Alan Zendell, July 14, 2017
Remember all the talk during the campaign about whether success in managing a business translated to success in governing? Before Donald Trump won the nomination, the Republicans were the ones asking the question loudest. It was actually the most important question being raised, far more important than Trump’s morals or principles or business ethics, more important than whether he was a liar, a racist, or a mysoginist.
The notion of a pristine, highly moral, totally honest president is a fantasy out of a children’s book. Governing and politics are hard-nosed dirty enterprises, and our fantasy candidate, should he or she ever actually win would be an innocent lamb led to the slaughter. Our presidents have to be tough, and they can’t always tell the truth, but there are certain rules they must follow.
The country is learning, now, what many of us who’ve been involved in government meant by asking the question. There’s no reason someone who was successful in business couldn’t be an effective president if he or she had the right temperament. Succeeding in government requires a mind open to change, a willingness to accept that the playing field is different with an entirely new set of rules and conventions, and that the combination of a massive ego and huge sums of money don’t work in government the way they do in business.
Everything is different, and the differences are not just in style. When a business wants to hire a qualified employee it’s a simple transaction; things like prior relationships, nepotism, even objective qualifications are secondary to the desire of the boss doing the hiring. In government, the rules for hiring employees are so complex and arcane, they discourage qualified people from either applying for jobs or wanting to be managers. The same is true for hiring consultants, advisers, and contractors. Unless a business receives money from the government, it is free of all the entangling laws and regulations that were put in place to assure fairness, but have evolved into nearly impassible roadblocks.
A president, like every other government official is bound by countless statutes, ethics requirements, and constant scrutiny by the media. The most important difference, we now see, is the body of laws governing foreign contacts and espionage. Companies spy on each other all the time, but when governments do it the consequences can be grave. In government, anything construed as subverting our electoral process or passing sensitive information to a potential adversary is a felony that can rise to the level of a capital crime.
Remember when Trump said Hillary Clinton should be in prison for the things she allegedly did? If anyone else did them, he said, they’d be locked up. Well, Donald, have a look in the mirror. If a private citizen not protected by the Office of the President did the things your people seem to have done, the case would be open and shut.
So no, just about anyone would NOT have taken that meeting with the Russian lawyer or written about how eager he was to receive damaging political information from a nation that clearly means us no good. Anyone who understood the rules would have reported it to the FBI as an attempted act of subversion. Mister President, your son is not only naïve and incompetent when it comes to government, his action was criminally irresponsible. And your son-in-law, Mister Kushner, as brilliant as he is reputed to be by many people, is no better.
When you’re connected to the president, you can’t just pick up the phone and talk to anyone you want about anything you’d like to know. You can’t just go to meetings without vetting the people you’re colluding with, and you can’t just get on a plane and visit your country’s enemies because you feel like doing it.
The truth is, you can’t even think about governing without reading some of the more basic federal laws that describe what’s allowed and what isn’t. And federal statutes cannot be boiled down to two sentence summaries. You can’t let your ego drive your actions. You can’t tweet about things that must only be discussed behind closed doors by people with the appropriate clearances.
Your base may love you, Mister President, but they know even less about the rules of governing than you do. And if you get impeached for your actions or your family and advisers wind up in prison, that base of yours will just go on living their lives looking for another hero to save them from themselves. They love the theater and the drama, but you’ll take the fall.