Leading US blogger MURRAY FORSETER laments the presidency’s decline into a system that does not tolerate dissent
Two weeks into the death spiral of our national values, some fears about a Trump presidency have morphed from assumptions to realities.
Donald Trump sees governing as not the give and take of ideas and beliefs, rather a top-down hierarchal management system, like a business where the chief executive officer — even in publicly-traded companies — has the final say. Minions must obey his commands or they are shown the door.
Dissent, even along disputed constitutional grounds, is not tolerated, as acting Attorney General Sally Yates found out after she questioned the legality of Trump’s temporary US entry ban on people from seven mostly-Muslim countries.
Trump the Businessman is used to having his dictates implemented. Government, however, doesn’t always follow a straight path. One wonders how TRump the President will react to two Republican women senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, rejecting his nominee for secretary of education.
Perhaps there is a clue in his advocacy of the “nuclear option” to limit filibusters for Supreme Court nominations if Democrats try to foil his pick of Neil M. Gorsuch to fill the seat left vacant a year ago by the death of Antonin Scalia. Trump thought it appropriate to call for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to “delay, delay, delay” consideration of President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland, butt he’s not amenable to similar treatment by Democrats. For Trump, all rules must be tipped in his favor.
Trump’s executive style has not been tempered by years of migrating up the leadership ladder. He doesn’t have a rags to riches story: born to power and privilege, as long as he stayed out of prison he was destined to take over his father’s business.
From the oupset he was an autocrat. He never had to learn the art of answering to anyone. If he ran into problems financially, he sought bankruptcy protection. If he didn’t want to pay the agreed price for a project, he stiffed contractors.
‘“My sense is that Trump takes no one’s counsel but his own. That’s bad management, period,”’ Jeffrey Pfeffer, professor of organisational behaviour at Stanford and author of Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don’t, said in a New York Times article assessing Trump’s first weeks in office.
Effective leadership “requires an openness to being challenged, and some self-awareness and even humility to acknowledge that there are areas where other people know more than you do,” said Jeffrey T. Polzer, professor of human resource management at Harvard Business School. “This doesn’t mean decisions are made by consensus. The person at the top makes the decisions, but based on the facts and expertise necessary to make a good decision.”
It’s been just two weeks. Trump could shift his management style, though it is highly doubtful. The real damage to America is that he has imbued his dictates with a meanness of spirit. He governs not for the whole population, rather for the minority of voters who luckily for him, live in enough states to have provided him with an Electoral College victory.
He is entitled to follow through on many, if not all, of his campaign pledges. But unlike his spoutings on the hustings, some of his actions from the Oval Office carry unintended consequences. TrumpAction after TrumpAction puts people’s lives at risk.
Trump’s advocacy of moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, his acceptance of Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and a reported interest in withholding from the Palestinian Authority funds released by former Secretary of State John Kerry, no doubt thrilled hardliners in Israel and their American backers. But, individually and collectively, these actions are likely to incite more terrorist attacks within Israel and against Americans domestically and internationally. It won’t be his life that is sacrificed.
Trump’s passionate desire to rid the world of ISIS and other Islamic terrorists is a laudable one, but his implementation has been dreadful. His executive order to temporarily ban entry to America from seven predominantly Muslim countries and to indefinitely suspend the relocation of Syrian refugees gives jihadists a public relations coup, suggesting the United States is at war with Islam. It also has divided families and failed to recognise the contributions many Muslims made to assist American forces combating terrorists in their native lands.
His decision to cut off funding for international groups that provide abortions or even advise pregnant women of their right to choose will endanger women’s health. It may very well lead to more at-risk pregnancies and births and more children born into poverty. As the NYT stated in a precis of an article on the impact of the funding cut, “Health workers say President Trump’s ban on abortion counseling will hurt even those health services that do not involve abortions.”
Moreover, Trump has indicated he wants to cut back foreign aid that is meant to help the impoverished. America First, after all.
Trump wants to cut all federal funding for Planned Parenthood because it provides abortions and abortion counseling. He ignores the non-abortion related healthcare Planned Parenthood provides to women which encompasses 97% of the organisation’s activities.
Women will have abortions even if Trump is able to reduce the number of legal, medically safe procedures at Planned Parenthood clinics and other registered facilities. The difference is that many terminations will not be performed by licensed practitioners in safe environments. Deaths are certain to result. So much for his concern for the sanctity of all life.
Trump’s decision to deny funding to ‘sanctuary cities’ places more lives at risk as municipal governments have to cut back social services or other programs to compensate for reduced or eliminated federal monies. His approval of the Standing Rock oil pipeline under the Missouri River imperils the safety of drinking water to millions of downstream residents, not to mention violating the sanctity of Native American lands.
Trump appears to be acting as if still in campaign mode. And so does his chief apologist, Kellyanne Conway. When called upon, frequently, to defend her boss, Conway reverts to attack mode, pointing out the flaws in candidate Hillary Clinton or the Obama administration rather than explaining the rambling rants of the ‘leader of the free world’ (at least as now constituted!).
Press Secretary Sean Spicer added salt to the wounds of internal dissent when he said those at the State Department who questioned Trump’s immigration ban “should either get with the program or they can go”, a remark which earned this rebuke from Lindred Greer, an assistant professor of organisational behaviour at the Stanford Graduate School of Business: “Debate and dissent are essential to reaching any thoughtful outcome.
“Comments like Mr. Spicer’s ‘will discourage anyone from speaking up. You end up with group think, an echo chamber where people only say what they think the president wants to hear.’”