Staking Out The Far Edge

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.

angry-tweeterPeople 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,

w.

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.

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29 thoughts on “Staking Out The Far Edge

  1. It’s amazing how much mature wisdom resembles being too tired.

    Robert A. Heinlein

    It’s amazing how much Twitter conversations resemble group therapy for Turette’s sufferers.

    It’s amazing how much staking out the far edge resembles blurting out whatever is on your mind.

    I’m one of those who wishes someone would take away Trump’s Twitter account, and it looks like I may get my wish when Twitter implodes. I think Twitter trivializes any conversation it undertakes and people risk trivializing themselves by using it. There are very few people who can manage to say something profound in 140 characters; for the rest Twitter’s ease of use foretells a corresponding lack of careful thought.

    Like you I voted for Trump — with little enthusiasm and resigned to facing a Clinton administration. Since the election I think both his supporters and detractors are assuming he will accomplish far more that is reasonably possible. It is a very big swamp and as the old saying goes: when you’re up to your ass in alligators it is easy to forget your original goal was to drain the swamp. All presidents get distracted by the alligators.

    However leadership works by setting a tone at the top which is then copied down the ranks, so you might be right about the Trump that doesn’t appear in Tweets. He has certainly picked a strong team that will require quality leadership. The real test begins in 25 days. Until then the news is going to be about what the departing administration is doing to hogtie the incoming one.

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    • I don’t see twitter lasting too much longer in its current iteration, rats have already starting scurrying away while they can still get some money out of it. This being the Electronic and Information Age, and DJT being fully aware of this and its wider implications, I see him doing repeated end runs and wide flanking movements around the entrenched media/news establishment. The man sees far beyond what his opponents are looking at.

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    • I understand your evulsion to Trump’s twitters, but I think you may misunderstand them. They are NOT intended to say anything profound. They are NOT intended to provide uplift or inspiration. They are intended to negotiate.

      Negotiation is often neither pleasant nor easy — especially with others who are aggressive and have no interest in your well-being. Americans are taught to “be nice” and to be “civil.” So many are repulsed by Donald’s direct and aggressive style.

      Unfortunately, people who are repulsed don’t understand or appreciate that a direct, aggressive style can be very successful in negotiating with others who do not have our best interests at heart, who do not wish us well. You can effectively negotiate with bullies (e.g., Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Radical Islamists) by smacking them in the face verbally. It may not be the only way, but it is more often than not an effective way.

      To those of us who were taught to play nice and that being friends with everyone is the right way to behave (I include myself in that group) can have a hard time accepting someone like Donald as our President because he represents much of what we were taught not to be.

      But, Donald is our negotiator. We may recoil at his style, but we have to focus on the results he achieves. So far, so good. I don’t “like” his style, either. But, I’ve come to believe it can work.

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      • I think his direct and aggressive style may also be from growing up in NY. I grew up in Brooklyn and my husband is from Northern Minnesota. He always tells me I am too direct and aggressive and need to soften my approach. Perhaps it’s regional.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I was born in Brooklyn and grew up in the NYC area, so I am very familiar with “typical” New Yorkers being more aggressive than most other Americans… who think we’re rude and obnoxious.

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    • King Leonidas of the Spartans conducted diplomacy within twitter like limits on verbiage. When the Persians offered to spare the lives of the little band of Spartans if they threw down their arms, Leonidas simply replied, “come and take them.”

      T Gannett

      Like

  2. Trump is going to continue to communicate directly to the American people, bypassing the liarsin news media is BRILLIANT. As for Barri hogtying the incoming admin, all of it can be pitched come January 23.

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  3. afaik
    We all stake out the far edge.
    You walk into a car dealership and when the sales person asks, “May I help you?” you say “No thank you…I’m just looking.”
    You have staked your position as ‘needing nothing but maybe curious’.
    Which you might consider a good starting point for negotiations.
    What you don’t say is that you have $60,000 to spend on a car and ask if he has something that’s worth the $60Gs.
    Nor do you tell him that you absolutely must have a car today no matter what the cost.
    Which of course, is our government’s current bargaining method when dealing with NGOs and foreign governments.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Well if Twitter does implode, he’ll go to Instagram.
    Hell, he could put Melania in a nude-color bikini wearing a sandwich board with his Instagram message and the whole internet would implode.

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  5. Alan Watt Climate Denialist, Level 7 December 26, 2016 at 5:56 am

    It’s amazing how much mature wisdom resembles being too tired.

    Robert A. Heinlein

    Funny. I have no problem differentiating the two. I make very bad decisions when I’m too tired, which is not generally the outcome when I apply what passes for my own mature wisdom.

    I’m a great fan of Heinlein in general, but I can’t agree at all with that one.

    It’s amazing how much Twitter conversations resemble group therapy for Turette’s sufferers.

    You misunderstand the dynamic at play. Trump is not using twitter for “conversations”. He uses it as a public-address system.

    It’s amazing how much staking out the far edge resembles blurting out whatever is on your mind.

