Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Above All, A Machiavellian Master Must Be Competent

As of now, nearly every scandal with this trump Administration have been self-inflicted. That is, none of this would be happening if the people in charge - from trump on down to his handlers to their meager overworked staffs - had 1) general competency to do their jobs, 2) a genuine willingness to learn their jobs, 3) respect for the institutional norms that have done this nation well for 200-plus years, 4) basic goddamn common sense that you shouldn't fucking do things that will blow up in your face.

There is no sign that anybody at that White House can plan ten minutes ahead of themselves much less five days, eight weeks, six months, four years. They are bouncing from incident to incident, from mishandled staged events to botched executive orders to disorganized Congressional outreach to outright acts of corruption and illegality.

To quote Stephen Stromberg over at Washington Post:

At the opening of his presidency, Trump’s unforced errors were embarrassing — but, one could argue, at least the botched rollout of his immigration executive order rendered it vulnerable to legal attack, his poor negotiating skills complicated the passage of his slipshod health-care bill and his inattention to detail enabled his surprisingly capable foreign policy staff to limit the damage he could do...
...Now The Post reports that the day after he fired Comey, Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador. U.S. officials apparently obtained the material, which concerned Islamic State plotting, from a foreign ally and did not have permission to share the information with Russia. Though few specific details could be reported, there are a variety of dangerous potential consequences. Not only could the information’s disclosure imperil an intelligence relationship with a helpful government, but it could also reveal a secret intelligence asset to a foreign adversary working at cross purposes to the U.S. and its allies.
Compounding the insult, the accounts in The Post suggest Trump may have revealed the information in order to boast to his foreign visitors about the quality of the intelligence briefings he receives, as if they would not have known that the president of the United States has access to impressive amounts of secret material. The picture is not so much of conspiracy or malevolence, but of unfathomable carelessness...

I am fond of quoting Machiavelli about "Whether it is better to be loved or feared?" In that question, there is an underlying acceptance that the Prince in this scenario be someone competent. Incompetent leaders quickly lose the respect of others, at which point being loved or feared is useless.

Now to David Frum over at The Atlantic:

The president can never be cut out of the information loop altogether. But consider how little information Trump wants in the first place. He is satisfied with single pagers dotted by colorful bullet points. If that is all he uses, maybe it’s better for everybody to hold back information he could possibly misuse?...
It’s understandable why conscientious professionals would take such measures. Yet consider the troubling consequence of that decision. The security aspects of government would slip away from political control—for reasons that might seem necessary in the short run, but could be hard to reverse in the longer term. Donald Trump promised to shake up Washington. And what is being shaken is the trust of those who must carry out his orders. Someone has to be ultimately in charge of the national-security portions of the U.S. government. After this week, it may become a lot harder to identify precisely who that someone is...

It doesn't help that trump is playing this game as one of the most hated "leaders" in modern history, starting off his administration in an Unpopularity hole NO MODERN PRESIDENT ever had. He's already lost a majority of Americans who simply will never accept him.

The only thing keeping trump and his Republican allies in government - many of whom are showing the strain of supporting this clueless shitgibbon at every downturn - afloat is the epistemic bubble of the Far Right Narrative, where 80 percent of the GOP voting base loves trump precisely for the chaos and emotional turmoil he inflicts on all the non-believers outside that bubble.

But the Real World does not exist in that bubble. The Real World respects competency and effectiveness in governments being able to work together to maintain stability.

The Real World has ways of making those incompetent would-be dictator god-emperors doom themselves.

Unfortunately, everybody else has to pay the bills when that doom comes.

We are so very royally fucked.

Added: An additional note or twelve from Jon Finer at The Atlantic:

...Taking a step back, it is increasingly clear that Trump’s wrecking ball approach to the traditional norms of the presidency, praised as “disruptive” by his supporters, is exposing the limitations of a political system ill-equipped to handle someone operating  so recklessly. There may be few legal restrictions on the president related to, for example, disclosing classified information, or ethical breaches, or interfering with a law enforcement investigation into the campaign that brought him to power, but there has always been a basic presumption that a president would operate within certain bounds of good faith.
With a Republican-led Congress so far unwilling to hold the administration to account and few remedies available, short of nuclear options (impeachment or removal under the 25th Amendment), the system is largely left to discipline itself. That isn't working...
...This incident is among the first, or at least most visible, costs of a person with this president's temperament occupying the Oval Office. Yet again, the administration is fighting a five-alarm fire of its own (and, as is often the case, of its president's) making.
It's been said and written frequently, but it bears repeating, that the day will come, sooner than anyone of us wants, when there will be a major external crisis for this administration to address. Anyone who isn't concerned about how that will play out isn't paying much attention.

...yup. Royally fucked.

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