Trump as Ceremonial Executive Officer?

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Jonah Goldberg, speculating on how Donald Trump might run things as President, asks, "Can America afford to have a ceremonial President?" Considering my low opinion of Trump, and his alarming admiration for strongmen worldwide, this would be a best-case scenario:

... Trump's not interested in policy. He's fine with outsourcing it to congressional Republicans and to his Cabinet secretaries. Trump wants to do the fun stuff. He wants to give cool speeches and fly around in a better plane. He wants the respect that comes with being president. He doesn't want to do the hard stuff.

For those willing to see, there's been a lot of evidence of that all along. He's said he won't even start learning about policy until he's elected. That Trump doesn't know or care much about public policy is obvious to literally every human being who knows anything about public policy. One could fill books with examples of him talking about articles of the Constitution that don't exist, events that never took place and proposals that make no sense.
Goldberg, perhaps assuming for the sake of argument that this inner circle that would actually run things weren't composed entirely of sycophants, notes that even this might be cold comfort:
... Because there is so much power in a president's words, a president's words matter. Just this week, the GOP nominee suggested that he would not honor our commitments to NATO if Russia attacked our allies in the Baltics. Those words are dangerous from a nominee. They would be catastrophic from a president.

A president with a verbal hair trigger -- one who doesn't know enough to know what not to say -- could ignite a financial crisis or a war.
Goldberg is on the right track here, but it's worse than that because, as he notes earlier, "Presidential power is the power to persuade." The big problem is that Trump neither has a discernible political philosophy nor attempts to make a case for any position he might hold. Make America great again? What was great about America? How would we do this? Why should we do this? He acts as if all of this is self-evident, when even the most patriotic Americans can disagree on any or all of the answers to the above questions. Worse, he acts as if what millions of grown adults think doesn't matter. As a businessman, Trump should realize that a team not even knowing what its objective is (beyond some nebulous notion, like "make profits") would derail any serious undertaking. And yet, here he is hoping to do this with our entire country.

America's problems weren't brought on all at once by a single individual acting nefariously, and no single individual, acting alone, can fix them. That Trump seems to think he can get away with pretending otherwise worries me even more in some ways than the fact that, for at least four more years, there will be no defender of liberty speaking from the bully pulpit of the presidency.

-- CAV


Steve D said...

'As a businessman, Trump should realize that a team not even knowing what its objective is (beyond some nebulous notion, like "make profits") would derail any serious undertaking.'

Sounds like something straight out of a Dilbert cartoon and it makes me wonder how good a businessman Trump really is.

Gus Van Horn said...

It's funny you should mention Dilbert, as I recall some time back reading on Scott Adams's blog a post to the effect that Trump is good at "persuasion."

It may be, but it isn't rational persuasion, and more people would do well to consider what, exactly, he is persuading them to do or accept.

Vigilis said...

In the world of large private and public corporations successful management requires a competent staff for operating, investing and financial activities.

Trump employs highly competent executives to advise him and perform the daily rigors of all of the complex daily tasks he delegates to top executives, which include his attorneys.

Managing any highly regulated business requires education and discipline not well appreciated by those in non-business (or small business) careers. Evidence of Trump's business ethics includes his daughter Ivanka's unchallenged convention remarks that Trump's female executives are compensated as rewardingly as males.
Among the "qualified" politicians who opposed Trump (either party) only a small handful had large corporation experience and even the politicians do not fairly compenate qualified women.

To me, the most robust recommendation for Trump's business acumen is his detest of government waste, fraud and abuse. Those keeping up would know that the IRS estimated that 22 to 26 percent ($15.6 Billion) of improper EITC payments in fiscal year 2013 alone. A government overloaded with bureaucrats assures little accountability for taxpayer dollars. EITC is just one siphon for fraud, waste and abuse. Medicaid and Medicare are rife and getting worse according to GAO feedback.

I accept factual feedback, but not the rank fears that arising from unfamiliarity with fully accredited disciplines. It has been very rare to find the latter on this blog.

Gus Van Horn said...


One thing I will not attempt to better is Donald Trump's own mastery at contradicting himself. Were he to take a definite, non-vague stand on something of substance for more than a few seconds, I would happily attempt to oblige.

On a more serious note, the whole idea of someone hating "fraud, waste, and abuse" while wanting to spend enormous amounts of your and my money building a wall on our border (versus, say, reigning in the welfare state and working towards citizenship reform), strikes me as penny-wise and pound foolish just to begin with.

I'm saying, "The man who would race cross-country disdains maps," and you reply, "But he has a great car." The great car will just go over a cliff faster. In this vein: So what if Trump surrounds himself with competent people? It will be a positive detriment if his true intentions are bad and useless if he really is as directionless as he sounds.


Vigilis said...

Your figurative example, though it may reflect someone's shallow opinion, is inapplicable to the executive Trump. Some undoubtedly confuse a talented MBA with a common, celebrity narcissist.

Likewise the figurative example("...race cross-country") is not only unsuitable for a successful RNC nominee who has had incredible success as a business magnate, it attempts to put silly, childish words in my mouth as my pathetic response.

We may disagree at times, but to seriously quote you, Gus, "do not put words in my mouth".

Gus Van Horn said...


Executive Summary: Whatever his credentials or past successes, Trump is blowing his job interview.

You are missing the whole point of my example, so let's try another one on the subject of competence in some narrow discipline vs. desirability for a role.

I am not here comparing Trump to Hitler, but am using Josef Mengele as a clear-cut example of the difference. Given that Mengele was a physician, would you dispute my contention that he was a monster on the basis of my lack of a medical degree? You don't possess a medical degree, either: Would you trust him, if the option were available and knowing what you know, even to take your temperature? You wouldn't? But he was awarded an M.D. cum laude.

So it is with Trump. So what if he has an MBA and I don't. And let's assume for the sake of argument (although there is room for debate) that he is a great businessman. What does he plan to do if elected? He has staked out horrendous positions on immigration and trade (just off the top of my head), contradicted himself about many other issues, and expressed (and proudly displayed) an indifference to a broad array of issues that are pertinent to the job he is applying for. As someone he is interviewing for an important job, that MBA (if he has one -- I haven't checked) and his purported business acumen are tiny grains of rice on one side of a scale being outweighed by the ton of stupidity I have witnessed coming from his mouth.

There are numerous people out there with impressive credentials who (a) don't deserve (or at least live up to) them, (b) use them for bad ends, or (c) both. So I am not impressed by a plea based on credentials, whether in my field or not.

Since Trump is a businessman and this seems to impress so many people, lets consider a laudable business practice: The job interview. This is no ritual; it is a way to establish who and what the person on the resume really is. If it weren't important to interview, Trump would just see the letters MBA and hire on the spot. He doesn't, and we shouldn't, either.