    Again, I have no problem at all telling them apart. It appears you may not have done much serious negotiation. If you just “blurt out whatever is on your mind” in a negotiation you’re gonna get creamed. If you stake out the far edge, you get to control the conversation.

    I’m one of those who wishes someone would take away Trump’s Twitter account, and it looks like I may get my wish when Twitter implodes.

    Although anything is possible, Twitter imploding seems doubtful. And I am very impressed with what Trump has done with Twitter. He has seen possibilities in the medium that no other politician has seen, even those who use Twitter.

    I also strongly oppose any proposal to “ take away Trump’s Twitter account” for other reasons. First, because that would put him at the mercy of the mainstream media. Of the 50 biggest big-city newspapers, for example, forty-nine of them supported Clinton. And CNN, now known as the “Clinton News Network”, passed debate questions to Hillary … so no, I much prefer that Trump is not dependent on them.

    Second, being President is in part a job of leading the whole country, of nudging and cajoling, and pointing out the desired direction. Roosevelt did it with his Fireside Chats. The DOTUS does it with Twitter.

    Third, it means that his words can’t be framed or misquoted or partially quoted or placed in an unfavorable context by the media.

    Fourth, it gives him total control over the timing and he can respond without waiting for the normal news cycle.

    I like it that Obama had a Twitter account just as much as I like it that Trump has one, and for all the same reasons. It is a way for the President to talk to everyone. Trump, however, has made full use of his Twitter account.

    I think Twitter trivializes any conversation it undertakes and people risk trivializing themselves by using it.

    You may indeed be right that Twitter trivializes conversations … but again, you totally mischaracterize what Trump is doing. He is not holding any kind of a conversation that might be “trivialized” or not. He’s not conversing at all. When’s the last time someone responded to a Donald tweet and they struck up a Twitter conversation?

    Instead, he’s using his Twitter account to make announcements that improve his negotiating position. Look at what he did with his tweets about the UN Resolution. He kept his campaign promise to his supporters and to Israel, laid out his position on both Israel and the UN, and messed up and highlighted Obama’s nefarious plans for all the world to see, all in 140 characters …

    There are very few people who can manage to say something profound in 140 characters; for the rest Twitter’s ease of use foretells a corresponding lack of careful thought.

    Again, you think he’s doing something he’s not even trying to do. He is not trying to be profound. Trump’s not a philosopher, he’s a negotiator. He uses Twitter to announce his position on subjects, and to convince people to follow his lead, and often in the process he is staking out the far edge. He’s not trying to settle an argument or have a debate. He uses it as a PA system to let us know where he stands and to invite the US public to move in that direction, not as a tool for deep profound understanding.

    Like you I voted for Trump — with little enthusiasm and resigned to facing a Clinton administration. Since the election I think both his supporters and detractors are assuming he will accomplish far more that is reasonably possible. It is a very big swamp and as the old saying goes: when you’re up to your ass in alligators it is easy to forget your original goal was to drain the swamp. All presidents get distracted by the alligators.

    All of that is indeed true. And despite that I still have lots of hope. It’s how I’m built. And bizarrely, I suspect that Trump’s avowed purpose of making America great again, whatever that might mean to any given individual, will tend to encourage bureaucrats to either lead, follow, or get out of the way. At bottom, people mostly want the US to be great again. Oh, it will still be up to your okole in alligators, but I have gormless baseless hope, I can’t help it.

    However leadership works by setting a tone at the top which is then copied down the ranks, so you might be right about the Trump that doesn’t appear in Tweets. He has certainly picked a strong team that will require quality leadership. The real test begins in 25 days. Until then the news is going to be about what the departing administration is doing to hogtie the incoming one.

    It is his team that gives me confidence. The idea that we’ll have Rex “T. Rex” Tillerson at State and General “Mad Dog” Mattis” the warrior monk at Defense is great news. Neither of those guys will be baffled by bullshit or balked by bureaucrats for too long … and the same is true of the rest of the team.

    Finally, I’ve never seen the Donald as some impulsive shoot-from-the-hip guy with nothing but his mouth. What people don’t seem to understand is that guys who are nothing but impulsive say-anything big mouths don’t bring in the Wollman Skating Rink on time, under budget, and at his own risk after New York City had thrown in the towel.

    I’ve said from the time Trump announced, long before I decided to vote for him, that people were mis-underestimating the man. Let me suggest that you might profitably look at his tweets in the context of negotiating moves rather than as Tourette’s outbursts, and consider what they have accomplished before you dismiss them.

    Thanks as always for your thoughts,

    w.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Twatter is twirling round the toilet bowl as I type. Will it be bought/acquired by some other bunch of leftist c*nts? Of course. Will it retain its “glory” hole fame? No. Society and societal trends move forward, twatter is done.

      Like

    • Willis, I have two sons in the US Army. You don’t know how happy I am that Mad Dog Mattis will clean out the malpracticers that don’t want to KNOW history, that want to learn on the job, on the blood of our children, instead of knowing each and every battlefield’s history.

