Monday, January 23, 2017

"Alternative facts" and what we have learned

What is there to say about "alternative facts?"  Believe it or not, we actually learned something new from the Spicer/Conway/"alternative facts" spectacle.  If you are bothering to read this, I'm just going to assume I don't have to recap it for you.  So let's get into the political science.

Your reference for the day is Fred Greenstein's The Hidden-Hand Presidency.  The book is about Eisenhower, who was thought by many to be a relatively ineffectual president.  Among political scientists, that was heavily influenced by the analysis of Richard Neustadt, who idolized FDR, and Eisenhower did things differently.  Greenstein argued that Eisenhower was actually pretty savvy.  I'll be talking about Eisenhower a lot, in all likelihood, so I'd recommend reading the book (it's good anyway), but today, I'll focus on a couple of key elements of what Greenstein called "hidden-hand leadership."

Eisenhower tried to stay above the political fray, not engaging in personality conflicts, and delegating tasks.

Stop laughing.

OK, so Trump is all about personality conflicts.  My main topic for the day, though, is delegation.  The best model for a successful Trump Presidency has always been built on delegation since he doesn't know anything about politics or public policy.  In other words, he can be successful if he just lets other people do the job for him like the spoiled child he is while he just goes off on twitter rants.

That's what the Pence selection was all about.  He needed a legislator and a governor to be the real president.  The question was about whether or not he would let Pence be the real president.

Conway and Spicer have no real responsibilities.  They are just Trump's flunkies.  If he really is just telling his flunkies to go around doing this kind of nonsense and letting the grown-ups handle the grown-up responsibilities, then everything might be OK.  However, the actions of Conway and Spicer suggest that there might not be as much delegation as the Pence-as-acting-President model, or certainly the Eisenhower model would require.

This is a stupid and petty incident.  However, Spicer did not want to go into that press briefing and tell stupid lies about the crowd size at the inauguration, and Conway did not want to try to defend those stupid lies.  They were forced into that situation by Trump.

Will Trump delegate?  These are not hopeful signs.

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