Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Donald Trump and the stress testing of the American system of government 16

Posted in social networking and business by Timothy Platt on April 21, 2017

This is my 21st installment to a now-ongoing series of postings in which I seek to address politics in the United States as it has become, starting with the nominations process leading up to the 2016 presidential elections (see Social Networking and Business 2, posting 244 and loosely following.) And this is also my 16th installment here since the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States, and with many already deeply concerned as to his competency for holding office – and at just 92 days since his swearing into office, counting January 20, 2016: his inauguration day as his day one as president. Many, in fact have held deep reservations as to Donald Trump’s capabilities from even before he was elected too.

I have been successively addressing a number of issues in this series that relate to the Trump presidency and to the question of his capability of fulfilling the terms and duties of that office. And one of the core issues that has at least hovered in the background through all of that, and even when not explicitly stated, is the prospect of a disorganized president Trump with a chaotically disorganized and largely unformed administrative team supporting him, facing a genuine national crisis.

That, more than anything else has given me pause for concern as every modern US president has faced at least one major crisis and generally early on in their administration. President Trump and his ineffectualness as president, has in effect invited crisis as that would be offered as a test of who he is and what he in fact can do, and by essentially any foreign power that would seek to gain power from his failings. And the range of possibilities here does not preclude natural disaster arriving as well, such as a new, next Hurricane Katrina: which perhaps began as a natural disaster but that became the crisis that it turned into because of systematic failures in the emergency response that it provoked, on then president George W. Bush’s part.

Every president in recent US history and in fact going back for many decades has faced at least one mettle-testing crisis. Some faced several. President Kennedy, for example, found himself confronted by a Bay of Pigs invasion fiasco: a crisis of his own making as he agreed to pursue an in-retrospect ill-conceived plan to topple the government of Fidel Castro in Cuba, that was only half-formed under an earlier presidential administration and that he and his administrative team never thought through or vetted. This failure made this new young US president look weak, and an expansionist Soviet Union decided to take advantage of that perceived weakness with an attempt to base nuclear weapons bearing ballistic missiles in Cuba that would be aimed at the United States. That led to a next crisis for the United States as a whole and for the world, and certainly for the Kennedy presidency: the Cuban missile crisis.

It is important to note how Kennedy in effect brought the first of these crises upon himself by taking ownership of an at best dubious plan for overthrowing Castro’s communist government, that his administration had no hand in shaping or planning. And the wake of this event, and with all of the weakness and lack of experience and judgment that it suggested, led directly to the second of them. And that crisis, with all of the palpable risk of that it entailed, including that of possible direct risk of escalation in tensions to the level of nuclear weapons exchange, threatened us all with the unthinkable: a nuclear World War III. Only brinksmanship negotiations saved us from that, and with all of this risk that a brinksmanship approach that should have been avoidable, entailed.

Crisis and ineffectualness and a strong perception of them, can lead to crisis and certainly to international crisis. And one crisis can lead to next crisis too. And this is a toxically dangerous pattern that I see as uncomfortably likely to arise in a Trump presidency and particularly as he and his administration face an increasingly dangerous North Korea and an increasingly belligerently active Vladimir Putin and Russian government. And they represent only two of a much wider range of fronts that international crisis could erupt from. And international crisis and its prospects have real competition from more internal, national crises and potential crises too, and with that only starting in the Trump administration itself and from all of the conflicts of interest challenges that face so many of his own core team: the confirmed members of his Cabinet definitely included.

For background references on the above-cited Trump administration issues and challenges faced, see for example:

Trump’s Shift on Russia Brings Geopolitical Whiplash,
China Warns of ‘Storm Clouds Gathering’ in U.S.-North Korea Standoff,
A ‘Cuban Missile Crisis in Slow Motion’ in North Korea, and
With Trump Appointees, a Raft of Potential Conflicts and ‘No Transparency’.

The first of those news story links involves both Russia and Syria. And I add here that the possibilities of the United States bring drawn directly into Middle East conflict in Syria, constitutes a third arena of possible international crisis in and of itself, that a Trump administration could lead us all into, to go along with the first two listed-here and potential crises that might arise from within the Trump administration and from within the United States as a whole.

President George W. Bush and his administration faced the natural disaster of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 as briefly made note of above. And the failures of his administration in responding to that, and with those failures only beginning with the inaction of his Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) director: Michael D. Brown, turned this natural event into a seemingly unending political crisis and series of them too.

Did president George W Bush’s apparent disorganization and ineffectualness, as was already visible in his decision making, and with vice president Dick Cheney seemingly in charge on so many issues, enter into Osama bin Laden’s calculations when he decided to launch a massive terrorist attack in the United States on September 11, 2001? We will never know the answer to that, but I do see at least potential parallels here to what apparently happened in Moscow as their leader, Nikita Khrushchev made his decision to move Russian missiles onto Cuban launch sites. Perceived lack of capacity to effectively lead brought Khrushchev to test a seemingly weak Kennedy with challenge and crisis. Hurricane Katrina itself happened after bin Laden’s attack, but Bush had already established himself as having something of the reputation of being a buffoon in office so his apparent weakness in office and his inabilities there were already visible and for all to see in 2001 – and for anyone to calculate from.

• What are president Trump’s visible weaknesses setting both him and his administration, and the United States and the world as a whole up for?
• What is Trump making both more possible, and even more likely and particularly when he is both disorganized and facing a possible removal from office challenge and with all of the disruption that that conveys?

I offer this as my briefest and most single-issue focused posting to date in this series, and certainly since Trump’s inauguration as president and since I posted Part 6 to it. And I offer this as more of source of open questions than of answers too.

• President Trump’s lack of experience in governance and the similar lack of that in his key administration members enter into this narrative,
• As do Trump’s own missteps and those of his inner circle, as they variously seek to function in office from the limited perspectives of their narrow partisan agendas.
• The still so skeletal nature of Trump’s administration as a whole enters into this too, with many and even most key appointed positions that call for Congressional confirmation still unfilled, and with everyone who has taken appointed positions there still facing real learning curves that they have not all even begin to traverse successfully.
• And a lack of either public trust or public support of president Trump and his administration enters into this too. All of these points and more can only be seen as indicating profound weakness in this president and in his capacity to address the unexpected and challenging.

Any president needs public support when facing crisis, as they have to make difficult decisions that would have wide-ranging impact. President Trump comes across as erratic and as being dangerous from that, but he also comes across as weak and unorganized and as being unprepared and unable to take systematic action where long-term and systematic would be essential. And he appears to be functioning without any real support and from either his own administration or his own political party as a whole, or from the American public as a whole. This is an invitation to disaster.

I am going to hold off on writing my next series installment here for about a week and will probably post my next installment to it to go live on April 29, 2017. And that is where I will finally address a set of issues that I have offered to share my thoughts on for several recent installments to this now: change management considerations as to how at least some of the Trump administration challenge might be at least lessened if not remediated for its seemingly ever-ongoing negatives – assuming that he simply stays in office and does not face 25th Amendment or Article 2, Section 4 Constitutional challenge. I have proposed addressing this from a failing family owned business perspective, where the family patriarch in charge is not going to leave and where they would be reluctant at best to change – but where their approach to managing the business might be negotiable if effectively framed and presented. In anticipation of that discussion to come, I note here that I have already at least briefly touched upon what might be considered useful pieces to the puzzle of assembling such a resolution already, in earlier postings to this series. And I will bring them and a few other puzzle pieces together in my next installment in offering what I would hope to be at least a starting point for further discussion, and by members of the general public if by no one else.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 2, and also see that directory’s Page 1.

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