      Like

  6. Pingback: Staking Out The Far Edge | Skating on the underside of the ice | Cranky Old Crow

  7. You, Willis, use the term “negotiation” while Scott Adams uses the term “persuasion” in his posts about the Donald. Above, ‘karmy’ mentions growing up in Brooklyn. Good point, that.
    I will add the term “literal’ to this group. The so called “fact checkers” appear to get hung up in chasing Trump’s statements because they look for the simple fact that isn’t there and miss the more complicated sense of his meaning. If and when they figure out they have gone the wrong direction, he has moved on.

    I think you have said — This is interesting.

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  8. Greetings,

    It’s ironic that I ultimately end up here, via a link on twitter. Several days ago, I followed a link to a guest article over at “Watts Up With That” and then over to here. I’ve since followed both sites. I’ve had a twitter account for years and only, really started using it this past year, or rather, near the beginning of the primaries to be more precise. I agree with Willis about how Trump is using the system for “announcements” and NOT conversation. Well, actually I agree with just about everything I’ve read so far, both here and over at WUWT. Anyways, if twitter should fall on tough times, I think it would be a great opportunity if some conservative and or organization bought them out, so then, WE could filter out the “Leftist” “Fake News” as is the oppositions intent to do to us.

    And lastly, as to this quote by Willis:
    And CNN, now known as the “Clinton News Network”
    I have been calling them the
    “Communist News Network” for the better part of the last decade or more. I realize there is not much distinction, and so, will acquiesce. Thanks for the great articles! Looking forward to many more.

    Like

  9. It was funny indeed to hear the talking heads worry themselves silly over The Trump’s ‘nuclear’ tweet. It seemed perfectly unobjectionable to me, stating an obvious and necessary goal.

    I must admit I’ve never thought of his tweets as staking out negotiating positions, rather than just impatiently cutting through the bafflegab that clouds everything in politics and statecraft. Sometimes they were refreshing, sometimes perplexing, and sometimes funny, and sometimes embarrassing. There is an element of impetuosity to his tweeting that I think he will have to watch.

    Toward the end of the campaign, it appeared to me that Kellyanne Conway or someone took away The Trump’s cell phone and curtailed his tweeting, as I suggested here:

    https://walkingcreekworld.wordpress.com/2016/11/09/kellyanne-and-the-wicked-witch-of-the-west/

    It may be that he was just too busy flying to three or four whistlestop appearances a day to spend time on Twitter, but it did improve his ‘Presidential’ aspect. There’s a line around the Presidency that demands a certain seriousness, and Donald’s fondness for reacting to every perceived slight can easily cross it. It is somewhat reassuring that Kellyanne is going to stay in the White House. He would be wise to let her see his tweets before committing them to the aether.

    /Mr Lynn

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  10. My favorite example of goin to the edge was supposedly used by the Smothers Brothers to sell something else they wanted to use on their show. They made a presentation, as if on stage, to the network as follows:

    Dick: Tommy, today is Easter

    Tommy: I know

    D: Do you know what Easter means?

    T: Yes

    D: No you don’t.

    T: Yes I do.

    D: Okay, tell me.

    T: Its when Jesus rose from the tomb…

    D: Very good Tommy, I did not…

    T: …and if he saw his shadow, we got six more weeks of winter.

    This did not fly but they got whatever it was they really wanted to do.

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  11. You’ve hit the nail on the head about why our diplomats (and the Republican party) are so ineffectual in negotiations. “Never start with your best and final”. Others understand that you start from an unreasonable position to set the terms of the negotiation in their favor and if the other side is stupid they’ll psychologically assume a middle ground is between their position and yours.

    Notice how Trump’s “we’ll build a wall and Mexico is going to pay for it” freaks out the politicians. Of course he’s probably not going to get them to do that, but he’s staked out an extreme position and can now “be reasonable” and talk them into paying something or use that for leverage in trade deals.

    Of course politicians and diplomats have no monetary or personal skin in the game so all they care about is reaching a deal that they can proclaim. To hell with the effects knock-on or otherwise.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Pingback: Diplomacy in the Time of Tweets | Skating on the underside of the ice

  13. I like Simon Sinek.

    “Leadership requires two things: a vision of the world that does not yet exist and the ability to communicate it.”
    ― Simon Sinek, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

    “If our leaders are to enjoy the trappings of their position in the hierarchy, then we expect them to offer us protection. The problem is, for many of the overpaid leaders, we know that they took the money and perks and didn’t offer protection to their people. In some cases, they even sacrificed their people to protect or boost their own interests. This is what so viscerally offends us. We only accuse them of greed and excess when we feel they have violated the very definition of what it means to be a leader.”

    ― Simon Sinek, Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t

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  14. Regarding the 140 character text length and its possible limiting of the effectiveness of any discussion, there is a saying attributed to a First Nations person:

    “It only takes a few words to tell the truth.”

    That used less than 1/3 of the available space. Communicating lies requires a broadsheet. Don’t worry about the bulk. Much can be seen through the eye of a needle if you are facing the right way.

    Like

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