Trump's Obscure Advisors

Thursday, August 11, 2016

As if his intemperance and complete lack of a coherent political philosophy weren't enough to disqualify Donald Trump from serious consideration for the Presidency, A. Barton Hinkle of the Richmond Times-Dispatch warns of yet another problem: The assumption that he will surround himself with good people is proving to be baseless. Hinkle compares what we are seeing now with something that happened in Soviet Russia:

The second reason a Trump vote is a wasted vote is neatly summarized by something Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky wrote more than a decade ago, about torture: "Investigation is a subtle process, requiring patience and fine analytical ability, as well as a skill in cultivating one's sources. When torture is condoned, these rare talented people leave the service, having been outstripped by less gifted colleagues with their quick-fix methods, and the service itself degenerates into a playground for sadists. Thus, in its heyday, Joseph Stalin's notorious NKVD (the Soviet secret police) became nothing more than an army of butchers terrorizing the whole country but incapable of solving the simplest of crimes." [links in original]
Not to condone the idea of a national police, but the principle is the same in any enterprise when intellectual rigor and professionalism are scorned:
[S]o few movement conservatives want anything to do with him that, as The New York Times reported in March, "When Donald J. Trump finally began to reveal the names of his foreign policy advisers during a swing through Washington this week, the Republican foreign policy establishment looked at them and had a pretty universal reaction: Who?"

"Many of us who have held senior positions in previous Republican administrations have been asking each other if we have ever heard of them," said Mike Green, who served on the National Security Council in the second Bush administration. "And pretty much everybody is turning to Google to see what they can find."

Inter alia, they found that one of Trump's chief foreign-policy advisers lists among his accomplishments his participation in a Model United Nations. In 2012. The other day Trump announced his economic advisers, who were likewise obscure.

This is precisely the dynamic Bukovsky wrote about. With few if any serious policy scholars or principled conservatives willing to work for it, a Trump administration would end up populated by unscrupulous climbers, craven lickspittles and incompetent hacks -- the sort of myrmidons who wouldn't know Isaiah Berlin from Irving, or Russell Kirk from Captain. The White House would be Tammany Hall without the dignity. And on the rare occasions when the Executive Branch pursued conservative policies, it would look like a platypus trying to play the flute. [link in original, bold added]
This will hardly trouble Trump's emotionalist, hard-core base, but it should alarm anyone sincerely interested in limited government, both in terms of the short-term damage this can cause our Republic and the tarring by association of the whole idea of limited government. The time to end the unfortunate association between the better parts of the conservative movement and Donald Trump was long before yesterday.

-- CAV

P.S.: I am not arguing here that obscurity per se disqualifies someone from an advisory position. That said, I see no reason, based on everything else I know about Trump, to suspect that his selection criteria would be better than those of a more conventional politician.


Today: Added P.S. and changed title from "Trump's Empty Cabinet."

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