The news about the Donald continues to amaze. It’s better than reading the Sunday funnies every day of the week. Yesterday the Obama Administration reminded Trump that there is only one President at a time. Unfortunately or fortunately, that President appears to be Trump, mostly because of his use of Twitter.
People keep saying that they hope he becomes more “Presidential” about tweeting. The talking heads keep hoping that he’ll stop tweeting so much once he’s sworn in. Commentators keep claiming that you can’t conduct diplomacy in 140 characters. None of them seem to have a clue about what Trump is doing with twitter.
As a man who has negotiated million-dollar deals in my life, it is clear to me that one thing Trump is using twitter to do is something that I call “staking out the far edge” of a negotiation. To me that means defining the very outside edge of what I see as being possible.
I often combine staking out the far edge with a rule of thumb of mine, one that forgot when I wrote about my Rules of Thumb For Life. This rule states that:
The first person to put a piece of paper on the table wins the negotiation.
This is because that first paper becomes the subject of the discussion, and unless the opposition is very clever, every succeeding point will be a change in or a comment on or a departure from the subject of the discussion … your paper.
Let me explain what I mean by the technique of staking out the far edge, and clarify how and why I use it. I have written extensively about climate science, over five hundred posts on Watts Up With That. As with any writing, I have a choice of positions that I can take regarding a given subject.
I can take, for example, a position that represents a more middle of the road view of a scientific subject. Or I can take a position that is so restrictive that I only claim a few things which are manifestly and unassailably true without question.
Or I can take a position that is as far as I can defend in the direction think the truth lies. Taking up the most extreme position in the direction of the truth that I think I can honestly and scientifically defend is what I call “staking out the far edge” of a discussion.
In my view there are several advantages to staking out the far edge of a discussion. First, the discussion centers around that far edge position. Second, it emboldens other people to take positions inside of mine. They can point to my position as evidence that they’re not extremist. Third, I’m happy to move the discussion in my direction. So even if people only move a little bit towards my far edge position … they’re still moving in my direction.
Trump is doing the same thing with many of his tweets. He is staking out the far edge of a subject. For example, he recently tweeted:
@realDonaldTrump The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes
The NY Times immediately put out a column entitled Trump’s Nuclear Weapons Tweet, Translated and Explained. In that column they dissect and discuss every separate term he used—”nuclear capability”, “strengthen”, “expand”, “comes to its senses”, and all the rest. For every term they gave several possible meanings … do you see now why the first paper wins the negotiation? It becomes the subject of the discussion, just as in this case.
What the Time columnist didn’t notice was that Trump is NOT defining a new diplomatic nuclear initiative. He is NOT giving us his final view. Instead, he is using Twitter as a negotiating tool by staking out the far edge, saying we’re going to “strengthen and expand” our nuclear capability. As the Times points out this is clearly a position that is quite different from and more extreme than our current nuclear stance.
And here is the important point—with Trump having staked out his position at the far edge, any position that is less extreme than that position, including his own possible future position, is now automatically a moderate position.
That’s the beauty of staking out the far side of a discussion or a negotiation. You can end up at the most defensible position and be seen as taking a middle view … where if you took up that position to begin with, it would have been seen as extreme.
Anyhow, that’s a negotiator’s view of the tweets of the Negotiator-In-Chief .. and whether there is only one of them at any time, we know there’s only one of them at this time.
As to the tweeting of the Donald, there’s little chance that his style will become more “Presidential”. He used that style to defeat 16 Republican candidates for the nomination and to defeat Hillary Clinton. Yes, his tone may change, the Presidency has changed the tone of every man I’ve seen take on the job.
But the tweet is far too useful to Trump to ever give up. It is his direct connection to the American people, one which cannot be changed, misquoted, or slanted by the media whether favorably or unfavorably. In addition, he employs it as a most potent negotiating tool, using it to good advantage in a number of ways including staking out the far side of a discussion. So I expect little change in his use of Twitter.
Here, it is two-thirty AM on a clear and cold night, with Orion at his highest elevation and Sirius the Dog Star coruscating along in his trail …
My regards to everyone,
Please QUOTE THE EXACT WORDS YOU ARE DISCUSSING IN YOUR COMMENT, so that we can all be clear what you are referring to. I can defend my own words. I can’t defend your interpretation of my own words.