It comes from a deep sense of insecurity and lack of confidence.

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  6. It is generally agreed that Kissinger often presented Nixon to the Russians as crazy but in a predictable way. This makes possible sense but only if the crazy is “rational”– meaning crazy but predictable. If the other side has no way of knowing what will set you off, what you will do, then you are crazy in an irrational way. I know our language gets tangled here. But complete unpredictability about everything is the “bad” crazy. So far Trump and amateur hour at the White House has been the bad irrational kind of crazy.

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    • Let me disagree (not to support Trump, but in the abstract). It could be possible that if others perceive you as a little bit crazy and somewhat unpredictable, they may hesitate and proceed with less confidence. i had heard, for example, that having an impetuous temperament (“Who knows what this guy will do?”), or pretending to have one, served Napoleon well in some of his dealings with European leaders. I don’t know if that’s true or not in Napoleon’s case, but it seems credible that it might work in some cases. Of course, Napoleon wasn’t dealing with allies. This is where the cost of Trump’s gambit seems most visible.

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      • But there has to be some rational ability for others to interpret the crazy. For example, if Kissinger told the Russians “Don’t do that Nixon is so crazy he might use nuclear weapons in response,” that’s a strategic crazy that the other side can understand and act accordingly. If Kissinger had said “Good luck, Nixon is so fucking crazy no-one knows what will set him off and cause him to use nuclear weapons,” that’s not a crazy that can be dealt with. To follow that idea out, both sides in the cold war understood (rationality) that the use of nuclear weapons would result in significant destruction and death on both sides ( so called MADD theory—Mutual Assured Destruction). So no matter how crazy the Russians portrayed the Americans or vice versa, there was still rationality in the relationship as it related to nuclear weapons. But if you are just plain nuts it is difficult to see how adversaries or allies know what to do with you and it may precipitate actions (miscalculations) by them that they would not otherwise take.

        To be clear I don’t think Trump is nuts. I do think he has shown a massive insecurity complex which is deeply pathological. He is a 70 year old man who has never gotten past taunts by school yard bullies. This pathology may actually be easier for America’s adversaries to manipulate. If I was Putin I would always say how smart, handsome, big handed etc. Trump was—while I then took steps to do exactly what I wanted to do at America’s expense.

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        • We actually agree. Trump has a deeply flawed personality but I don’t think anyone looking dispassionately would say that Trump is COMPLETELY unpredictable (i.e., insane). Liberals who believe that are as deluded as conservatives who believe Obama was secretly in league with terrorists. On the other hand, he is somewhat unpredictable, and that, I believe, is by design. It may be a bad design, but it doesn’t indicate insanity. Certainly, Trump, both for his personal insecurities and for his ignorance of world politics, will be as easily manipulated by Putin and others as he would be by Nick Saban if he were LSU’s football coach. All the bravado would not get him past Saban, and I don’t know why Trump voters think it would get him past Putin. My Iranian friend here in Germany surprised me by saying many Iranians are glad Trump won, even after the ban. Why? Because they figured he would have far less credibility with world leaders and thus would be far less capable of putting together coalitions to bust Iran’s balls. I could not argue with that logic.

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