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Friday, September 01, 2017

Why the Cabinet disagrees with Trump

One of these days I may get around to explaining to reporters how to cover President Trump because they get him wrong, wrong, wrong.

But watching them crash and burn is half the fun, isn't it?

The press loved Obama's management style, and hates President Trump's. They have it backward.

Of course.

Consider defense secretaries.

In his final year as president, Obama faced public criticism by his former defense secretaries.

Former. They disagreed publicly only when they were safely out of office.

From Katie Pavlich on April 07, 2016:
For years the Obama administration has been accused of micromanaging the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from inside the White House. Now in an astonishing report from Fox News anchor Bret Baier, three former Obama Defense Secretaries are openly slamming him for his distrust of the military, his failure to lead and they're exposing his inexperienced and closest advisors for second guessing senior field commanders with phone calls to the battlefield. 
"President Obama, he's one of the youngest presidents we've ever had. One of the most inexperienced presidents we've ever had. He has a staff around him that is very inexperienced. I don't think there's one veteran on his senior staff at the White House. I don't believe there's one business person. I don't believe there is one person who's ever run anything. Other than Vice President Biden, none of them have ever been elected to anything. You must levin the loaf, levin your advisors where you get a lot of experience at difference things where he, the President himself, is so inexperienced," Former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said.
"I think he's got to fundamentally understand and I'm not sure he ever did nor people around him, the tremendous responsibility the United States has. Not to be the world's policemen, but to lead and we're the only ones who can. The world becomes more dangerous, not less dangerous, when America gets less involved in the world. I don't mean invading and occupying and imposing, but leading."
"It was the operational micromanagement that drove me nuts of White House and NSC (National Security Council) staffers calling senior commanders out in the field and asking them questions, second guessing commanders," Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who also served under President Bush, said.
"When I I was Deputy National Security Advisor, if I would have tried to, even as deputy, if I had tried to call a field commander, going around Dick Cheney who was Secretary of Defense or Colin Powell who was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, I'd have had my head handed to me, probably personally by the President."
"I told the combatant commanders and the field commanders, 'If you get calls from the White House staff, if you get a call from the President that's one thing, that's totally okay, that's the chain of command, but you get a call from some White House or National Security Council staffer, you tell them to call me instead and then tell them, oh by the way, go to hell and that's directly from the Secretary of Defense," Gates continued. 
"I think what I've seen in these last four years is almost this cautiousness and over correction which makes it appear that the United States is hesitant to take action and that sends, I think, a message of weakness," Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said. 
President Trump does not operate that way.

If you have noticed, his Cabinet members openly disagree with him on some things.

That is the result of his hiring and management policies.

Part of that is that President Trump is no expert. He has ideas. He consults. As I predicted in my books, he will change his mind.

Part of it is on them. He hired people who did not need the job.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson worked his way up to be the boss of Exxon, and now he has a boss again.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross saved Trump's bacon back when his debts exceeded his assets by a billion dollars.

And Defense Secretary Jim Mattis disagrees with President Trump all the time.

Mattis told Kevin Baron, the executive editor of Defense One:
"First time I met with President Trump, we disagreed on three things in my first 40 minutes with him: on NATO, no torture, and on something else. And he hired me. This is not a man who is immune to being persuaded if he thinks you've got an argument. Anyway, press on."
President Trump does not hire Yes Men.

He hires competent people, and lets them do their jobs.

Right now, the president and Mattis are having a public dispute over transgendered troops. Whatever the outcome, it should be a decision that more people will agree on.

And Trump can be convinced.

From the New York Times on November 22:
On the issue of torture, Mr. Trump suggested he had changed his mind about the value of waterboarding after talking with James N. Mattis, a retired Marine Corps general, who headed the United States Central Command.
“He said, ‘I’ve never found it to be useful,’” Mr. Trump said. He added that Mr. Mattis found more value in building trust and rewarding cooperation with terrorism suspects: “‘Give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers, and I’ll do better.’”
“I was very impressed by that answer,” Mr. Trump said.
Torture, he said, is “not going to make the kind of a difference that a lot of people are thinking.”
Mr. Trump repeated that Mr. Mattis was being “seriously, seriously considered” to be secretary of defense. “I think it’s time, maybe, for a general,” he said.
I am curious as to how beer and cigarettes might convince a strict Muslim of anything, but Mattis was metaphorical.

That give and take impressed General Mattis, and I suspect it was a good recruiting tool for the president. That helps explain why the caliber of this Cabinet is much higher than previous ones. Bush 43 had Rumsfeld. Tillerson, Ross and Mattis are in that league. Mnuchin too.

Not every CEO works this way.

But this one does.

Like I said, someday I may get around to writing how to cover President Trump.

But not today.

UPDATE: Never Trumper Rich Lowry beclowned himself: "Nothing good can come from top officials of the U.S. government making it obvious that they believe, to borrow Tillerson’s phrase, that the president speaks for himself — and no one else."


