About That “Reign of Error”….

I never thought I’d be grateful for incompetence, but that was before Trump.

Paul Krugman recently addressed the “qualifications” of several of Trump’s appointees, under the headline “The Gang That Couldn’t Think Straight.”

A few days after President Trump was inaugurated, Benjamin Wittes, editor of the influential Lawfare blog, came up with a pithy summary of the new administration: “malevolence tempered by incompetence.” A year later, that rings truer than ever.

In fact, this has been a big week for malevolence. But today’s column will focus on the incompetence, whose full depths — and consequences — we’re just starting to see.

Krugman then takes readers on a stroll through some of those “best people” Trump promised us. There’s FEMA, of course–over half of Puerto Ricans still lack electricity, and the delivery of food and water is, shall we say, less than optimal.

And what about that opiod epidemic? As Krugman notes, we’ve heard rhetoric, but seen zero action. Recently, however, Trump has chosen a nominee to handle that effort:  a 24-year-old former campaign worker, with no relevant experience and who, it appears, has lied on his résumé . Trump has been in office a year, and is just getting around to appointing someone to an important senior position in the Office of National Drug Control Policy. You might think, given that length of time, that his administration would have at least vetted their potential nominee.

Meanwhile, the Trump-appointed director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention resigned after Politico reported that she had purchased tobacco-industry stocks after taking office. This was unethical; it was also deeply stupid. And the C.D.C. isn’t some marginal agency: It’s as crucial to safeguarding American lives as, say, the Department of Homeland Security.

As Krugman notes, these aren’t isolated examples. A lot has been made of the fact that so many positions in the administration remain unfilled a year into the President’s term; there has been less public discussion about the unprecedented number of appointees who have been forced out over falsified credentials, unethical practices or racist remarks.

The obvious question is “why”? Why are so many positions unfilled? And why are so many of the people who have been appointed so…undistinguished (to put it mildly)? (Okay–ragingly incompetent.) Krugman says it reflects both supply and demand: “Competent people don’t want to work for Trump, and he and his inner circle don’t want them anyway.”

I have a number of former students who work for government agencies; they aren’t at the “appointee” level–they are the “faceless bureaucrats” who actually keep government functioning. When Trump was elected, I got anguished emails from several of them, asking whether they should stay or go. Most elected to remain, explicitly to protect the missions of the agencies they serve.

At the level of appointees, however, it is hard to disagree with Krugman’s statement that competent people don’t want to work for Trump. The likelihood of emerging from his cesspool unscathed diminishes every day. (Would you hire Sean Spicer? Kellyanne Conway? Any of the current White House doofuses? )

By now it’s obvious to everyone that the Trump administration is a graveyard for reputations: Everyone who goes in comes out soiled and diminished. Only fools, or those with no reputation to lose, even want the positions on offer. And in any case, Trump, who values personal loyalty above professionalism, probably distrusts anyone whose credentials might give some sense of independence.

Krugman goes on to point out the dangers inherent in incompetence, and I  know he’s right. But I’m just grateful; think how much more damage these yahoos could cause if they actually knew what they were doing!

39 thoughts on “About That “Reign of Error”….

  1. What is most alarming to me is that so many Republicans could not see, or refused to see, the incompetence of Donald Trump which was plainly in view. He failed spectacularly at his business ventures, filed bankruptcy over and over again, failed at his personal relationships, cheated, lied and turned on every entity he claimed to support. So they told themselves that he would “grow” into the office!!!!

    We have way too many people in this country who are delusional.

  2. Theresa –

    Even worse is the fact that so many of those trump voters are still solidly supporting him.

    They are correctly angry at establishment politics, but are choosing the wrong way to create change. The upheaval and damage that trump and his band of destroyers is doing to this country and our standing in the world will take generations to repair. That is IF repair is even possible.

  3. Theresa,

    “What is most alarming to me is that so many Republicans could not see, or refused to see, the incompetence of Donald Trump which was plainly in view.”

    Read the following terrific article by Sarah Posner, she explains why:

    https://newrepublic.com/…/amazing-disgrace-donald-trump-hijacked-religious-right Mar 20, 2017 – How did Donald Trump—a thrice-married, biblically illiterate sexual predator—hijack the religious right?

  4. I don’t care if she had tobacco industry stocks, the health industry stocks however.. probably a conflict of interest. Frankly, I cannot decide if so many open positions is for the best in the long run? No one seems to have staying power anyway. Which is worse, nothing getting done in those empty roles.. or horrible choices being made by inept appointees to those roles?

