They Thought It Would Be Easy
Yes they did. Trump and his followers thought that running the government of the United States, with its 2.8 million employees (not including the military) and annual budget of $3.8 trillion would be a piece of cake. Trump told everyone that our leaders were “stupid, stupid people”; not really smart guys like him. And as for the fact that he had zero government experience? Trump trumpeted his lack of qualifications as an asset, and his followers went right along with him. Just put “good people” in place and the government simply runs itself, right? The new administration has just started, and it is already clear that there are flaws in this hypothesis, as chaos reigns in the White House. There is no overall strategy for anything. Orders roll out willy-nilly with no end game in sight and are issued without consultation with the agencies in charge of enforcing those orders. FEMA is nowhere to be seen as tornadoes pound Mississippi and Georgia. Kellyanne Conway is on TV citing a massacre in Kentucky that apparently only happened in her fevered brain. Well, how did we get here?
Was Ronald Reagan the first? I don’t know, but he sure popularized the notion that government only does bad and that Washington is full of “faceless bureaucrats” who do nothing but take home a salary and suck the life out of America’s can-do spirit. This, of course, is bunk. There are literally millions of hard-working government employees who have the education and experience necessary to do their jobs and do them well. But if you think these workers are somehow superfluous, then you don’t think much of education and experience, just like Trump and his minions. So Trump gives us a nominee for Secretary of Education who has no advanced degree, whereas the current Secretary of Education has a doctorate and a law degree for good measure. He gives us a nominee for Secretary of Energy who doesn’t even know what the Department of Energy does, while the current Secretary of Energy has a doctorate in nuclear physics. He gives us a Secretary of Housing and Urban Development who has never worked in housing in any capacity whatsoever. But Trump thinks that as long as you pick the “best people” (like him!) petty stuff like education and experience don’t matter. One problem with this is that Trump’s sole criteria for who fits the definition of “the best people” is what they say about Donald Trump. Go on TV and say that Trump is a financial genius, and the next thing you know you’re Secretary of Something or Other, or Ambassador to pretty much anywhere.
But you know what? Knowledge matters. The great writer Isaac Asimov spoke of the “false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good your knowledge”. But instead of promoting expertise, Trump is tearing it down. He appoints people to cabinet positions who have no idea what they’re doing (see above). His spokesman Sean Spicer goes on TV and says that if experienced, dedicated workers in the State Department object to Trump’s Executive Order on immigrants they should either “get with the program” or quit. Really? How are you going to replace the experience and expertise that it took these workers years to obtain?
This fish stinks from the head. Trump is unqualified for the presidency in terms of education, experience and temperament. It’s an act of wise humility for a leader to admit that other people know more than he does, and so he needs to have qualified people around him to tell him when he’s making a mistake. But Donald J. Trump doesn’t do humility. In his short time in office he’s finding out that running the United States government is hard no matter how smart you think you are. Things change at a moment’s notice. You can be tripped up by the most minute of details. The world doesn’t stop even when you’re fatigued. And all the while, the press keeps on asking questions you don’t feel like answering, satirists make fun of you, and you get blamed for anything and everything that goes wrong (including the weather) whether it’s your fault or not. That’s the job, it’s really hard, and, no, it can’t be done well by just anybody. They thought it would be easy. They are finding out otherwise.