Managing People

The turnover of the President’s White House political staff in his first year in office is the highest ever. I’d submit that it represents a simple fact. The President doesn’t know how to choose or manage people. His management style seems to be to try out people he likes or thinks might have skills and then throw them out when either he doesn’t like what they do or say, or when it turns out that they have skeletons in their closet that no one investigated before they were appointed.

FBI Director Wray just revealed that the White House had the information on Rob Porter much earlier than the White House had claimed, suggesting either incompetence or willful disregard of Porter’s abuse of both former spouses.

Trump also has filled the fewest number of political appointee slots in the executive branch of any President in the first year in at least the last half-century, and that lack of mid-level political leadership has made it even more difficult for him to pursue any sort of coherent and unified program. Add to that the number of people clearly inexperienced in any sort of political bureaucracy or those whose competence is minimal or suspect, and it’s not surprising that the only significant accomplishment of his professed agenda is the tax cut legislation, which is something the majority of Americans agree on, even if many of them oppose the structure of those tax cuts.

An additional problem facing the White House and the Trump administration is the number of appointments or proposed appointments of individuals with either blatant conflicts of interest or extreme conservative views. While one would expect appointees with conservative views from a Republican administration, the problem with extremists, either ultra-liberal or ultra-conservative, is that too many of them let their views blind themselves to what is both structurally and legally possible. Even in blocking Trump’s initial travel bans, the courts were clear to say that the President had authority in that area, but that authority was limited by the law and the Constitution and that such a ban could not be based on religion and other factors prohibited by law. Extremists tend to believe that their view of the Constitution and law is the only view. The courts have almost always taken a more “centrist” view, sometimes unfortunately, as in the case of segregation until court cases in the 1950s and the passage of civil rights laws in the 1960s.

The chaos and unpredictability surrounding Trump has also meant that many well-qualified and experienced conservatives have declined being considered for positions in the administration, which has resulted in a lower quality of appointees. Justice Gorsuch is likely one of the comparatively few highly qualified appointees [although I personally believe he’s too much of a legal originalist] put forward by the Trump Administration.

Given the President’s temperament, I don’t see much change forthcoming, but if it’s not, the mid-term election results will be very interesting.

5 thoughts on “Managing People”

  1. JakeB says:

    Leaving aside the, er, vexed question of the appropriateness of Gorsuch being on the Court in the first place, there have already been reports of how unpopular he has already made himself owing to his habit of lecturing his colleagues on how to conduct their work. Somehow fitting for a Trump appointee, but also dangerous should he ever find himself on the minority side of the court.

  2. Tom says:

    I assume that the leader we want is someone who acts in a manner that would not generate the criticisms of President Trump. In your books you also point out where and how kings and leaders have erred but I do not recall even a generalization of how a good leader would maintain power other than considering all actions by balancing costs and benefits.

    If it were within your power to guide your grandson on the road to become President of the United States of America; how and where should he spend his teens, twenties and thirties?

  3. Peter Swartz says:

    We have never been a Democracy. In our early days women, slaves, “Indians” and others could not vote. While we may have made some progress, our elections require buckets of money that must come from the rich and powerful. This is more like an Oligarchy than a democracy. Also too large a percentage of our children graduate without really knowing how to care for themselves in an adult role. Many of our schools have dropped or cut back on vocational skills classes. We are not taught how to think for ourselves. the media is full of talking heads who never seem to ask “how will it work” or “who will pay for it?”. This is the short version of my rant.

    1. You’re suggesting, in effect, that the U.S. “oligarchy” picks the choices given to those who actually vote.

  4. Peter Swartz says:

    Given our choice of Trump or Hillary out our millions it might as well be true. Can a Congressman accept millions in campaign fund and still not favor their benifactor? Both the left and the right are too extreme and unwilling to comprmise. That is a Poltician rather than a Statesman.

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