At the Water’s Edge

 
Arthur Vandenberg vs Donald Trump

NYU political science professor and some-time Time columnist, Ian Bremmer, found himself in a bit of hot water early on Sunday by tweeting out this: “President Trump in Tokyo: ‘Kim Jong Un is smarter and would make a better President than Sleepy Joe Biden.'” It was retweeted by journalists and politicians alike as gospel. The only problem being is that it was totally made up. His defense? “Plausible.”

And it is plausible. Trump treats every transaction in the White House no differently that those he did in business out of Trump Tower. He lives by the old saw, “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.” That means heaping praise on people that maybe don’t deserve it. It confounds political friends and foes alike. But it could also mean that Trump has figured out something the rest of the political class has not.

For decades (and perhaps for centuries, even) the conventional wisdom has been a variation on the Vandenberg Rule. Arthur Vandenberg was a long-time US Senator from Michigan and as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee his support was pivotal for the policies of President Harry Truman in the late 1940’s. In a major speech from the floor he has been credited with coining the phrase that “partisan politics stops at the water’s edge.” It has also been a long accepted tenet of foreign policy discussions that when it comes to pronouncements from the heads of state everything can be divided into two categories: those meant for the niceties of diplomacy and the harsh things that must be said “purely for domestic consumption.”

But in the internet age do those categories even exist? Or has Trump simply figured out that this duality of intended audiences simply makes no sense when every word is streamed live or tweeted out shortly after it’s uttered? And even if your take is, “No, Trump’s not bright enough or savvy enough to see it that way,” the question doesn’t change. Does it make sense to woo foreign powers in private while feeding pablum to domestic audiences?

 

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There are 15 comments.

  1. rgbact Member

    The bottom line in negotiating tactics is….do they work. And Trump’s tactics are not only dumb….but they do not work. There is no wall paid for by Mexico…we have a trade war….Iran tensions have increased….and North Korea is now shooting off weapons and giving us deadlines.

    What Trump has figured out though is that you can cover up failures with cheap partisanship. Theres no evidence that there are “two audiences”. Its just one audience…cable news and distraction from failure is the goal.

    • #1
    • May 26, 2019, at 3:49 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  2. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Post author

    rgbact: The bottom line in negotiating tactics is….does it work. And Trump’s tactics are not only dumb….but they do not work.

    As yet unproven. But on the other hand, neither does surrender. You can give the Iranians and the Chinese everything they want and call it success, too. 

    • #2
    • May 26, 2019, at 4:07 PM PDT
    • 16 likes
  3. DonG Coolidge

    Great post. People don’t understand what Trump is doing on trade. First, trade is a controlled by Congress. The Executive branch does have some leeway as Congress has delegated permission to control certain tariffs for security situations. So, Trump has one lever security tariffs. To get the public on board, Trump focuses attention on the trade deficit. Sure, it is just an accounting value, but it polls well. 

    Combine those two things and you get lots of tariffs against China, while Trump negotiates other issues with China (patent protection, fentanyl exports, Korea, South China Sea,…) while at the same making other Asian countries economically more powerful and diversifying the US supply chain (reduces risk of China dependency). While some complain about Trump not understanding trade deficits, they just don’t get the big picture.

    • #3
    • May 26, 2019, at 4:36 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  4. JoelB Member

    Treacherous politicians within the US are a greater danger to the integrity and stability of this nation than all the foreign dictators and tyrants.

    • #4
    • May 26, 2019, at 5:27 PM PDT
    • 12 likes
  5. I Walton Member

    rgbact (View Comment):

    The bottom line in negotiating tactics is….do they work. And Trump’s tactics are not only dumb….but they do not work. There is no wall paid for by Mexico…we have a trade war….Iran tensions have increased….and North Korea is now shooting off weapons and giving us deadlines.

    What Trump has figured out though is that you can cover up failures with cheap partisanship. Theres no evidence that there are “two audiences”. Its just one audience…cable news and distraction from failure is the goal.

    So every thing he does is a failure celebrated by the non partisan news programs you say are his primary audience. We don’t get a wall because Mexico won’t pay for it? Trade war? yes, we were allowing China et al to severely weaken our economy through trade, now we have to figure out how to reverse that. I’m sure any positive ideas are welcome. Iran was a good cooperative place and he brought that to an end? N Korea, frankly an impossible place, is shooting at us more than before? Sorry I missed that. The Democrats are bi partisan folks reaching out to him and he’s cheaply partisan? We have to guess about success and failure and we don’t really know until we see big changes that endure and have a little history under our belts, so we couldn’t dismiss Obama as a failure in 2 or three years, but after 10 it’s pretty clear. Some folks are just committed to a different assessment because he’s uncomfortably different. No doubt about it. He’s making me rethink a lot of things because the big numbers are moving in the right direction. I guess we’re suppose to go after him because they may not continue and could just return to where they were for the last several decades? 

    • #5
    • May 26, 2019, at 6:34 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  6. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher

    I think Trump’s unconventional negotiating style has had some benefits, but let’s go back to Kim Jung Un, Joe Biden, and Trump tweets. The quoted Trump tweet was, as you point out, false, but here’s what the President did tweet:

    North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me. I have confidence that Chairman Kim will keep his promise to me, & also smiled when he called Swampman Joe Biden a low IQ individual, & worse. Perhaps that’s sending me a signal?

    That’s simply a disgraceful move by the President. You don’t take the words of a murdering tyrant and use them to mock a fellow American, and I don’t care what party is involved.

    • #6
    • May 26, 2019, at 7:25 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  7. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Post author

    Anyone want to address the premise and question of the post or are we just dealing with style points again?

