Friday, April 28, 2017

Trump's realization that being President is hard

The Reuters interview in which Trump acknowledges his surprise at the difficulty of his new job is worth discussing, but let's do this from a slightly unmutual angle.

'memba when Trump said "nobody knew healthcare could be so complicated," even though basically everybody except Trump understood that healthcare is complicated?

'memba when Trump needed a ten-minute talk with the Chinese President to understand the North Korea is a complicated problem, which basically everybody else on the planet understood already?

Yes, Trump stumbled into this job saying, and obviously truly believing that everything would be easy.  He has slowly come to understand that, no really, the job is hard, healthcare is hard, foreign policy is hard, and so on.  Scholarly-reference time.  The "Dunning-Kruger effect."  Want a fun read?  "Unskilled and unaware of it: How difficulties in recognizing one's own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments," by Justin Kruger and David Dunning.  Why do we call this the "Dunning-Kruger" effect given the order of the names on the paper?  Um, uh... Hey, let's get back to Trump.

So, the basic problem is that if you are a fuckwit, you are too fuckwitted to notice that your wits have been fucked.  {cough, cough} Trump {cough}.  Beyond that obvious and childish joke, though, what's actually happening is that Trump is coming to recognize that he didn't know very much.  He is recognizing that he didn't know anything about healthcare, North Korea, or the real difficulty of the Presidency.  He assumed he understood these things, and that he would be able to handle the Presidency, but he is in the process of learning, and recognizing that he didn't understand them, and recognizing that he kind of sucks at being President.  That's not very Dunning-Kruger of him!

The problem is that Trump doesn't actually have any interest in public policy.  He cares intensely about how he is perceived by the media and the public, but nothing at all about public policy itself, which was why he was never involved in policy in any serious way before the campaign (or even really during).  That gives him little incentive to buckle down and learn what he needs to learn.  He's in way over his head, and he is finally starting to realize it.  What he does now is the question.  The obvious answer is delegation, but the problem is that, sooner or later, there will be a real crisis, and the blame for a bad decision will have to fall on his head.  The smarter and more responsible figures won't want to make the decision when that time comes, and he won't know enough to make a good decision.

But, he does recognize his own incompetence, which is not what we would expect, given the research on Dunning-Kruger.  He just tries to hide it most of the time.

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