- - Sunday, September 17, 2017


Someone should lend Marc Short, the White House director of legislative affairs, a copy of President Trump’s book, “The Art of the Deal.” The president rightly rebuked his predecessor’s negotiators and promised better ones in his own administration, but Mr. Short could use some tips. His suggestion last week that funding for the Mexican border wall doesn’t necessarily have to be included in a compromise with Democrats over DACA is giving away the president’s store.

“The president is committed to sticking by his commitment that a physical structure be put in place to help protect the American people,” Mr. Short said, telegraphing his legislative strategy. “Whether or not that is specifically part of the DACA package or a different legislative package, I’m not going to prejudge.”

When you’re negotiating from a position of strength, as any negotiator worth his salt would tell you, you don’t deal away your trump card before you sit down at the bargaining table. At a poker table, that would be a “tell.” Mr. Trump’s most faithful and fervent friends support him precisely because of his vow to build the border wall. Perhaps Mr. Short was faking the “tell” to deceive the sharks across the table.

Democrats demand quick action on legislation to grant permanent legal status to the 700,000 so-called “Dreamers,” children of illegal immigrants brought to this country before 2007, and say they’re willing to consider border security-related add-ons to the legislation, but they’re adamant that it won’t include even a down payment on the wall.

“We’ve been very clear,” says House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. “There is no wall in our DACA future.” Insists Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, who with Mrs. Pelosi had dinner Wednesday night at the White House with DACA on the menu, “We Democrats are for border security. We’re not for the wall. We’ll never be for the wall.”

When the president announced he would phase out DACA, and threw salvaging it into the lap of Congress, he held all the good cards. Because the Democrats so badly want DACA to be made legal, expecting to make the “Dreamers” Democratic voters in time to save the party, those cards should not be dealt away as cavalierly as Mr. Short suggests.

This would further embolden Democratic obstructionism, especially coming so soon after Mr. Trump agreed to raising the debt ceiling on their terms without spending cuts or other concessions. If the administration and Republicans in Congress allow themselves to be cowed by the drumbeat of “Dreamer” sob stories into dealing away their primary bargaining chip, they can’t expect the Democrats to concede anything.

As Margaret Thatcher told a hesitant George H.W. Bush in the run-up to the first Gulf war, “this is no time to go wobbly.” Mr. Trump and the Republicans must remember, for once, that caving is for spelunkers, not senators. They can’t accede to a Democratic demand for a “clean” legalization bill. They must insist on substantial funding for the border wall, and make it clear that the ultimate legislation does not provide a pathway to citizenship, or a vehicle for chain migration. It should also make mandatory requiring all employers to confirm the legal residency of job applicants. Currently it’s only voluntary.

A good negotiator must be alert for tricks. The Democrats, after their nice dinner at the White House, left to tell reporters that the president had committed to DACA legalization “without insisting on the inclusion of, or even a debate about [the border wall].”

Not so, the president said. “If we don’t have the wall, we’re doing nothing. There was no deal.” That’s part of the art of the deal, too. The biggest part of negotiating any deal is saying what you mean and sticking to it.

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