(I have long been a follower of Bob Tyrell, (R Emmett Tyrell, Jr) founder and editor of American Spectator. His coach at Indiana U recruited my son to swim for IU (went to Miami U instead) but Doc Counsilman and I spent a wonderful evening talking about “that” swim team with Mark Spitz, and Bobby Knight, who I knew because my best friend played for him at West Point. (Hello, Jocko.)
(Besides, anything Nassim Nicholas Taleb recommends I read, and anything I recommend alongside Taleb, gets passed on. Enjoy)
It really is quite simple. Everyone is smart except Donald J. Trump. That’s why they all are billionaires and all got elected President. Only Trump does not know what he is doing. Only Trump does not know how to negotiate with Vladimir Putin. Anderson Cooper knows how to stand up to Putin. The whole crowd at MSNBC does. All the journalists do.
They could not stand up to Matt Lauer at NBC. They could not stand up to Charlie Rose at CBS. They could not stand up to Mark Halperin at NBC. Nor up to Leon Wieseltier at the New Republic, nor Jann Wenner at Rolling Stone, nor Michael Oreskes at NPR, at the New York Times, or at the Associated Press. But — oh, wow! — can they ever stand up to Putin! Only Trump is incapable of negotiating with the Russian tyrant.
Remember the four years when Anderson Cooper was President of the United States? And before that — when the entire Washington Post editorial staff jointly were elected to be President? Remember? Neither do I.
The Seedier Media never have negotiated life and death, not corporate life and death, and not human life and death. They think they know how to negotiate, but they do not know how. They go to a college, are told by peers that they are smart, get some good grades, proceed to a graduate degree in journalism, and get hired as analysts. Now they are expert, ready to take on Putin and the Iranian Ayatollahs at age 30.
That is not the road to expertise in tough dealing. The alternate road is that, along the way, maybe you get forced into some street fights. Sometimes the other guy wins, and sometimes you beat the intestines out of him. Then you deal with grown-ups as you mature, and you learn that people can be nasty, often after they smile and speak softly. You get cheated a few times, played. And you learn. Maybe you become an attorney litigating multi-million-dollar case matters. Say what you will about attorneys, but those years — not the years in law school, not the years drafting legal memoranda, but the years of meeting face-to-face and confronting opposing counsel — those years can teach a great deal. They can teach how to transition from sweet, gentle, diplomatic negotiating to tough negotiating. At some point, with enough tough-nosed experience, you figure out Trump’s “The Art of the Deal” yourself.
Trump’s voters get him because not only is he we, but we are he. We were not snowflaked-for-life by effete professors who themselves never had negotiated tough life-or-death serious deals. Instead we live in the real world, and we know how that works. Not based on social science theories, not based on “conceptual negotiating models.” But based on the people we have met over life and always will hate. That worst boss we ever had. The coworker who tried to sabotage us. We know the sons of bums whom we survived, the dastardly types who are out there, and we learned from those experiences how to deal with them. We won’t have John Kerry soothe us by having James Taylor sing “You’ve Got a Friend” carols.
The Bushes got us into all kinds of messes. The first one killed the economic miracle that Reagan had fashioned. The second one screwed up the Middle East, where Iraq and Iran beautifully were engaged in killing each other for years, and he got us mired into the middle of the muddle. Clinton was too busy with Monica Lewinsky to protect us from Osama bin Laden when we had him in our sights. Hillary gave us Benghazi and more. And Obama and Kerry gave us the Iran Deal, ISIS run amok, America in retreat. All to the daily praise of a media who now attack Trump every minute of every day.
So let us understand a few things:
Negotiating with NATO:
NATO is our friend. They also rip off America. They have been ripping us off forever. We saved their butts — before there even was a NATO — in World War I. They messed up, and 116,456 Americans had to die to save their butts. Then they messed up again for the next two decades because West Europeans are effete and so obsessed with their class manners and their rules of savoir faire and their socialist welfare states and their early retirements that they did not have the character to stand up to Hitler in the 1930s. Peace in our time. So they messed up, and we had to save their butts again. And another 405,399 Americans died for them during World War II. And then we had to rebuild them! And we had to station our boys in Germany and all over their blood-stained continent. So, hey, we love those guys. We love NATO.
And yet they still rip us off. We pay 4% of our gigantic gross domestic product to protect them, and they will not pay a lousy 2% of their GDP towards their own defense. Is there a culture more penny-pinching-cheap-and-stingy than the fine constituents of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization? These cheap baseborn prigs will not pay their fare. They are too cheap. They expect America to send boys to die for them in one world war, then another — hundreds of thousands — and then to pay for their NATO defense even a century later.
And then they have the temerity to cheat us further in trade. Long before Trump, they set up tariffs against us for so many things. If the average American knew how badly Europe has been ripping us off for decades with their tariffs, no one in this country would buy anything European again. We would say, as a matter of self-respect and personal pride, “I no longer will buy anything but American, no matter what it costs.”
Every American President has complained about the cheating and imbalance — the NATO penny-pinching-cheapness, the tariff and trade imbalances. In more recent years, the various Bushes complained about it. Even Obama complained about it. But they all did it so gently, so diplomatically. They would deliver the sermon, just as the pastor predictably tells the church-goers on Sunday morning that he is against sin, and the Europeans would sit quietly and nod their heads — nodding from sleeping, not from agreeing — and then they would go back out and sin some more. Another four years of America being suckered and snookered. All they had to do was give Obama a Nobel Peace Prize his ninth month in office and let Kerry ride his bike around Paris.
