President Trump’s change of course in dealing with North Korea (Rex Tillerson, notwithstanding) is a breath of fresh air. Rather than Kim Jung Un making the demands and us paying the ransom (as has been the case for the past three administrations), Trump is at least signaling he will dictate the demands and red lines.
Bullies, especially when they are really weaker than their opponent, only get away with bad behavior because they know their opponents will cater to it. The minute the obsequious behavior ends, it’s a new ballgame. Now, if only Trump could apply this same negotiation tactic to Democrats.
During the Obama era, we were always told that the president holds the bully pulpit, and therefore he holds all the cards in a budget brinkmanship. Republicans in Congress folded on every budget bill by telegraphing to Democrats a maniacal fear of a (partial) government shutdown. They capitulated on every debt ceiling because Democrats knew they bought into the fallacious talking point of default.
Now, President Trump holds all the cards. Much like with North Korea where Trump recognizes America is the bigger power and doesn’t need to give in to its ransom demands, he must show the Democrats he’s not afraid of their threats of a shut deal or default.
Unfortunately, he continues to send mixed signals, negotiates with Democrats as if he’s scared of a shutdown, and has top administration officials who are not only declining to fight the debt but are actually demanding conservatives in Congress capitulate to Democrats on raising the debt ceiling without any reforms.
The Trump administration is reportedly asking Democrats for more border funding in return for giving them more non-defense discretionary spending for their favorite programs rather than actually cutting them, as laid out in Trump’s budget blueprint. I believe this is a mistake and more in line with the way Clinton negotiated with Kim Jong Il than the way Trump has been acting toward his son.