    Your colleagues that stuck around, do they feel as though they’ve held back the tide? Or, are they subject to the old “you won’t accomplish pulling a sinner up, they’ll only drag you down” mantra?

  5. That is the only reason I can’t support impeachment for 45. Look who’d become 46. I’m not sure if Pence is more loyal to his version of God or to the Koch brothers, but he does know how the system works. Like 45, he’s both stupid and dangerous, but he’s more dangerous because of all those years in Congress.

  6. Sometimes we’re safer with incompetents, but the folks in Puerto Rico would disagree (assuming their problems are the result of incompetence rather than intention).

    The Pence-led transition team paved the way for appointees acceptable to the Koch brothers to hobble the agencies which might require Koch industries to follows the laws and rules that protect employee and public health and safety. I fear them the most since they have a precise agenda they want to accomplish.

    I also fear Betsy DeVos who seeks to replace accountable public schools with privatized, non-accountable charter and voucher schools. Those schools can cherry pick students who already go to their church, who all speak English, who have the best test scores, who don’t rquire expensive special ed. accommodations, and whose parents will transport them to school and volunteer at the school twice a week. Yes she’s incompetent and embarrassingly unaware of federal education rules, but she is head strong to teach the kind of fundamendalist religious curriculum that meets HER standard. It’s VERY scary.

    public school

    .

  7. Well, I care that she violated ethics rules. And I care that positions are not filled, like the ambassadorship of South Korea. And I care that the politicization of so much of the government has driven competent people away. I care because nothing was ever accomplished by not caring.

  8. About that “Reign of Error”; it will take a book to list those who qualify to be listed. The whys, from whence they came, what – if anything – they accomplished or f#*ked up during their brief sojourn in Trump’s company/Company…and how and why they left will probably never make the history books.

    Meanwhile; here at home we have our local “Comedy of Errors” with the City-County Council where even the Republicans voted to put Clay in the position of President…what happened to the charge against him for groping a young man in the past? He has fired people for legally getting well earned raises a few years ago. The Council Democrats booted Clay from their Caucus but he is still President of the City-County Council. And with the “Reign of Error” at the White House, Trump is still President of these United States.

    Like Theresa Bowers; I care about those who have no ethics and remain in appointed positions, I care about the many empty and unfilled necessary positions in the federal government. I was one of those Sheila referred to’ ” I have a number of former students who work for government agencies; they aren’t at the “appointee” level–they are the “faceless bureaucrats” who actually keep government functioning. When Trump was elected, I got anguished emails from several of them, asking whether they should stay or go. Most elected to remain, explicitly to protect the missions of the agencies they serve.” I am sure they, as I did, do their jobs to the fullest under impossible conditions every hour of every workday. They are the ones with ethics and, believe me, they are suffering for their loyalty to the jobs they were assigned to do.

  9. When you elect a reality tv show “star”, you get reality tv actors with no other experience but to “act out” their lines.
    Like Omarosa. We all met her from the show and now she’s back at another reality show.
    Perfect end to the story.

    oh, how I wished it was the end of the story.

  10. Yeah, but…. Drumpf only hires the best so it follows that Porter was the absolute best wife beater on the market.

  11. Sheila correctly notes that Trump values loyalty over competence, a mistake Lincoln did not make (See Kearns’s Team of Rivals). For instance, if I were president would I appoint an agency head because I “liked” him or her? It would be nice if I found a competent person for the job and liked them, but I would remember that I am acting in a representative rather than a personal capacity and look first to competency to head any such position.

    The destroyer Trump who is still following the Bannon-inspired “deconstruction of the administrative state” philosophy doesn’t necessarily like the people he is appointing to head up agencies; apparently he only wishes to appoint those who will undercut and destroy such agencies and their missions (see Pruitt, DeVos et al.). I think his obvious “I hate everything Obama stood for” views are a cover for application of Bannon’s Leninist views that he doesn’t himself understand with his baked in Cartesian blank slate ignorance and flailing from one ridiculous claim to another in an attempt to stay relevant.

    We are hearing from White House sources that he is increasingly irrelevant to policy formation (if any) and that staff treats him as a petulant child who demands praise and adulation in between his retreats to Mar-a-Lago, hoping that his latest tweet will not start a new firestorm. Vain hope – he is ill.

  12. Nancy @ 8:33 am I read the article you linked to. I am no lawyer but to depend on the Republican Party as whole to play “fair” is like living in an alternate universe.

