During an interview with Fox and Friends, Donald Trump made a statement that is very significant in understanding his plans for this administration.
In an interview with Fox News, Trump said he’s been hit for not filling about 1,200 administration jobs that require Senate confirmation, but people don’t understand that he’s not trying to fill many of those jobs.
“A lot of those jobs, I don’t want to appoint someone because they’re unnecessary to have,” Trump said. “In government, we have too many people.”
A lot of publications have been reporting that, while Trump complains about the Democrats delaying confirmation of his cabinet picks, there are hundreds of positions where the administration hasn’t even offered a nominee. In this interview, the president admitted that he’s not planning to do so.
That is an important admission as it reflects on both Trump and his so-called “shadow president,” Steve Bannon. As we’ve already noted, in his speech at CPAC, Bannon suggested that one of his main goals was the deconstruction of the administrative state. Leaving important policy positions open is step one in that process. Of course, that also leads to the kind of incompetence and chaos that we’ve already witnessed from this White House. But for Bannon, that is more likely a feature than a bug.
When it comes to the president himself, this move reflects on what others have described as his management style (or lack of one). Drawing from those who either worked for Trump or wrote about his business dealings, Michael Kruse says:
Trump’s company, despite his grandiose portrayals of a sprawling empire, always at base was a mom-and-pop entity, and what Trump managed throughout his lengthy professional career was principally a core group of barely more than a dozen executives housed on the 26th floor of Trump Tower…
Trump has managed in the Oval Office in Washington pretty much exactly the way he managed on Fifth Avenue in New York…In recent interviews, they recounted a shrewd, slipshod, charming, vengeful, thin-skinned, belligerent, hard-charging manager who was an impulsive hirer and a reluctant firer and surrounded himself with a small cadre of ardent loyalists; who solicited their advice but almost always ultimately went with his gut and did what he wanted; who kept his door open and expected others to do the same not because of a desire for transparency but due to his own insecurities and distrusting disposition; who fostered a frenetic, internally competitive, around-the-clock, stressful, wearying work environment in which he was a demanding, disorienting mixture of hands-on and hands-off—a hesitant delegator and an intermittent micromanager who favored fast-twitch wins over long-term follow-through, promotion over process and intuition over deliberation.
Trump biographer Tim O’Brien summed it all up by saying, ““He’s not a great manager. He’s a performance artist pretending to be a great manager.”
That is one thing when you’re running a business and can fall back on stiffing your contractors and/or filing for bankruptcy. But it’s another thing when you are running the federal government and people’s lives are on the line. We don’t know what kind of crises Trump will face, but if we look back on Obama’s terms in office there were hurricanes, massive forest fires, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and an Ebola outbreak, to name just a few.
Deconstructing the administrative state will be easier than the kind of task Obama faced in setting up a complex system like Obamacare. So a lot of Americans probably won’t notice until a crisis hits—much like we learned about George W. Bush’s incompetence in the aftermath of Katrina. By then it will be too late.