Writing in The Atlantic, journalist Peter Beinart explains how President Donald Trump's ineffective negotiating strategy was in full display during the government shutdown over the border wall.
In the end, the president got a tiny fraction of what he wanted, yet is trying to play if off as a win.
"This outcome was entirely predictable. The sequence of events that led here has occurred again and again when Trump negotiates," Beinart observed. "Think of it as a play in four acts."
Beinart observes that the "crisis" at the border wall is an entirely invented problem, a way to stir up Trump supporters at rallies and fear-monger about immigrants.
"Since entering the presidential race, Trump has relentlessly described unauthorized immigration—which has been decreasing—as a national emergency," Beinart writes.
"In the final days before last November’s elections, he returned to that theme with a vengeance. In a November 1 speech from the Roosevelt Room, he offered “an update to the American people regarding the crisis on our southern border—and crisis it is.” Later in the speech, he called it “an invasion.” He points out that the President has employed similar tactics with North Korea and trade.
Next, Trump himself actually creates a crisis around the issue at hand. "To combat the supposed emergency at the border, he demanded billions for a wall and thus provoked the longest government shutdown in American history," Beinart writes.
After that, he folds. After all, compared to his promise during the campaign to build a "big, beautiful wall" that Mexico would pay for is a far cry from the reality, in which the tentative deal struck by House and Senate negotiators includes limited funding for a small stretch of barrier.
"Congressional Democrats—buoyed by polls showing that most Americans blamed Trump for the shutdown—held firm against a border wall," he writes.
Trump then claims to have been successful.
"Having failed to achieve his goals, Trump returns to the deception of Act I, but with a twist. Instead of pretending there is a crisis, he pretends the crisis has been solved," Beinart writes.
He concludes that there's only one way out.
"Preventing the cycle from starting all over again might require allowing Trump to maintain his delusions of grandeur. It’s like dealing with small children: It’s safer to let them think they’ve won than endure the temper tantrum that will ensue if they realize they’ve lost," Beinart says.
"As dangerous as Trump is when he lies, he might be even more dangerous when forced to temporarily admit the truth."