Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Donald Trump and the stress testing of the American system of government 20

Posted in social networking and business by Timothy Platt on August 15, 2017

This is my 25th installment to what has become an 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 20th installment here since the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States.

I distinctly remember watching one of president Trump’s official spokespersons in a televised White House press briefing, respond to a reporter’s accusation of chaos in the Trump administration, by proclaiming that “Trump thrives on chaos.” That was several official White House press secretaries and other senior spokespersons ago, and it dates to before Trump realized that cameras and open questions from reporters were not always all that good for him at those events. Still, this presented a form of candor that is shocking for its clarity, and certainly in light of the rest of president Trump’s ongoing message.

And like any door opening revelation, this one has led us to new questions that we would not have even known to ask. By now we all know what the word “chaos” means in that context: the 45th president’s “business as usual.” He has been burning through and replacing what should be the stably-in-place senior members of his staff at a rate that, to use one of his favorite words, is genuinely “tremendous.” And that includes replacing his White House communications directors with the most recent one before now: Anthony Scaramucci only lasting ten days in that job. Trump has yet to get even just one major piece of legislation passed through Congress and in spite of a great deal of effort to break that impasse. And the largest single feat that he has actually accomplished from all of his effort at getting legislation passed has been to shatter the Republican Party solidarity that in principle might have meant his being able to get his agenda passed into law, and even easily. His Republican Party hold in Congress has been effectively thrown into chaos and in both the House and Senate, with enough by now reliable dissenters from among “his own” Party’s ranks, consistently breaking ranks to insure that this pattern of failure will mostly continue.

Let me take that assertion out of the abstract with a specific example. Trump has actively sought to block investigation into possible Russian government-led interference in the 2016 US elections, as discussed in earlier postings to this series. And he has also actively tried to thwart sanctions against Russia, from Congressional action, while doing that. Then the:

House passed a massive Russia sanctions bill, and overwhelming so, on July 25,2017 and almost immediately thereafter the Senate followed suit and passed it too.

It is important to note that at the same time this bill placed punitive sanctions on the Russian government and on businesses and organizations in that country with links to their government, it also specifically moved to prevent president Trump from undoing or bypassing those sanctions on his own. This bill placed sanctions on Trump too. And it passed in the House, 419 for and only 3 against. And it then passed in the Senate, 98 to 2. Trump was forced to sign this or else face the humiliation of seeing his own Republican party overwhelmingly overturn his veto, making him look that much weaker.

I have discussed his failures at getting his vision of healthcare reform passed into law in a number of earlier installments to this series. And his failures there have just continued on. Prospects look dim for his bringing Congress to pass his tax reform agenda into law, or his immigration policy or any other major initiative either. And resistance from his own Party’s elected leaders goes way beyond Congress too, with Republican governors breaking ranks with him on immigration and environmental protection and a wide range of other issues too. In fact the only area where president Trump has been able to advance his agenda has been where he can do so by executive order and either himself or through his senior appointees. At least selective aspects to what Donald Trump would call regulatory reform come to mind there, as do his more draconian interpretations of how Homeland Security and its agencies should enforce immigration policies already in place.

“Trump thrives on chaos.” What does a word like “thrive” mean in a Trump presidency context? What does he see as success, beyond his keeping the support of his true believer base? And when president Trump, with his win-lose approach to the world, sees himself and his administration as winning in all of this, what does that say about his relationship with his own political party that he nominally leads? What does this say about Trump as a leader of the United States as a diverse nation, or of the free world?

And this brings me to the issue that has prompted me to write this series installment at all. I very actively added to this ongoing narrative and at a rapid pace when I was discussing and analyzing the earliest days of the Trump presidency and the question of his basic competency, during his first 100 days in office. And a great deal of that was an attempt to put president Trump and his issues in perspective and both historically and in terms of constitutional law. But The Donald mostly seems to repeat himself, primarily carrying out new variations on the same problematical decision making and follow through. If he is the embodiment of chaos in the White House, that in his case means relatively narrowly constrained and highly repetitive chaos, with his making essentially the same mistakes in judgment and action again and again and again and ….

Why am I adding this installment to this series now? On one level I could cite how Trump’s chaos has empowered Xi Jinping and his Chinese government, from the power vacuum that Trump has left in his wake. And I could cite the chaos and confusion he has sown for our national allies and globally. I could cite what politely would be called his pissing match with the psychotic leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-Un. I could cite his complete, and I add completely inept inability to disavow the words and actions of hate driven extremists such as David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan, the American Nazi Party, and white supremacist extremists. They claim to be key supporters in his political base and Donald Trump is incapable of disavowing anything that his supporters would say or do, least he somehow diminish his supporting base! I could delve into any combination of these issues here, and more that I did not bother to add to this already lengthy and depressing list. But instead of that, I would step back to consider a larger, overarching issue that enters into and informs all of these more specific friction and pain point issues:

• Donald Trump does not learn, ever. And by all appearance he is incapable of learning too.

Trump got a ghostwriter: Tony Schwartz to actually write “his” book, The Art of the Deal. (See Donald Trump’s Ghostwriter Tells All , as published by The New Yorker.) How could someone with Donald Trump’s attention span, his lack of basic factual knowledge and his limited intellect successfully pass a business degree program, or an undergraduate college degree program for that matter, without “help?” No, I do not have any evidence that would show he did not successfully complete these academic programs on his own. I just find that assertion as incredible as Trump’s claims about the live audience size in front of him when he was sworn into office as the 45th president.

Investigations proceed and on several fronts now into Russian interference in the 2016 US elections, and on possible Trump campaign collusion in that. And it is apparent that this effort has gone on to look into possible direct involvement of both his family in this and of his own. And investigations are proceeding just as actively into possible conflict of interest violations of US federal statutes too. And president Trump is also at least potentially facing obstruction of justice charges too: the type of charges that ended Richard Nixon’s presidency. What will happen next? The only detail to the answer to that question, that I can reliably offer here, and with real confidence is that president Trump will back into it from a failure to learn anything from what has happened or from what is happening now or from what will happen in the coming days, weeks and months. And he will proclaim his outrage and declare himself to have been victimized by all of his detractors, and on the basis of “fake news” and even in the face of photos of him with the proverbial smoking gun in his hand.

People sometimes confuse “ignorance” with simple lack of knowledge and the limit of what a given individual can and does know. If that were valid, then we would all be ignorant as no one can learn and know more than just a tiny fraction of all that there is to know. Ignorance is very different than that; it is a presumption of already knowing all that is worth knowing and of holding complete truth in understanding. Ignorance is like a vaccination against learning: a hermetically sealed barrier to learning, where even one’s most off the cuff and unconsidered opinion is automatically deemed to be better than any expertly conceived, fact-based judgment of anyone else. Donald Trump does not learn and cannot learn and he is incapable of “growing” into the job of president. His string of business failures and bankruptcies were predictive harbingers of this, and his performance as president to date, simply reinforces the message that that track record offers.

I will add more to this series, when and as events unfold that would warrant that. With a Trump administration and its chaos, I am not going to try to guess when that will be, and certainly not at this time. 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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