August 7, 2017

Mythbusting a Businessman in the White House

One benefit of the weekend is that I have more time to pay attention to interesting things that come across my various news and social media feeds. I stumbled upon a article on by Sophie A. McClennen, a Penn State professor of international affairs and comparative literature that caught my eye.

McClennen's article, which originally appeared on Salon, addresses a subject that I've covered in the past: the concept of having a CEO president - and why Trump may be the one who puts that idea to bed - for good.

I originally posted on this subject in May of 2016, admitting that I had considered the possible benefits of having an experienced businessman in the White House.
You know the drill -- we need someone who's actually run a business, met a payroll, fought through countless ridiculous regulations, someone who knows how to balance a budget, someone who understands the real world ramifications of what policy changes mean, someone who is accountable to auditors...  And maybe most importantly, someone who is accountable to customers and shareholders. 
I say the last two - customers and shareholders - are possibly the most important, because if nothing else,  those of us who bother to register and actually vote  year in and year out are the customers and shareholders of all politicians, even though they don't seem to act like as if that's the case. 
And, I expressed some specific concerns abut comments then-candidate Trump had made that suggested such a thing, with him in command, would be a no-go for me.

A year later, four months or so into this administration, I revisited the idea, and remained convinced that it would be a bad thing.

Seems I'm not alone; McClennen comes to the same conclusion. Along the way, using Anthony "the Mooch" Scaramucci and the Wall Street movie franchise as an example of how "weirdly confused" we have become, she says
For some bizarre reason the public is aware that businessmen, whether they work on Wall Street or are New York real estate moguls, are often shady, greedy and selfish, but they still believe somehow that they possess critical and valuable skills that could transfer to running government. There is the public sense that businessmen are effective leaders despite overwhelming evidence that businessmen can and have been vile, corrupt and incompetent. 
Generalizations are always a fraught enterprise: clearly not all businessmen are terrible people, but that isn't the point. The point is that the mistaken idea that businessmen are better equipped to run the country is exactly why our nation is poised for catastrophe. And that's not an exaggeration.  
She doesn't put politicians on a pedestal, nor should she. After all, there are more than enough examples of shady, greedy and selfish politicians to go around, in both parties and at every level of government. But she contends
...there is a basic difference between people trained to accumulate profit and people trained to foster public support.
Specifically in reference to the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave,
Put simply, there is not one facet of the job of president that Trump seems to have gotten even remotely right. Only a few months into the job it was stunningly clear that Trump wasn't just addicted to attention and overwhelmed by poor impulse control, but that he really didn't understand the job he was elected to do...
The list is literally endless at this point. But part of the reason why it is so long is because Trump had no idea how the shared governance of a democracy functions or what it means to work with allies because in his businessman model he really can make absolute decisions without building consensus or making compromises. He has zero appreciation for the notion of the public good, of the value in supporting allies and of the need to respect the opinions of other leaders.
The 'profit-accumulator' would think this type of thing is perfectly normal, but the 'foster public support' person would be, rightfully, aghast -- as has been the case time after time after time.  

For example, Trump has repeatedly called for Mitch McConnell to "go nuclear" and move all votes in the Senate to a simple majority - which it seems, would make Mike Pence the most important man in the country, as the tie-breaker in McConnell's fractured chamber.

There have been other occasions, too - for example, when Trump tweets and instead of marching in step, members of his administration jump back from his pronouncements; or when he calls for suing reporters who print mean things about him, or otherwise shutting down our 1st Amendment rights; or when he calls out the 'Mexican judge' for his assumed lack of impartiality, or other courts that disagree with him...

We love a businessman, even as he makes decisions that take away pensions and benefits; send our jobs overseas, or to cheap regions of the country; demand that taxpayers train their employees even as they sit on piles of money offshore to avoid paying taxes; raise prices beyond what we can afford; fight every regulation that protects workers, the environment, and our futures; buy politicians lock, stock, and barrel; and more.

Weirdly confused, indeed.

Back in May, here's what I said about future prospects of a businessman in the White House:
Since he became president, my opinion that Trump was the wrong one has only been confirmed, and he may have forever ruined the chances for any future businessman-candidate in my eyes.  
And here's how McClennen closed her piece:
None of this mess gets better until this nation takes responsibility for its unfounded adoration of businessmen. The notion that a businessman is better at politics than a politician isn't just wrong; it's led to the Trump administration. And if that doesn't kill the myth, I don't know what can.

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