Friday, July 28, 2017

The mind stuck in "now"

Reince Priebus is out as White House chief of staff. He's the latest Administration appointee to be canned because he couldn't (or wouldn't) make Dear Leader happy.

Dear Leader seems to be operating under the theory that you try out horses until you find one that can make it through the steeplechase; the ones who can't, you shoot. He will continue to look for horses who can clear the fences. They will continue to fail because he (1) ties their legs together, (2) feeds them moldy hay and (3) (metaphorically) weighs a couple of tons, most of it ego. (Can you imagine a less bearable jockey?) He therefore will continue to shoot horses until we kick him off the track, which I fervently hope will happen no later than January 2021.

He will try out his second horse in the chief of staff position: his current Homeland Security Secretary, John Kelly.

Trump supporters are apparently happy because they never liked Priebus (I get that) and because military leaders are perceived to be better at everything than wusses who never served in the military. Maybe Kelly will magically bring order to the seething entropic whirlpool that is Dear Leader's West Wing. I'm not betting on it, but anything's possible.

Still, was Kelly really such a good pick? Not because he's not a capable guy: nobody has said that. (Oh wait, actually Roger Stone did say that, though Stone was referring solely to Kelly's lack of political experience.)

No, the problem with Kelly is that he occupied a Senate-confirmed position. Dear Leader hasn't exactly done a bang-up job of finding, much less nominating, people that the Senate will confirm. The chief of staff position, however, doesn't require Senate confirmation: Dear Leader could have picked anybody to fill the job. It seems to me that by taking a Senate-confirmed appointee and putting him into a position that doesn't require Senate confimation, Dear Leader squandered an increasingly scarce resource.

So who will Dear Leader's new Homeland Security secretary be?

Newsweek says it will be Kelly's deputy, Elaine Duke, at least on an interim basis. She was confirmed to her current position by an 85-14 Senate vote.

Duke could probably be confirmed relatively easily as DHS secretary, but that would just push back Dear Leader's problem to finding and confirming her deputy.

Any way you look at this, Dear Leader has made more work for himself. Did this occur to him?

I don't think so. I don't think Dear Leader thinks about consequences. If he has an itch, he scratches it. If he sees an immediate advantage he takes it, regardless of the long-term fallout. He lives in a perpetual "now".

That may be fine for a private citizen but it's catastrophic in somebody who's supposed to be leading the country. You don't do stuff as President just because it feels good right now. Part of your job is to look ahead.

But just try telling that to Mr. Short-Attention-Span Theater.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

When the boss is a public servant

Every president has a learning curve. Trump's is steeper than any president's has been in my lifetime, partly because he has never served in public office and partly because he's less able to absorb information than anyone I've ever seen who aspired to public office (or was a CEO). He claims he's smart, which, like nearly everything he says, has to be taken with a huge grain of salt. If that's true, though, then he has to be the laziest guy to gain office in my lifetime, because he has shown no sign that he is getting better at the job. If Donald Trump, final authority on The Apprentice, were judging Donald Trump, president, on his job performance so far, Trump the judge would fire Trump the president.

So it was with mixed emotions that I read that Trump is being briefed in tweet-sized nuggets for his meeting with Vladimir Putin.

On the plus side, at least he's being briefed, and his advisors have gone to great lengths (by limiting themselves to the briefest of lengths) to overcome what at this point we have to consider Trump's learning disability. I give his staff due credit for creativity and dedication (probably born of desperation, but whatever).

But honestly ... tweet-sized memos?

140 characters doesn't deliver a lot of information. If you're going to talk to another nation's leader, even a friendly nation's, you need to know enough about the subjects that are likely to come up to know whether the other leader is feeding you bullshit. That's going to take way more than 140 characters, or even 1,400.

Yeah, Donnie, your job requires studying.

My impression is that Trump, the CEO, didn't tolerate slackers. Well, as president, he's a public servant, making me one of his bosses. I'm here to tell him to do his job. He literally campaigned for it, after all.

I don't want to hear excuses, I don't want to hear how others are to blame. Sit down, shut up, and learn what you're supposed to know. (A lot of it you would already know if you were as smart as you claim you are.)

I don't give a shit if it's hard for you. It's your job. Fucking do it.