Negotiating a Wall/Martin Rosenfeld, JD

Posted on January 28, 2019


After the government shutdown, President Trump announced that there would be a few weeks to negotiate a new deal on the Wall, while there was an interim budget. A deadline was set for February 15, 2019 and the request for 5+ Billion Dollars was re-affirmed. Despite it all, the president put the odds of an agreement at less than 50-50.

With the above information, three principles about negotiation can be asserted; one favorable and two less so:

1. It is a good technique to keep the parties in a negotiation on a short leash. Giving the parties less than three weeks to reach a deal gives all a sense of urgency. Parties often need such “encouragement”. One of the first self-help authors, Napoleon Hill (d. 1970), said it this way “A goal is a dream with a deadline”. Deadlines in negotiations can be very helpful as they offer a disciplined focus.

2. By requesting the billions of dollars for a wall, yet again, the President is almost dooming his chances for a successful negotiation. This is a classic “apples and oranges” scenario. The Democrats are on record as stating that the Wall is immoral. Hence, dollars are not the fulcrum around which the disagreement has arisen. It follows therefore that it is extremely unlikely that it will be the issue around which a resolution will arise.

3. A note of pessimism is created from stating that the likelihood of a successful negotiation is less than 50-50. Is the president just being realistic? Maybe so, for there is a quality of self-fulfilling prophecy in such a statement. Winston Churchill inspired a nation to believe it would prevail against the murderous Nazi war machine. How did he sum up his gift to inspire? “As to myself, I am an optimist–it does not seem to be much use to be be anything else.”

We will soon learn if the Trump negotiation will succeed. The President has expressed his own position over and over. It will be interesting to see if he has understood the “needs” of those who differ with him (i.e. the majority of Americans).