Saturday, February 11, 2017

Trump comes to his senses, and by doing so, undercuts his greatest strength as President

Last August, I did a series called "Political science and craziness," about what would happen if someone like Trump were president, leaning heavily on the work of, who else?  Thomas Schelling.  One of the critical points I made throughout that series is that Trump actually had one real advantage over other types of political figures:  the ability to make a threat credible when it wouldn't otherwise have been.

Like the Hungarians and Keyser Soze, it's all about having the will to do the thing nobody else will do.  Trump's advantage in the international arena is being perceived as, well, being willing to do stuff nobody else will do.  A threat that sounds implausible coming from Merkel might sound more plausible coming from Trump because, well, he's fucking nuts.  See the "Political science and craziness" series.  That's an advantage.  It could allow Trump to extract concessions that no one else could extract, as long as he is smart enough to recognize the difference between what can and cannot be extracted, and that was the rub.  (Probably the wrong word to use when discussing Trump).  That was also what got the Hungarians killed by Keyser Soze.

One of Trump's first actions after the election was to take Taiwan's side against China.  China didn't like that.  Trump has now backed away from that.  Why?  Well, he recognized it wouldn't get him anywhere, and he wasn't willing to fight the fight.  It was a stupid fight to pick in the first place, strategically.  Morally?  Fuck the Chinese government.  Strategically, though?  That was never going to work.  A strange, last-minute display of non-stupidity.

Yet, it means he has now backed down, and here's the thing about backing down.  Once you do it, visibly, it makes your threats less credible.  It undercuts Trump's only personal advantage as President.  He's a moron.  Nobody trusts him, which is the natural consequence of being a pathological liar.  The credibility of his threats is all he has, and he just threw a bunch of that away immediately.  "Bigly."

How does he get it back?  Follow through on another threat.  "Bigly."  Soon.

I'm kind of curious what he'll do, but he has to know he needs to carry out a threat.

Links to "Political Science and Craziness"

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V


  1. Been thinking about this one a lot.

    Mostly in the context of NOT working on the book on the same topic (but without him as a case study).

    Debating whether I include him in the epilogue, write a separate paper, or just be ready to fire off something fast to Forum if/when he does issue a veto threat.

    Mostly trying to ignore him and work on book, but failing miserably at that.

    1. I think he'll wind up a special case. Then again, he technically hasn't threatened vetoes.