Alan Zendell, December 28, 2020
Imagine that you work for a large corporation that serves millions of customers. Despite having a resume that has no relationship to the job, you have responsibility for an enormously costly project that will require the best cooperative efforts you can muster. The well-being of millions of people and the morale and careers of the hundreds of employees who contribute to the project depend on your success.
It’s critical that the person in charge be free of personality traits that might sabotage the outcomes of projects like this one – things like an enormous ego, serious anger management issues, and a complete lack of empathy for the people who rely on you. Yet, your management style has often been criticized as being based on intimidation and inciting infighting among your staff, and sending mixed messages that frequently leave your key people in a quandary.
Worst of all, your tendency to be unpredictable and erratic, and your long history of troubled relationships with peers and subordinates too often leaves the people you most depend on stuck between doing a job properly and catering to your whims and idiosyncrasies. They’re all tops in their fields, people who know how to get results, except when goals and objectives are obscured by misdirection and contradictions. Those closest to you wonder aloud how someone like you could ever have been given responsibility for something so essential.
Somehow, you have avoided catastrophic failures for decades because of your loyal army of thugs and sycophants. But you know that can’t last forever, and when that moment comes and it is readily apparent to everyone, particularly those people who are hurt by your failure, how long would it take your Board to unceremoniously terminate you?
If that happened in business, you’d be immediately escorted off the premises by security, and your access to everything connected with the company would be terminated – ID badges, computer passwords, banks accounts – in case you’re a vindictive sort who might create great havoc if allowed to. But if you happened to be the President of the United States, even after you’ve been clearly dismissed by your constituents, (the voters,) you’d still have unfettered access to enormous power for seventy-eight days. Think of all the harm you could do if you were unscrupulous and driven only by the need to avenge every perceived wrong…
…which brings us to the debacle over the $2.3 trillion bill that provides relief to tens of millions of people suffering because of the pandemic and keeps the government functioning, and Trump’s veto of the Defense Appropriations Act because his racist supporters object to removing the names of Confederate generals from our military bases. Failure to move such vital undertakings across the finish line would end the career of most corporate CEOs. Scuttling the DAA is equivalent to firing corporate security and shutting down the computers that protect a company’s information and employees.
The almost unimaginable stress and hardship caused by Trump’s pique over losing the election and countless other grievances, including his wife being snubbed by fashion magazines that failed to honor her with a cover, was a predictable but unforgiveable epilog to his administration. We survived, this time, but there are twenty-three days left in Trump’s lame duck tenure, which in his mind, is a free pass to do anything he pleases. If I thought it would do any good, I’d pray every day for a miracle that would transform him into a decent human being. Since that’s not going to happen, I can only think about how to prevent this from happening again. This is not about politics or ideology. The question is how to avoid allowing someone as unfit as Trump to ever have so much power in the future.
Many industries require rigorous psychological evaluations for anyone who might have critical responsibilities. Commercial airlines, for example, continuously evaluate flight crews for drug and alcohol use and psychological issues that might endanger passengers. They have no choice; the cost of catastrophic failure is too great to risk. Ask yourself if it makes sense to apply the standards for the person flying your jetliner to the person in whom we invest the power of the presidency.
What if we had a psychological screening program for presidential candidates? I don’t know who would develop and administer it or how it would work, but wouldn’t we all rest easier knowing we could trust the emotional stability of our president? More than half the country believed Donald Trump was unfit to lead, but because of our outdated Electoral College system, that didn’t prevent us from having to endure four years of him.