    From the article:
    Courts are poised to step in where lawmakers refuse to act. Constitutional challenges to map-drawing practices in Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin raise hope for a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that might determine once and for all whether the practices used in those states – and in Indiana – violate the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.

    “This is what, I think, drives a lot of interest for the lawyers in this, is the frustration at wondering, how could this be legal?” Jay Yeager, an attorney with Faegre Baker Daniels LLP, told The Indiana Lawyer this week. “How could it be legal that the state government under the color of state power constrained by the due process obligations imposed on it by the 14th Amendment can openly discriminate against people in one party because they’re members of that party?”
    =============================================================
    As I said I am no lawyer. The Democratic Party and other interested organizations should be challenging this gerrymandering in court – State and Federal. Is this just the usual Indiana Democratic Party’s – Surrender do nothing and be the victim??? Where is the fire to resist?? Where is the leadership???

    The Democrats expect us to vote for them, but show no inclination to fight back at all.
    Not surprising this is the Party that gave us Evan Bayh, John Gregg and Joe Donnelly to vote for. My stars these three are cut out dolls or empty suits.

  13. Of course the malevolence in deconstruction of the administrative state is moving forward on schedule but construction of the corporatist state has been delayed by incompetence.

    Finally a break.

    I know that I’m preaching to the choir here but what the most important news is (though nobody is Tweeting about it yet) it’s a mid-term election year. No Presidential distraction to dilute the job at hand. If we can’t yet check the malevolence we can address the incompetence of party over country which is the choice of Republicans to do what’s easy over what’s hard.

    My simple recipe? All Ds in ’18 and ’20.

    I think that the current and surprising bipartisan funding bill is due to pressure on the GOP from the still far out stampede of those thinking as I do. Holy smokes it’s election year already and we have no accomplishments except for a give government away tax reduction for the wealthy followed by a give everything to everyone spending bill. What if someone notices?

    Yes, what if someone notices.

  14. Trump is the personification of ineffective leadership. Textbook.

    That he was elected the leader of this nation says far more about its moronic population than it does about him.

  15. Monotonous Languor –

    Defeating gerrymandering in this state is going to require educating the public about what it is and that this is the reason they have no choices at the voting booth. Most people are completely unaware that it exists and don’t know why more people don’t run for office.

    I waited until 9:30 this morning to make the difficult decision not to run for a state senate position. Ultimately, I would lose in the general election due to gerrymandering. I decided that it would be too much time/work/effort spent knowing the entire time that I would not get the chance to be elected and have the opportunity to represent the citizens.

    To John Neal, Marv and Gerald – Thank you all for your offers of support. You made me reconsider my decision for a full 24 hours. Stay tuned – I plan to jump into the cesspool eventually and I will give this group a heads up about my intentions.

  16. To John Neal, Marv and Gerald – Thank you all for your offers of support. You made me reconsider my decision for a full 24 hours. Stay tuned – I plan to jump into the cesspool eventually and I will give this group a heads up about my intentions.

  17. “The obvious question is “why”? Why are so many positions unfilled? And why are so many of the people who have been appointed so…undistinguished (to put it mildly)? (Okay–ragingly incompetent.) Krugman says it reflects both supply and demand: “Competent people don’t want to work for Trump, and he and his inner circle don’t want them anyway.”

    Paul Krugman needs to wake-up and stop using his exceptional intelligence. Trump is only about LIFEBOAT POLITICS, plain and simple: In other words, who is going to be thrown overboard? If you’re not Jewish, African-American, or Latino, relax, it looks like you’re in good shape for the time being.

  18. I can’t vote for you either, Nancy, as I vote here in Florida – BUT – I can send some money. If you catch the wave you might well win even in a deep red state, and if not, you educated the electorate for the next time, having also rendered a public service, and if the wave is high enough, who can know? Perhaps the supermajority will become a mere majority or, hopefully, a minority.

  19. So much for the dummies voting for “an outsider” for President… This “outsider” we now see is outside every norm for any level of management. He couldn’t manage a fast food franchise.

  20. Vernon,

    “So much for the dummies voting for “an outsider” for President… This “outsider” we now see is outside every norm for any level of management. He couldn’t manage a fast food franchise.”

    You’re so right. What we should really be concerned about is the potential “BLOWBACK” from the failed political strategies and tactics evolving from the Trump/Pence/Bannon administration.

