The Right Resistance: Trump’s personnel mistakes continue to plague him, even today
Much has been said and written lately concerning former president Donald Trump’s chances of winning another Republican nomination and then the likelihood of defeating his
Democrat opponent (senile president Joe Biden or any other rubber stamp liberal Democrat) in the 2024 general election.
Such speculation is good and healthy and should be waged before the GOP primary campaign even kicks off. Much of the crucial vetting work takes place during the lead-up to the first national media debates (probably beginning next summer or early fall). Public opinion will ebb and flow accordingly, and if history is a guide, Trump will commandeer more than his share of ruling class scorn and establishment media outrage along the way.
The kerfuffle over Trump’s easily misinterpreted remarks on the Twitter files and the Constitution were just the latest in a seemingly non-stop stream of anti-45th president obsession. No doubt, Trump’s detractors – and some of his ardent backers – are sharpening their best arguments against and for a Trump 3.0 run. Trump himself hasn’t lost a proverbial step in his personal campaign style race. He’s prepared. Is the country ready for him? We’ll see.
But one thing’s for sure, whether or not Trump wins another term as president, he’ll still need visible and measurable improvement in one area of political management: the individuals he taps to staff his campaign and administration. Frankly speaking, his choices in the first go-round were a disaster on many levels. In a piece titled “If Trump wants to run again, he must surround himself with the right people”, Michael McKenna wrote at The Washington Times:
“[Trump’s inability to hire quality people] shortcoming will become especially acute if there is a second term, as Mr. Trump will be a lame duck once he raises his hand and takes the oath. Under the best of circumstances, staffing a lame-duck administration is difficult, as few are willing to take the risk of playing what can devolve into a game of professional musical chairs.
“In the Reagan administration, the mantra was always that personnel is policy, that who you appoint will directly affect what you can achieve and the extent to which your changes to the government are durable. That is absolutely true. Mr. Trump and his team need to embed that in their thinking and devise a solution to personnel selection that works.
“Otherwise, a second term will be much like the first term: chaotic, lacking in direction, riven with personal rivalries and vendettas, and full of leadership and staff that at times actively oppose the president. The absolute minimum needed to avoid this fate is if the president himself realizes the importance of personnel and takes care to appoint competent, aligned, dedicated people.”
Of course, McKenna is one-hundred percent right on a topic that shouldn’t require much disagreement, since staffing is really a matter of common sense. Bringing on supporters and loyalists to bolster your campaign, and more importantly, to further your agenda, is probably the single most important political thing a president does. It’s a no brainer, but only if the new workers are capable – and willing – to do their jobs.
Like with most things, preparation is a key.
In our years of dealing with Little League baseball, for example, we came across team managers who made detailed draft boards prior to the selection of players after the standard league try-outs with each kid taking five or six swings, fielding two or three batted balls at shortstop and then throwing to first base. Then, if there was time leftover, the participants were timed running the bases.
Every season, a few guys volunteer to manage based on pleas for additional warm bodies to step-up and serve or else everyone be confronted with reducing the number of teams. Some new coaches might not even attend the try-out session. These unfortunate souls were essentially drafting blind and hoping against hope that the next name they drew was a kid who might serve as a team leader as well as provide some offensive and defensive prowess.
In our experience, the men with the draft boards always had the best teams. I wonder why?
Is assembling a political administration all that different than presiding over a Little League draft? Your white board of top tier potential hires should be assembled well before the election even takes place. Your campaign wouldn’t promise them a position in exchange for an endorsement, but it’s not that hard to figure out who’s for you and who’s against you. These “first rounders” must be in place early on in any presidential transition.
You may recall the hurried transition period between the 2016 election and Inauguration Day when President-Elect Trump decided his chief of staff responsibilities were to be split between campaign guru Steve Bannon and a representative of the Republican establishment, Reince Priebus. The strange division of labor and duties didn’t last long, and neither did either man in his respective co-position. Priebus couldn’t handle Trump’s demanding personality and Bannon, well, kind of flaked out with unauthorized media leaks and critiques behind the scenes.
As would be expected, the heinous establishment media took great delight in reporting all the “turmoil” in Trump’s fledgling operation, with the turnover nearly matching that of current vice president Kamala Harris’s staff. (Note: Harris lost another Communications Director, sooner or later there will be no one to do her work for her.)
Conservatives may remember how Trump was not satisfied with his own communications shop, criticizing and then removing campaign spokesman Sean Spicer who had assumed the larger role of White House Press Secretary once in office. Spicer himself became part of the story for his sometimes shoddy appearance and his inability to stay out of public sightings and gossip.
Trump even talked about completely eliminating the position of Press Secretary, finally finding the very capable pair of Sarah Huckabee Sanders (who is now the governor-elect of Arkansas) and Kayleigh McEnany, both of which filled the role flawlessly. Put it this way -- both were leaps and bounds better than milquetoast liar Jen Psaki and the current Biden mouthpiece, the astonishingly incompetent Karine Jean-Pierre.
Most Republicans also harken back to Trump’s promise during the 2016 primary debates to staff his administration with capable and experienced leaders who’d proven themselves in the private sector. When push came to shove, however, Trump made some huge mistakes (his first Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, among his biggest errors). Few would dispute that Senator Jeff Sessions looked good on paper to fulfill the duties of Attorney General, but once in place, Sessions shied away from confrontation and argument, not good traits for the top federal law enforcement officer.
Conservatives demand better in a possible second Trump presidency. As McKenna pointed out in his piece, it won’t be easy to find willing volunteers to man his lame duck administration. Every second term commander in chief finds it much harder to bring on good hands to help him. Even the immortal George Washington struggled to get strong leaders to work alongside him in his second four years.
It's often said that Washington’s first cabinet was the best in American history, and his second, the poorest in American history.
Where will Trump discover his implementors and brothers (or sisters?) in arms? We can certainly rule out anyone with strong connections to the party establishment, most of whom will have already disqualified themselves through antagonistic comments if not outright opposition during the primary and general campaigns. And there won’t be any calls to keep a token Democrat or two around this time to promote “unity”. There’s no such comity any longer, especially where Trump is concerned.
The new (old?) president might additionally find it difficult to poach stalwart conservative members of Congress who would be terrific advocates for the MAGA agenda but also might be reluctant to leave their seats for fear of possibly tipping the partisan balance in a close House or Senate chamber. Who can forget how Sessions resigned his sure-to-be safe seat in 2017 only to have it lost to Democrat Doug Jones in a runoff election that December? These things do happen.
Donald Trump has enough to worry about these days trying to figure out a way to wage a successful primary campaign without presenting his enemies (both Republican and Democrat) with an even more powerful chunk of ammunition to fling against him. If Trump does win the White House again, his challenges only become more desperate in finding competent conservatives to staff his administration.
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