Electing our Negotiator-in-Chief

I was delighted to pen an op-ed with Grande Lum (in between his book tour, speaking engagements and managing a university!) in which we argue that this election also turns on how we view the role of the president as a negotiator.  I’ve spoken about this with Liz Tippet in her terrific Oregon Law Labs and wrote about this at the beginning of the Trump Presidency in the Negotiation Journal, which had an issue dedicated to Trump’s impact on negotiation.

I’ve got to say, I love some of our lines:

Much like what happens over time with a playground bully who pummels an unsuspecting child — a limited repertoire for only being a bully will backfire eventually. Leading a country is not a one-time sucker punch on the playground — it is repeated interactions with friends and foes to accomplish our national interests….

When one assumes that negotiations can be problem-solving, that counterparts can be valuable, and that fair outcomes are a goal, building trust and relationships are a key skill. Where Trump might have been able to reach some compromise — on infrastructure, on immigration, or even on health care — his inability to do more than bully has meant that no action has resulted in four years. …

Let’s not burn down the playground — let’s elect someone who is prepared to represent this nation.

And you can find the whole piece up on Medium here.    Most importantly, be sure to vote!!!

2 thoughts on “Electing our Negotiator-in-Chief”

  1. I agree! All very good points made in this op-ed (and the comment above).

    Often espoused as the United States’ “sole organ” on the world stage, the analogy to agency law is spot on. In my opinion, it is so so important that the President’s actions reflect the interests of those on whose behalf she or he is negotiating. I never felt like Donald Trump never quite embraced that duty, and perhaps that is one reason why he ultimately lost the favor he had gained.

    As a new student of ADR, one of the most fundamental principles to negotiation that I have taken away is “interests over positions.” As the op-ed makes clear, proof of this principle’s efficacy is in the Trump pudding; that is, the “positions” which he locked himself into during his breathtaking rise to the GOP nomination became inevitably linked with his all-important ego, and they ended up embarrassing America and endangering our relationships with other nations:

    “Mexico didn’t pay for the wall, China did not back down on trade deals, and there is no renegotiated nuclear agreement with Iran. North Korea is as unstable as ever and Russia appears to be both interfering in our elections and killing our soldiers in Afghanistan without punishment.”

    Ultimately, I agree with this op-ed whole-heartedly:

    (1) what the world needs–perhaps now more than ever–is not another schoolyard bully constantly looking for ways to feed his ego, but rather a leader who will not only stand up to such bullies, but also focus on interests (not positions) and work side-by-side with other world leaders to generate genuine solutions to the problems we face as a collective (e.g., climate change and human rights); and

    (2) Joe Biden’s skills (assertiveness, empathy, and trustworthiness) and experiences (both personally and professionally) make him the ideal PRESIDENT-ELECT to fill the void.

  2. The article was interesting and even more fascinating to read following the election results (I think America must’ve read this post). The role of the President as a negotiator and the analogy of Trump as a bully makes sense. I hope President Biden will be able to use his experiences, attitude, and legal background to properly negotiate on behalf of the American people.

    America will certainly need an international rebrand following four years under Trump. Hopefully President Biden, who plans to rejoin many of the organizations that Trump left, will be able to renegotiate even better terms than America originally had. Call me a “glass half full” person, but I think that this can be done!

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