    Both Trump and Bannon are “outsiders” who were destined to make major miscalculations because of their misperceptions coming from both lack of exposure as well as lack of experience within the Republican Party.

  21. Trump/Pence/Bannon cannot be slowed down until a THIRD FORCE can be created to be a counter-veiling force against the Tea Party which was a THIRD FORCE until it eventually took over the Republican Party. The Nazi Party in Germany was a THIRD FORCE within a multi-party system. It could exist on its own.

    At present, the Democratic Party is no match against the Republican Party. That will remain the case until a COUNTER-VEILING THIRD FORCE can be created outside the Democratic Party through some type of ETHICAL FRONT and then accepted into the Democratic Party as was the case with the Tea Party.

  22. What does it say about Republicans in general that they were beat out in their own primary by someone, so, well, incompetent? This reminds me of a favorite saying, “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.” I forget who said that, but dang…they were spot on.

  23. Nancy @ said 11:36 am

    Defeating gerrymandering in this state is going to require educating the public about what it is and that this is the reason they have no choices at the voting booth. Most people are completely unaware that it exists and don’t know why more people don’t run for office.
    =======================================================
    This why I believe the courts have to be place we rely on.

  24. I still think the Democrats can short themselves out and push through to oust Republicanism. Once Democrats stop squabbling like a bunch of hungry chickens, and capture the narrative again, they will do what is necessary.

    Have faith, Marv, and do your bit to help Democrats learn to message better.

  25. Vernon,

    Donald Trump has made a disastrous mistake in calling Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi a TRAITOR. It’s called “opening the door.” A second rate attorney would have know better. He’s totally incompetent.

    He’s a menace not only to the U.S. but also to the world.

  26. Mikey Pence had an opportunity and an obligation to display American Christian sportsmanship to the World, representing the U.S.A. Olympics and deliberately failed in Korea and embarrassed me, a U.S. citizen and veteran of World War Two. Someone teach him that Pride Goeth Before The Fall. He should grow up and be a mensch. He’s costing us a bunch of money so he should be grateful and acquit himself better than an unruly jilted teenage girl.

  27. They’re smart and rich with some dumb and poor supporters. Their base is currently in the 40 percentile. But, beware, they are going to rely on the forgetfulness of the electorate so they will push in September and October to spend more bucks in an effort to cleanse their image for the looming November election. You’re going to see Trump pull in his claws and his fangs, hold his tongue and tweets and act like he’s a benign patriotic Son of America. Pence will help by smiling like a virgin Mona Lisa. Congress will appear to behave better by avoiding controversial bickering but rather deal with issues the voters will support.
    We must not let this current disastrous political tsunami be forgotten.

  28. OMG,

    ” But, beware, they are going to rely on the forgetfulness of the electorate so they will push in September and October to spend more bucks in an effort to cleanse their image for the looming November election.”

    It’ll be something like that, probably more sooner than later. We’re dealing with a movement. Movements move.

  29. OMG,

    That’s why we must attack Trumpism now and not later. But there is no leadership, at present, to make that call. That’s not a decision a politician could make. We’re like a ship without a rudder.

  30. OMG,

    Americans just don’t have the necessary CIVIC COURAGE to make the distinction between a DISASTROUS TAKEOVER and POLITICS AS USUAL. That’s a necessity for a FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE in perception which so far appears to be impossible.

  31. Bravo once again Marv and thanks very much for the article from The New Republic. It explains even more about the short circuiting of the faith community by the very false gods that they follow. I find myself in the position of Reverend Russell Moore given many of the evangelicals that I know personally that have dramatically embraced Trump and now act like they’ve joined the Sicherheitsdienst des Reichfuhrers-SS (SD) in regard to anyone that’s the slightest bit different from them. These are good people, ones that I have known for years but their transformation is horrific. Truly shocking stuff!!

  32. Tom,

    “These are good people, ones that I have known for years but their transformation is horrific. Truly shocking stuff!!”

    Our only chance, at this late in the game, is to fully explain how all of this could have occurred. It’s not all the fault of the faith community. They have been brainwashed. There has been absolutely no defense against the PSYCHOLOGICAL WARFARE waged by the Religous Right/Far Right in its strategy of MANUFACTURED HATRED which has been used much like the poisonous gases deployed by both sides in W.W. I.

    This DOMESTIC WARFARE has been going on for just short of 50 years. Our first objective must be to erect a “political seawall” against the approaching TSUNAMI OF HATRED. There’s no other remedy.

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