Beware Of The Outsider In Power
From Forbes, By John Zogby
We Americans just love the Marlboro Man, the outsider on a horse, the man against nature, no regulations, no Congress, no nothing. Just the Man. We have flirted with this kind of character in our politics and culture since day one. In recent years, we have glorified Ross Perot, the billionaire who told it like it was. Then we saw the Reform Party and said “Yikes”! Ralph Nader is one of the greatest Americans ever (and a close personal friend), but do we want any of the Green Party leaders actually in charge? On a personal level, I ran for Mayor of my home town, Utica, in 1981, and one of my worst nightmares was if I actually won. Running against both parties, who would I get to run the government?
Does any of this sound familiar? We do have a bona fide outsider in the White House. A part of his charm is like that of Will Rogers, Al Capone, Charles Lindbergh, George Corley Wallace, and even Mike Bloomberg – the lone independent, accountable to no one but himself. Mr. Trump is not beholden to any special interest nor political party (only perhaps to his brand name and corporation) and he apparently does not need the money. But the real question is this: can he run the country? Can he get anything done?
Thus far, the answer to both is not quite and not much. I recall the 1991 book The United States of Ambition by Alan Ehrenhalt, the editor of Governing magazine. Mr. Ehrenhalt decried the fact that political parties were becoming less relevant and that a new crop of candidates were elected to local positions as well as the Presidency (Jimmy Carter) by building their own persona, war chest, and bevy of consultants and strategies. They were less reliant on the party structure but proved less able to actually wind their way through legislatures and bureaucracies because they lacked the gravitas of the elites and the power brokers of the parties.
To a large degree, leaving all of Mr. Trump’s personal problems aside, this lack of governing model, absence of vision, and inability to work with anyone but his own loyalists and family underscores his failure to achieve any success in the first 6 months of his tenure. Here are some distinct lessons to be learned from the Trump administration thus far:
- Politics is a profession. The same skills displayed in a campaign must continue to effectively run a government. Raging against the machine can win the day but a politician is expected to run the show, make tough decisions, and achieve success when he or she is the machine.
- Compromise and accommodation are the art of the deal. We all know about the first letter we write to someone who has hurt our feelings. It is filled with venom, revenge, and hate. Then, as we all learn, we are supposed to crumble it up in a ball, then either suck it up or write a more congenial healing letter to the perpetrator. Every day of the Trump administration for the first six months has been First Letter Day. The President has been hugely successful in business and politics. His brand is based on his deal making capabilities. But being able to get along with other people is vital in politics and governance and his demeanor and tweets are not helping.
- Having someone who has your back is essential. Leaks do happen when staff members are unhappy or lack confidence in their boss. We are clearly at that point already. Pissing people off is so charming for a little while but is also so counterproductive in the final analysis.
- Government by executive order is effective only so long as you still are in the White House (ask Mr. Obama). It is hard to claim credit for executive orders because they can be here today and gone tomorrow.
Thus far, this is by no means a successful tenure. Mr. Trump’s rhetoric has changed the conversation, he has been able to watch his opposition neutralize itself, and he has announced that the US is dropping out of the Paris Accords on carbon emissions. But these will probably be ephemeral victories. To date, he has not achieved any legislation that moves his agenda or defines his legacy. The very skills that allowed him to win office are the same ones that are dooming him to failure. He really can’t change now – otherwise he wouldn’t be Donald Trump anymore. Already we do see some erosion in his base. Eventually blaming everyone else will hit a brick wall, not the one he promised to build.
Coming Soon: Who’s Your Tribe? The only app you’ll need to discover your Neo-Tribe.
Trump Report Card: Rock Bottom With Obamacare Fail, Sessions Hit
From The Washington Examiner, By John Zogby
Awful, horrible week for the president. His promise to repeal and replace Obamacare, then simply repeal, then simply replace, then simply let it die — all dead. He has lost his press secretary and split his internal advisors over the choice of a Wall Street nurtured communications director. He is in open dispute with his own attorney general — an early loyalist — over the latter’s recusal in the Russian investigation, with new revelation showing Sessions present at at least two meetings with the Russians.
Add to that, some of the companies he has taken credit for persuading to keep jobs here are moving them overseas. His trip to London has been ‘postponed’ by the UK not the White House. There is a ceasefire in Syria and an agreement to stop helping moderate opposition to the Syrian regime — notably because these folks are not prepared to rule.
Too much noise and disarray. It is now six months in office for the new president. Not doing so hot.