Amateur Hour at the White House

February 2, 2017

Amateur Hour at the White House.

To say that it is amateur hour at the White House is to slander amateurs. The recent executive orders were drafted and signed without any normal agency review or even semicoherent legal advice, filled with elemental errors that any nursery school student would have caught.

–David Brooks, from his January 31 piece for the New York Times, The Republican Fausts.

Sadly, while David Brooks tries to separate President Trump from the Republican Party, they are of a piece, completely. The other day on Facebook I wrote: “The incompetence transcends the malevolence.” Obviously, some Rs are competent (and there are incompetent Democrats, too.) However, Ronald Reagan told us 36 years ago, in his first Inaugural Address, that “[i]n this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” Perhaps Mr. Reagan intended to limit his critique temporally; alas, his later words and deeds, and the words and deeds of his followers, suggest a contrary view.

I represent businesses and their owners and managers. For more than 35 years I have watched people manage employees and situations well, poorly, and in between (mostly.)

Without doubt, skill matters. Don’t expect much if you hire your brother-in-law. (We’re talking about the caricature here. The nebbish, ne’er-do-well who needs the job so he can feed your sister and your nieces and nephews.)

Now, President Donald Trump has populated his Administration with some marginal people. (Truth be told, he’s nominated 30-something people for the 700 critical positions which require Senate approval.) No brother-in-law got appointed but the president found room for the son-in-law, Jared Kushner. The one who gets a pass on producing peace in the Middle East because, per POTUS, “If you can’t produce peace in the Middle East, nobody can.” And the young man’s qualifications for the peace task? He’s Jewish!

Then there’s Betsy DeVos, who wants to run the Department of Education because … well, her husband’s daddy started Amway, and because she likes choise, and who doesn’t want choices? Etc.

Incompetence aside, however, when a party pitches government as the problem for decades, even its competent soldiers create issues. They’re the hires you make, as an owner or manager, who look good on paper. Lots of smarts. Experience. Evident people skills. And … no sense for or interest in your culture.

(In the mid-1970s, in college, I spent a semester working for my school’s admissions department. A new guy arrived, to boost admissions. Everything penciled out, but he never got the culture. What do I recall about the man? He hated paper clips, for something might get attached inadvertently. And I got dressed down, in front of others, for using one.)

President Trump doesn’t understand our culture. He doesn’t get the benefits attendant to a property rights regimen, regulations that keep our air and water clean, and a foreign policy which might cost us a few shekels more than we’d like to pay, but which gives us the ability to keep winning a disproportionate share of the post at the poker table, decade after decade. (Yes, we get less than we used to, but any sentient being who got through kindergarten gets the fact that, if you don’t share, the sandbox will get really unpleasant, really quickly.)

So what does President Trump understand? Directly from President Ronald Reagan in 1981 to himself in 2017, President Trump gets the fact that he can sell government as a failure, and himself as a savior. Whether it’s the nonsensical notion that the world is collapsing and he can fix it, or the load of crap about bringing back jobs if we dump two regulations for every new one, he’s got an answer.

So! Here we are, two weeks into the beginning of the end … of America as we know it. (Winston Churchill famously told us, in November 1942: “This is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end, but it is perhaps the end of the beginning.”) Surprised? Not me. Not at all. Donald Trump is the standard bearer for a party which has, for more than 35 years, preached the evils of government. No one wants dirty air or water, but some rants about regulations and chants about waste, fraud, and abuse will always feel good.

The Republican Party’s conscious war on government—using bombs to destroy its inherent value, as opposed to scalpels to deal with its errors and excesses—gave us this utterly incompetent, evil man. Reliqua in pax, America.

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