March 25, 2018

Chaos: It’s Not a Theory at the White House

by Hal Gershowitz

Comments Below

Of Thee I Sing Heading AuthorsC’est comme ca as the French say, or simply, that’s the way it is.

You name it. The firings or resignations of top White House personalities, the absurd tariffs, the unfilled executive positions, the knee-jerk diplomacy (heart-to-heart with Rocket Man, anyone), the appointment of a new National Security Advisor for whom  military action is a default response to almost any conflict—the list goes on and on.

Where to begin.  Well, the revolving door of senior personnel coming and going offers little comfort. So far Michael Flynn, K.T. Mcfarland, Sean Spicer, Reince Priebus, Anthony Scaramucchi, Steve Bannon (who should have never been anywhere near the oval office) Sebastian Gorka, Tom Price, Dina Powell, Omarosa Manigault, Rob Porter, Hope Hicks, Gary Cohn, Rex Tillerson, and H.R. McMaster, to name a relative few, have been shown the door.

Then there are also vacancies for key positions in the Administration that have been vacant for the entirety of the Trump Administration. There are too many dark offices in federal agencies that need leadership to function efficiently. Sure, we know Congress can and does, for a multitude of reasons, slow-walk some top candidates that require confirmation, but there are hundreds of key jobs for which this Administration has not gotten around to even nominating anyone. One assessment by the Brookings Institution showed about one-third of key management positions were vacant for want of anyone being nominated. President Trump can say “who needs them,” but the truth is simply a dysfunctional transition team that simply wasn’t up to the job of preparing for a turnover of government. We are without hundreds of management personnel, including assistant secretaries, chief financial officers, general counsels, heads of agencies, and other leadership positions.  We have gone a year-and-a-half without ambassadors to many major countries. We are without ambassadors to such important countries as Australia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and, of all places, South Korea.

According to the Brookings Institution, 34 percent of Trump’s most senior staffers had quit, switched roles or were forced out in his first year as president. And now, two months into Trump’s second year in office that statistic has now climbed to 43 percent. That’s more than double every other administration in the past 30 years.

The Trump tariffs are another chaotic freak show. Let us be blunt. They will do nothing for our economy or for the working men and women of the country. We doubt, over time, they will do much, if anything, for the iron, steel and aluminum workers either. Foreign products made, in part, with steel or aluminum will be cheaper than American products using these same raw materials. In fact, President Trump, now acutely aware of the folly, has already exempted from his tariffs, countries that actually produce over half of the steel and aluminum we import. We suspect, if President Trump had known ahead of time that his tariffs would not save Republican Rick Saccone in Pennsylvania’s 18th blue-collar congressional district, he wouldn’t have rushed to sign the executive order instituting the ill-advised tariffs just before the election in the first place.

Having just witnessed the grand spectacle of the Winter Olympics in South Korea, we may soon witness the scary spectacle of a diplomatic Olympics in North Korea. We do not look with optimism to the prospect of a Trump-Kim Jung Un summit. It can be no more than an ultimatum delivery session; sort of a prelude to a shoot-out at ok corral. This will not be Reagan at Reykjavik, which Gorbachev credited with ending the cold war. This will be a bully facing off with a bully.

Uber-hawk John Bolton has just been elevated by President Trump from Fox News commentator to National Security Advisor. This is a very key post in the White House. The National Security Advisor is the President’s chief advisor on all national security issues. Bolton is smart, cunning, muscular, consistent and predictable, but he is ill-equipped for this position. He talks war frequently but has managed to personally avoid fighting in our wars himself. Military action has been his answer to our frequent confrontations with adversaries. His modus operande is bellicosity. Now, we happen to agree with former Secretary of State Madeline Albright—what’s the use of having a mighty military if we’re not willing to use it. Given our current military deployments, no one should, today, accuse the United States of shrinking from using its military muscle. The National Security Advisor to the President should not be best known for his advocacy of military action. He should be best known for his ability to assemble for the President all options related to national security, and not for a well-honed preference for military action.

Ironically, with John Bolton as National Security Advisor, the nation will have to rely on a former Marine General nicknamed “Mad Dog” for rational deliberation.

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7 responses to “Chaos: It’s Not a Theory at the White House”

  1. Steve Marcus says:

    This column is “right on the money”.

  2. susan duman says:

    It may have taken the entire week just to assemble the facts you included and be accurate.
    Next week might be x rated with the president’s defense of lies.
    It is nothing any of us enjoy, I hope……..even his base.

  3. gloria Guttman says:

    More than worrisome ….frightening to think he , cannot be stopped yet, painful to say …….

  4. Perry Green says:

    Perhaps the chaos might be due to the more complex question
    of who really want’s to “Drain the Swamp”. Many of the above
    mentioned who either resigned,fired or forced out were names
    in the news and had decent resumes which did not match up to
    their ability to perform at a high performance level. Too long
    we have watched government take on more and more with
    costlier results and nothing to show for the intended programs
    As far as his tariffs are concerned if he succeeds in this daring
    move he just may be re-elected in 2020. After all we have
    successfully used tariffs in much of our history to our advantage. Getting back to appointees I viewed many of the
    previous administration either doing little or showing any
    gumption to really effect either foreign policy or domestic
    issues which have resulted frankly in this election for Trump.

    • Mr. Hardy is, of course, correct. The primary function of tariffs for the United States during most of our history had simply been to raise revenue.
      We had no other real source of revenue as we didn’t impose a tax on income until 1913. Instead, we indirectly taxed our citizens by imposing tariffs that Americans paid for by paying more for what they purchased because of the tariffs.

  5. steve hardy says:

    I would like to know from Mr. Green how we have used tariffs to our benefit. Tariffs were the mains source of income for the federal government in the new Republic before income taxes and when the government was minuscule compared to today. Tariffs are taxes on the products Americans want to buy from foreigners. They may create jobs in a particular industry, but they destroy many more jobs in the industries that must buy the higher priced products. When consumers have to pay the higher prices for imported goods, it means they have less money to buy other goods. It is the classic case of “concentrated benefits and dispersed costs”. As far as tariffs as bargaining chips in trade negotiations, we might as well be saying, “Ok, China because you are screwing your citizens by placing tariffs on American imports we are going to screw our citizens by putting tariffs on what we buy from you”. Here is someone a lot smarter than I am on the subject

  6. Chuck and DaleAnderson and says:

    What Steve Marcus said…
    For a full list of top personal that have left or been fired check The Rachael Maddow Show.
    It’s jaw dropping.

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