A Matter of (In)Competence


Amy Davidson, writing in New Yorker, said of Trump’s Press Secretary Sean Spicer:

President Trump has given an important job to a person not competent to carry it out.  . . .  Then again, in the Trump Administration, what would competent communications looks like? How do you persuasively promote the travel bans, or Ivanka’s role in matters of war, or explain away the Trump children’s financial conflicts?

And that’s the problem, isn’t it? No one really, seriously competent would want the job of being Trump’s Press Secretary. As CNN’s David Gergen wrote,

You can’t lead others until you learn to lead yourself. For much of human history, a leader could dictate what others did. Today, one must lead through example and persuasion. A White House staff takes its cues from the president — his temperament, his character, the tone he sets, as well as the course he chooses. Unless a president has his own act together, reshuffling the team is ultimately pointless.

The claim that government should be run like a business is mostly false; the two organizational structures have little in common. But leadership does matter for both. Incompetent and dishonest leadership is as fatal in government as it is in the business sector.

The problems with the Trump Administration start at the top, and have inevitably percolated down through his administration. A flawed president picks a flawed staff. WC calls it the Nixon Syndrome: Nixon surrounded himself with persons who would not call him out, who would not attempt to control the worst aspects of his personality. In Trump’s case, the problem is magnified because his flaws are much greater than Nixon’s, and his inability to control his indulgence in social media hugely magnify those flaws.

Still another way the business sector differs from government is that the CEO of a corporation can be fired – “choose to pursue other options” – at any time. The options for removal of a president are more limited. It’s remotely possible that the GOP-led Congress will tire of his antics and impeach him, if only to avoid a looming political disaster in 2018.  If the election of 2018 is as disastrous for the GOP as the tea leaves are suggesting, then perhaps a Democratic-led Congress would show Trump the door. Although giving Michael Pence the presidency doesn’t make much sense, either.

Which probably means a full four years of Donald Trump. A field day for comedians, perhaps, but a stress test for our form of government.

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