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  1. Part of the unwritten code of leftism is that ideological purity will lead to agreement on all other issues including those of substance. I call it unwritten because I don't think they push political correctness merely for control. Deep down they think it offers this other societal benefit, conformity on everything, a consenting totalitarianism, like at the end of 1984. This of course requires some guru or group, maybe in the future some artificial intelligence, to decide what is the politically correct decision to take in all instances, just to keep everybody straight.

    What we are seeing is the difference in leadership styles of people who assume that men are free actors on the earth with agency and liberty within a system meant to support those things, on the one hand, and on the other the mindset of those who believe that everything can and must be run from the top down, that not only one's beliefs, but every action they take in their lives has political implications and must be taken with that in mind.

    I'm a physician. I hate cigarettes. When they began going after them in public places I knew that it had little or nothing to do with health. If they cared about health the approach to AIDS would have been completely different. It was about control, about having a politically correct way of thinking and allowing it to rule over men's lives. Whether it is the climate, taxes, commerce, freedom of the press, you name it, the name of the game is top down control, and even when they sound reasonable on the surface the motivation is never in favor of the freedom of the mass of people but their subjugation.

    1. Alinsky's rules to create a Social State and rule a population....

      There are 8 levels of control that must be obtained before you are able to create a social state. The first is the most important.

      1) Healthcare
      Control healthcare and you control the people

      2) Poverty
      Increase the Poverty level as high as possible, poor people are easier to control and will not fight back if you are providing everything for them to live.

      3) Debt
      Increase the debt to an unsustainable level. That way you are able to increase taxes, and this will produce more poverty.

      4) Gun Control
      Remove the ability to defend themselves from the Government. That way you are able to create a police state.

      5) Welfare
      Take control of every aspect of their lives (Food, Housing, and Income)

      6) Education
      Take control of what people read and listen to � take control of what children learn in school.

      7) Religion
      Remove the belief in the God from the Government and schools

      8) Class Warfare
      Divide the people into the wealthy and the poor. This will cause more discontent and it will be easier to take (Tax) the wealthy with the support of the poor.

      Does any of this sound like what has been happening to the United States ?

    2. Scary to see what is happening. Thwarting #4 will be the savior. Hopefully PDJT can lead the reversal many of the others.

    3. I think a funny movie or skit would be one where the left has won and decides to program a powerful artificial intelligence to guide society. The AI starts out OK but then begins to make decisions that are either wrong from the leftist perspective, or simply ridiculous. The basic idea is in the Woody Allen movie Bananas, where the idealistic leftist becomes dictator and has people start wearing their underwear on the outside and changing it six times a day. Like in Venezuela, only there no one can afford underwear.

    4. Anonymous, you hit the nail on the head 8 straight times! Nice shooting, to the point and all too true.

    5. @ Teapartydoc- some of those elements are found in Terry Gilliam's "Brazil" (1985.)

      It's been a long long time since I saw that film; time to revisit it I think!

  2. But, Don, the media tells us that President Trump is so very thin-skinned.

    The media wouldn't lie to me would it?

    1. In the immortal words of Dennis Miller on candidate Obama, "It's not the color of his skin that bothers me, it's the thinness of it".

      He also seems to have a short attention span and doesn't handle involved concepts well.

  3. The best leaders I have ever been around all wanted diverse opinions and insights.

  4. No POTUS or CEO can micromanage everything. You have to delegate to subordinates and then defer to their judgment. But you also hold them accountable.

    Lincoln fired 5-6 generals before he put Grant in charge of the Army.

  5. Don, I think your next book will have to have 1000 pages to cover this term.

  6. It isn't whether or not the president's advisors share every opinion with him; what matters is that they remember who sets the policy. As I see it Donald Trump is the one to set policy, those advisors who do not understand that get let go and those who understand that stay even if they disagree.

    -Mikey NTH

  7. It should be noted Tilkerson did not criticize the President.

  8. When Trump gives an order, the military carries it out, period. Since Mattison questioned it, then he needs to be fired, period. He can disagree in private, but he needs to carry out the ban on trans genders in the military.

  9. The way to cover President Trump can be summed up in a single word: Honestly. Trump has no problem with honest mistakes or honest disagreement. He has a real problem with lies and pretense.

  10. With Obama we had hundreds of people doing the work of one man (person). That's why everything was so desperate.

    With Trump we see the multiplier effect of delegating to independent thinkers. More is getting done than there are bodies doing the work.

    It also makes the efforts to distract, disrupt or remove Trump futile. He's laid the groundwork, and put each in charge of completing their part.

  11. So journalists are now so stupid they can't tell the difference between a conservative radio host and yeast?

    'Great' ideas are great in part owing to meticulous preparation of presentation.

  12. Think how General Eisenhower had to deal with super egoists such as Generals Montgomery, Patton, Prime Minister Churchill. And there were others sniping at each other. A great victory, a huge cost.