Trump playing the ‘Xanatos Gambit’ with shutdown strategy

Trent Telenko presents a very interesting interpretation of President Trump’s strategy in confronting the Democrats over funding for border wall construction at the Chicago Boyz Blog. I had no idea what a Xanatos Gambit is, and was worried that some important lesson from Greek mythology had eluded me, until I read at the end of this long and interesting post that Xanatos is a Disney character from a 1990s television show, Garagoyles, “voiced by Star Trek actor Jonathan Frakes… very loosely based on Donald Trump.”

In short, Telenko explains, “a ‘Xanatos Gambit’ is a plan for which all foreseeable outcomes benefit the creator — including ones that superficially appear to be failure.”

This diagram, drawn from the TV series and using language from it, explains the decision tree analysis:

Source:

In the shutdown strategy, Trump’s “dragon” is a collective of the various Democrat interest groups that want the federal government to stay open because they are benefitting from it, and which have the ability to “destroy” his opponent (Pelosi) by defecting to Trump’s offer to give them what he wants, and vitiating her control over the House Democrat Caucus, perhaps even dislodging her as speaker.  

Telenko notes how Trump set up the entire confrontation months ago by first getting Democrats to agree to a huge increase in military funding, and not getting border wall funding. Recall that President Trump’s number one priority was to reverse the alarming decline in military readiness, which he (correctly, in my view) regarded as extremely dangerous, possibly tempting external enemies into a military confrontation in the belief that the US military would be unable to respond effectively.

Many conservatives thought this secondary prioritizing of the border wall was a betrayal of his campaign’s number one promise. But as Telenko points out, the funding Trump obtained carried with it a “MacGuffin” (Alfred Hitchcock’s term for a hidden device that will cause chaos if not detected and neutralized):

The reason why … President Trump caved on everything — including funding his wall — to get the first Defense Department appropriations bill passed and signed in more than a decade.  More than that, it was the earliest that a DoD appropriations bill was passed in 40 years.

This means the previous two to four week — one to two federal pay periods — time limit regards paying the American military is off the table in this Federal Government shut down, as the troops are paid through 30 September 2019.  And unlike past Presidents, Donald Trump is managing this shut down to minimize the pain to the public and maximize it for the D.C. political elites. (snip)

While civil servants covered by the Defense Department appropriations bill are getting paid. None of the other civil servants are.  This means many Federal government unions and non-government organizations dependent on Federal appropriations or funding grants are cut off.  

Telenko also cites my view of the potential RIF trap as another MacGuffin that could explode on the Democrats.

With this framework in mind, President Trump’s address to the nation yesterday fits in perfectly. He offered a lot of things that many Democrats want, including a 3 year extension of DACA (but not full amnesty), money for drug detection equipment at border posts (addressing the opioid crisis), and made a pitch for the moderate House Democrats who met with him in the Oval Office, and more who were elected in House districts that Trump won.

Trent Telenko presents a very interesting interpretation of President Trump’s strategy in confronting the Democrats over funding for border wall construction at the Chicago Boyz Blog. I had no idea what a Xanatos Gambit is, and was worried that some important lesson from Greek mythology had eluded me, until I read at the end of this long and interesting post that Xanatos is a Disney character from a 1990s television show, Garagoyles, “voiced by Star Trek actor Jonathan Frakes… very loosely based on Donald Trump.”

In short, Telenko explains, “a ‘Xanatos Gambit’ is a plan for which all foreseeable outcomes benefit the creator — including ones that superficially appear to be failure.”

This diagram, drawn from the TV series and using language from it, explains the decision tree analysis:

Source:

In the shutdown strategy, Trump’s “dragon” is a collective of the various Democrat interest groups that want the federal government to stay open because they are benefitting from it, and which have the ability to “destroy” his opponent (Pelosi) by defecting to Trump’s offer to give them what he wants, and vitiating her control over the House Democrat Caucus, perhaps even dislodging her as speaker.  

Telenko notes how Trump set up the entire confrontation months ago by first getting Democrats to agree to a huge increase in military funding, and not getting border wall funding. Recall that President Trump’s number one priority was to reverse the alarming decline in military readiness, which he (correctly, in my view) regarded as extremely dangerous, possibly tempting external enemies into a military confrontation in the belief that the US military would be unable to respond effectively.

Many conservatives thought this secondary prioritizing of the border wall was a betrayal of his campaign’s number one promise. But as Telenko points out, the funding Trump obtained carried with it a “MacGuffin” (Alfred Hitchcock’s term for a hidden device that will cause chaos if not detected and neutralized):

The reason why … President Trump caved on everything — including funding his wall — to get the first Defense Department appropriations bill passed and signed in more than a decade.  More than that, it was the earliest that a DoD appropriations bill was passed in 40 years.

This means the previous two to four week — one to two federal pay periods — time limit regards paying the American military is off the table in this Federal Government shut down, as the troops are paid through 30 September 2019.  And unlike past Presidents, Donald Trump is managing this shut down to minimize the pain to the public and maximize it for the D.C. political elites. (snip)

While civil servants covered by the Defense Department appropriations bill are getting paid. None of the other civil servants are.  This means many Federal government unions and non-government organizations dependent on Federal appropriations or funding grants are cut off.  

Telenko also cites my view of the potential RIF trap as another MacGuffin that could explode on the Democrats.

With this framework in mind, President Trump’s address to the nation yesterday fits in perfectly. He offered a lot of things that many Democrats want, including a 3 year extension of DACA (but not full amnesty), money for drug detection equipment at border posts (addressing the opioid crisis), and made a pitch for the moderate House Democrats who met with him in the Oval Office, and more who were elected in House districts that Trump won.