    • #7
    • May 26, 2019, at 8:18 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  8. Vance Richards Member

    EJHill: The only problem being is that it was totally made up. His defense? “Plausible.”

    Sort of like Rather’s “fake but accurate “

    • #8
    • May 26, 2019, at 8:22 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  9. Arahant Member

    EJHill: Does it make sense to woo foreign powers in private while feeding pablum to domestic audiences?

    No, it no longer does. And if you want evidence of the effectiveness of the old strategy, just think about how well it’s working for Nancy Pelosi with Donald Trump.

    • #9
    • May 26, 2019, at 11:33 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  10. Columbo Member

    Respected (by the media) NYU political science professor and some-time Time magazine contributor Ian Bremmer tweets out a lie. A total fabrication. It goes viral because the media makes it so.

    Respected (by the same worldwide media – an incestuous lot), CNN contributor Ana Navarro sends this missive out to the world to assist in making Bremmer’s lie go ‘viral’ …

    “Don’t shrug your shoulders. Don’t get used to this insanity. The President of the United States praising a cruel dictator who violates human rights, threatens nuclear attacks, oppresses his people, and kills political opponents, IS NOT FREAKING NORMAL”.

    Obama administration admits paying $1.7 Billion in CASH to Iran and gives them an ill-advised nuclear deal.

    Ana Navarro, Ian Bremmer and pals applaud Obama’s actions.

    • #10
    • May 27, 2019, at 5:06 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  11. rgbact Member

    EJHill (View Comment):

    Anyone want to address the premise and question of the post or are we just dealing with style points again?

    I did.

    1. There is no evidence that there is a “two audiences”, “goodcop/bad cop” 3D chess game that Trump is playing
    2. Even if this is 3D chess….all that matters is results.So yes, lets stop getting distracted by “style points” and “3d chess” and lets start talking about actual results.Where are the results in any of the areas I noted before?

     

    • #11
    • May 27, 2019, at 5:23 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  12. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Post author

    rgbact: I did.

    But you didn’t. The question was not particularly about Trump but the state of diplomacy and communications across international and domestic audiences in the age of instant communications on the internet. But you saw your red flag and went with it.

    As far as results are concerned the first US-Soviet summit in the Cold War age was in 1955. And the USSR fell in 1990. We cheer the change in strategy but results take time.

    • #12
    • May 27, 2019, at 6:01 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  13. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher

    EJHill:

    But in the internet age do those categories even exist? Or has Trump simply figured out that this duality of intended audiences simply makes no sense when every word is streamed live or tweeted out shortly after it’s uttered? And even if your take is, “No, Trump’s not bright enough or savvy enough to see it that way,” the question doesn’t change. Does it make sense to woo foreign powers in private while feeding pablum to domestic audiences?

     

     

    I think that too much weight has been given to what people say, how well crafted their words are, as PC has taken over. In an age where the Democrats undercut the last GOP President during a war, when a former Sec State goes to Iran to try to undermine the current White House, where a former President attacks the current one on foreign soil, how can anyone blame Trump for anything he says? The Democrats and Republicans, are so against Trump, they have both had former Presidents attack him on foreign ground. Bush could say nothing negative about Obama for 8 years, but goes after Trump? 

    This is the new world in which we live. And it is the old one. It has always made sense to have a message at home and a message to powers in private. It has been done since there have been other powers which which to negotiate. 

    • #13
    • May 28, 2019, at 6:37 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  14. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    DonG (View Comment):

    Great post. People don’t understand what Trump is doing on trade. First, trade is a controlled by Congress. The Executive branch does have some leeway as Congress has delegated permission to control certain tariffs for security situations. So, Trump has one lever security tariffs. To get the public on board, Trump focuses attention on the trade deficit. Sure, it is just an accounting value, but it polls well.

    Combine those two things and you get lots of tariffs against China, while Trump negotiates other issues with China (patent protection, fentanyl exports, Korea, South China Sea,…) while at the same making other Asian countries economically more powerful and diversifying the US supply chain (reduces risk of China dependency). While some complain about Trump not understanding trade deficits, they just don’t get the big picture.

    And for those who may have missed last week’s Tucker Carlson show, that offered interviews and footage of the fact that after several months of over 200K immigrants being apprehended at our southern border, now Texas ICE agents have resorted to putting new arrivals on planes and buses and shipping them to a central Calif immigration processing center. This activity is what brought about Trump’s decision to hit Mexico with a 5% tariff increase for their goods.

    If you or I should somehow end up in Mexico without our passports or other documents, and then got caught for illegal entry, we would be spending 2 years in a Mexican prison forthwith. But somehow Mexico’s top people decided to be lenient about the continual parade of caravan refugees, all heading here. Why is that? I for one like Trump’s no nonsense approach. It makes it very clear that something has to give, and that Mexican officials had better start paying attention.

    • #14
    • June 3, 2019, at 6:51 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  15. Chris O. Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    EJHill: Does it make sense to woo foreign powers in private while feeding pablum to domestic audiences?

    No, it no longer does. And if you want evidence of the effectiveness of the old strategy, just think about how well it’s working for Nancy Pelosi with Donald Trump.

    It certainly seems the model elsewhere. There are few ills in countries all over the globe that cannot be blamed on the United States, and people placated or their ire displaced.

    Talking from two sides of the mouth is one of the things that led to this great wave of anti-incumbency. Less significant than other factors, but indisputably Beltway.

    • #15
    • June 16, 2019, at 2:15 PM PDT
    • 1 like