It is ironic that the man who reportedly took advantage of every tax break, who as a business tactic sues at the drop of the hat and who brags that he bought politicians to influence them now whines about “corruption.” He was supposed to be the expert at manipulating the system. He was supposed to be the guy who understood the levers of power so well that he’d finally use them for the benefit of ordinary Americans. Now, that seems preposterous, not because he is insincere (although he is) but because he is entirely incompetent.
At the start of the primary process, he should have done what every presidential aspirant does — figure out the rules and design a race to win within those rules. Trump likes to say he does not “care” about the rules. Big mistake in presidential politics (not to mention constitutional government).
Trump has a fixation with the superficial and that which puts him in the spotlight. Hence his fixation with reading polls that were predictive of nothing. But they apparently made him feel better because he looked like a winner. He just was not doing the things winners must do.
Trump critic Erick Erickson asks, “If Donald Trump cracks over a 156 year tradition of requiring a majority of delegates for the Republican nomination how is he going to understand the demands of the Presidency? If Trump claims he surrounds himself with top men and those top men advised him so poorly on the delegate issue, how can we be reassured he won’t make the same mistakes in a Presidential administration?”
Although not originally intended as such, the very long, arduous and complicated presidential nominating system is now a test run for many aspects of the presidency: dealing with the media; calibrating one’s performance; sticking to a game plan when critics harp; knowing when to improvise when things go awry; learning to make friends of foes; selling policy to the American people; hiring and firing staff; and cooperating with a vast array of party insiders. You would think he would have previewed those skills in the campaign.
Trump has failed at virtually all of these demands (especially hiring the best people), yet he still tells us complex national problems will be solved by putting in place good people and by mysterious feats of “management” because professional pols are so “stupid.” Stupid people out, smart people in. But how would he possibly know who are the smart people? He reflexively calls people who praise him good or great, making adulation of him the defining factor in someone’s worth. It is a telling, egregious mistake.
“We know that Trump’s foreign affairs advisers are not really top men and, frankly, some are staggeringly unqualified,” Erickson reminds us. “Likewise, we know Trump has barely met with them.” If he won’t hire the best people and won’t listen to them, he is likely to turn out to be worse than all those “stupid” politicians.
This is no defense of the political class of either party. Mastering the bureaucracy and playing all the angles do not make one a great president. For that, one needs courage, imagination, energy and smarts, but playing by the rules — indeed knowing them better than anyone — is the bare minimum one needs to function at the highest levels in politics. Those rules may be legal or informal, but unlike a self-promoting entertainer, you cannot just make it up as you go along. Trump’s insistence that his own personality profile and experience make him a better choice than traditional politicians is proving to be spectacularly wrong.