Alan Zendell, March 2, 2018
The theory goes, if you’re smarter than everyone else and a genius at tactics, timing, reading the crowd, and knowing where the escape tunnel is, you can juggle dozens of balls at once and no one but you will be able to keep track of them. And if you throw in a few red herrings, tell a bunch of outright lies, and contradict half of what you said today, tomorrow, claiming you never said whatever you contradicted in the first place, the resulting chaff will confuse any incoming missiles from your enemies (i.e., everyone else in the free world,) and the ensuing chaos and confusion will become a distraction that makes them weak and ineffective.
Human nature being what it is, even if a few on the other side, (actually sides, since part of your strategy is to make sure no one ever knows which side you’re really on,) are as smart as you are, they’ll all disagree and spend so much time bickering and figuring out how to undermine each other that by the time they’re ready to act, the train will have left the station with them still on the platform, and they won’t even be able to agree on which way it went.
If the preceding paragraphs sound disjointed, muddled, filled with stupid metaphors and hard to follow (at least they’re not ungrammatical) – you’re beginning to see the point. While you were re-reading it and trying to figure out what I was talking about I picked your pocket and instituted a tariff on your favorite coffee, because as everyone knows, it’s only the elites in blue states who appreciate good coffee. And in the resulting turmoil with every coffee-growing country screaming betrayal, the former British Commonwealth re-united to place a tariff on all tea not grown in India. And while all this was going on, another seven senior staffers in the West Wing were quietly shown the exits, and three cabinet secretaries, none of them Jeff Sessions, resigned due to scandals over falsified purchase orders and travel vouchers.
The unfortunate thing is that this badly scripted grade B movie is the reality we’re all living in. That may explain why no progress is being made in keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and crazies, most Americans have no idea how they were screwed by the new tax bill, and we have no coherent plan to deal with either DACA or immigration in general. And of course, North Korea continues working in the shadows to develop a nuclear ICBM that can cross the Pacific in spite of all those tweets that have been hurled at them.
A year ago, with Steve Bannon’s shooting star hovering near its apogee, I and many others noted (Warcraft and Governance, February 20, 2017) his fascination for Sun Tzu’s ancient treatise on military strategy, The Art of War. We all asked the same question back then. Having seen Bannon and Trump apply the Sun Tzu formula of spreading chaos and confusion that worked in managing Trump’s real estate empire to the election campaign, would the same approach work for governing the country? We’ve now had more than a year to answer that question.
No one I know anywhere in the political spectrum can recall seeing a more disorganized, ineffective White House, except during the post-Watergate unraveling of the Nixon administration, and that was short lived thanks to a White House Chief of Staff and a Republican majority in Congress that joined forces to neutralize Nixon and force his resignation. Democratic political strategist Paul Begala addressed the situation today. Directing his remarks to Trump voters, he said (I’m paraphrasing) Trump was a lunatic during the campaign, he was a lunatic in his private life, and now he’s a lunatic trying to govern the country. You got what you asked for. How’s that working out for you?
Inasmuch as Trump’s favorability rating among all voters including Republicans is currently at an all-time low, based on polls taken prior to the Porter and security clearance scandals, most of the country including part of Trump’s vaunted base thinks it’s not working out as well as they’d hoped. Some of us fear that, to coin a phrase, “We ain’t seen anything yet.” Is this White House spiraling out of control like a jetliner with its tail shot off? Even the most skillful pilot couldn’t avert a catastrophe under those circumstances.
Each month we look at the situation and think it couldn’t possibly get worse, and yet it does. We warned you that running the White House like a family business wouldn’t, couldn’t work. We warned you about governing by tweet. And we warned all along that the only entity that might be able to change things for the better, the Republican majority in Congress, was too divided, too concerned with individual self-interest, and too ineffective in general to take action.
I don’t know about everyone else, but I’m scared.