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Government as a small family business

February 26, 2018

The Partnership for Public Service publishes a “tracker” of key executive department nominations. Now into his second year as President, Donald Trump has failed to act to fill important political positions.

The reason for this lack of attention is the President’s desire to manage the U.S. government as if it were a “small family business.”

That is not how government works.

Political appointments enable Presidents to insert professionals into executive branch agencies who share the President’s political philosophy. Not only does the President not have a consistent political philosophy, he has failed to familiarize himself with the backgrounds and careers of those who do hold a consistent, conservative, political philosophy.

Instead, President Trump relies on his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to advance the names of investment bankers for key positions and the President himself seeks out persons who have attained high military rank.

In the long and short term, this approach to government as a small family business defeats the interests of the GOP.  A President’s ability to nominate political appointees enables him to govern and enables his Party to build and sustain a body of Republicans and conservatives who have government experience.

In the long term, therefore, when President Trump is out of office, there will be none for his Republican successor to appoint who are conservative and have government experience.

In the short term, the Trump Administration is not fully, nor well, staffed and the President is placed daily into circumstnaces where he is compelled to advocate policies he simply dreamed up.

His proposal to “arm” teachers and administrators with guns was ill-advised and opened him to serious criticism. If he had a number of political appointees who knew something about public education and had been thinking about securing public schools from violence, they could make proposals and take the political heat.

In foreign policy, the President values his deal-making skills, but foreign policy is not defined by deals. Foreign policy is governed by the national interest.

The President should be the last person, not the first, to meet with fellow heads of state for the purpose of negotiating “deals.” Putting deals together requires the assessment of risks, of permanent interests, and the politics of other nations. Only seasoned professionals with international experience can make those assessments–not this real estate developer from New  York.

It is hard to conceive of any good that will come from this Presidential Administration, and, frankly, it will be good if it ends with the President’s resignation in the face of his inexorable Impeachment. Former Deputy Special Assistant to President Nixon, Bruce Herschenson, gave some insight into that on July 10, 2010 at the Nixon Presidential Library.

 

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