So Trump did what any effective negotiator would do: he took note of past approaches to NATO and their failures, and correctly determined that the only way to get these penny-pinching-cheap baseborn prigs to pay their freight would be to bulldoze right into their faces, stare them right in their glazed eyes with cameras rolling, and tell them point-blank the equivalent of: “You are the cheapest penny-pinching, miserly, stingy, tightwadded skinflints ever. And it is going to stop on my watch. Whatever it takes from my end, you selfish, curmudgeonly cheap prigs, you are going to pay your fair share. I am not being diplomatic. I am being All-Business: either you start to pay or, wow, are you in for some surprises! And you know what you read in the Fake News: I am crazy! I am out of control! So, lemme see. I know: We will go to trade war! How do you like that? Maybe we even will pull all our troops out of Europe. Hmmm. Yeah, maybe. Why not? Sounds good. Well, let’s see.”
So Trump stuffed it into their quiche-and-schnitzel ingesting faces. And he convinced them — thanks to America’s Seedier Media who are the real secret to the “Legend That is Trump” — that he just might be crazy enough to go to trade war and to pull American boys home. They knew that Clinton and Bush x 2 and Kerry and Hillary and Nobel Laureate Obama never would do it. But they also know that Trump just might. And if they think they are going to find comfort and moderating in his new advisers, John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, alongside him….
So CNN and the Washington Post and all the Seedier Media attacked Trump for days: He is destroying the alliance! He attacks our friends!
Baloney. Obama was the one whom the Left Echo Chamber… Chamber… Chamber never called out for attacking our friends — Israel, Britain, so many others — while cozying up to Hugo Chavez, bowing to dictators, and dancing the tango for Raul Castro. Trump is just the opposite:He knows who the friends are, and he wants to maintain and strengthen those friendships. It is no different from a parent telling a 35-year-old son: “I have been supporting you for thirty-five years. I put you through college by signing four years and $100,000 in PLUS Loans. You graduated college fifteen years ago. For fifteen years I have been asking you nicely to look for a job and to start contributing. Instead, you sit home all day playing video games, texting your friends on a smartphone I pay for, and picking little fuzz balls out of your navel. So, look, I love you. You are my flesh and blood. But if you are not employed and earning a paycheck — and contributing to the cost of this household — in six months, we are throwing you out of the house.” That boy is NATO. Trump is Dad. And all of us have been signing for the PLUS Loans.
Negotiating with Putin
Putin is a bad guy. A really bad guy. He is better than Lenin. Better than Stalin, Khrushchev, Kosygin, Brezhnev, Pol Pot, Mao. But he is a really bad guy.
Here’s the thing: Putin is a dictator. He answers to no one. He does whatever he wants. If there arises an opponent, that guy dies. Maybe the opponent gets poked with a poisoned umbrella. Maybe he gets shot on the street. Maybe the opponent is forced to watch Susan Rice interviews telling the world that Benghazi happened because of a YouTube video seen by nine derelicts in Berkeley and that Bowe Berghdal served with honor and distinction. But, one way or another, the opponent dies.
Trump knows this about Putin. And here is what that means:
If you insult Putin in public, like by telling the newsmedia just before or after meeting with him that he is the Butcher of Crimea, and he messed with our elections, and is an overall jerk — then you will get nothing behind closed doors from Putin. Putin will decide “To heck with you, and to heck with the relationship we just forged.” Putin will get even, will take intense personal revenge, even if it is bad for Russia — even if it is bad for Putin. Because there are no institutional reins on him.
But if you go in public and tell everyone that Putin is a nice guy (y’know, just like Kim Jong Un) and that Putin intensely maintains that he did not mess with elections — not sweet little Putey Wutey (even though he obviously did) — then you next can maintain the momentum established beforehand in the private room. You can proceed to remind Putin what you told him privately: that this garbage has to stop — or else. That if he messes in Syria, we will do “X.” If he messes with our Iran boycott, we will do “Y.” We will generate so much oil from hydraulic fracturing and from ANWR and from all our sources that we will glut the market — if not tomorrow, then a year from now. We will send even more lethal offensive military weapons to Ukraine. We can restore the promised shield to Eastern Europe that Obama withdrew. And even if we cannot mess with Russian elections (because they have no elections), they do have computers — and, so help us, we will mess with their technology in a way they cannot imagine. Trump knows from his advisers what we can do. If he sweet-talks Putin in public — just Putin on the Ritz — then everything that Trump has told Putin privately can be reinforced with action, and he even can wedge concessions because, against that background, Putin knows that no one will believe that he made any concessions. Everyone is set to believe that Putin is getting whatever he wants, that Trump understands nothing. So, in that setting, Putin can make concessions and still save face.
That is why Trump talks about him that way. And that is the only possible way to do it when negotiating with a tyrant who has no checks and balances on him. If you embarrass the tyrant publicly, then the tyrant never will make concessions because he will fear that people will say he was intimidated and backed down. And that he never will do. Meanwhile, Trump has expelled 60 Russians from America, reversed Obama policy and sent lethal weapons to Ukraine, and is pressing Germany severely on its pipeline project with Russia.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, Donald Trump is over seventy years old. He has made many mistakes in his life. He still makes some. He is human. But Trump likewise has spent three score and a dozen years learning. He has seen some of his businesses go bankrupt, and he has learned from those experiences to be a billionaire and not let it happen again. No doubt that he has been fooled, outsmarted in years past. And he has learned from life.
What has Anderson Cooper achieved during that period? Jim Acosta or the editorial staffs of the New York Times and Washington Post? They have not even found the courage and strength to stand up to the coworkers and celebrities within their orbits who abuse sexually or psychologically or emotionally. They have no accomplishments to compare to his. Just their effete opinions, all echoing each other, all echoing, echoing, echoing. They gave us eight years of Nobel Peace Laureate Obama negotiating with the ISIS JV team, calming the rise of the oceans, and healing the planet.
We will take Trump negotiating with Putin any day.
Peabody Awards/Creative Commons