The Art of the Stall
One negotiation theory holds that your opponent will give in if you’re unpredictable, maybe really unhinged. Take North Korea, for example. Kim Jung-Un gets people thinking that he’s a rabid dog who’s broken into his master’s cocaine stash. He may say he’d drop a nuclear bomb on the US even though he knows that we’d turn the Hermit Kingdom into a radioactive sinkhole. That’s why he hasn’t done it and probably never will. The Crazy Card works only when the other guy believes it, doesn’t know when it will happen and has a lot more to lose. Still, the lunatic might extort some lagniappe, like reduced sanctions because, well, you never know.
A career spent playing the Crazy Card against banks, bankruptcy trustees and trade creditors may convince a person – maybe a real estate developer-that outrageous behavior and the threat of self-destruction will always scare his enemies into submission. When it comes to government work, though, that particular ploy isn’t transferable. It’s no longer a game of one-on-one. It’s one maniac invested with power threatening to unleash his demons against a roomful of powerful and, perhaps, less crazy people.
The other drawback with the Mad Dog act is that it is usually good for one roll of the dice. Once you show that you’re not really so bonkers, it’s tough to draw the same rubes in for a second round. Say he’s screwed every major bank in the country, they’re not likely to jump into any more of his deals. It’s about that time that he would call Moscow or Cyprus banks for some of their cash, to put into American real estate, a nice way to clean up a hamper full of dirty money.
Playing crazy doesn’t work so well when your opposite number is the rest of the developed world. If he goes to the countries of the Paris climate accord and threatens to pull out, those other countries don’t feel any pressure to cave. He’ll only hurt himself while the rest of the world watches. It’s especially transparent when the ink on the resignation won’t be dry for a while. No genuine threat, no imminent peril. Those other countries will Ignore him.
The future ex-President promised to withdraw from the Paris climate accord because he thought it was one-sided. He went ahead and did it but no other signers gave him so much as a shudder. Lately, getting no traction, the White House leaked that maybe it won’t withdraw or that it would reëngage if it could get better terms. It took two 500-year storms to convince him that he was playing a losing hand. At some point, the Mad Dog will be thrown a bone, face-saving only, then he’ll get back in his kennel.
He’s trying a similar tactic with DACA, with a six-month sunset provision, to give Congress time to fix it before he blows up nearly a million Americans. Within days he undercut his own declaration, because he realized from the backlash that he couldn’t carry out his plan. And to put a cherry on it, he bypassed his own party and made a deal with the Democrats.
The Wall is another exercise in the Art of the Stall. His first outrageous declaration – that he’d build a border wall and get Mexico to pay for it. There ‘s still no wall. Mexico refuses to pay for it. He didn’t even get Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, his new BFFs, to kick in. About now, he’s deployed a group of five contractors to the southern border with some sheets of aluminum siding, a roll of chicken wire and some paint chips while he looks for a bank to finance it.