Among the plethora of campaign promises President Donald Trump has failed to keep – topped most spectacularly by his pledge to never lie – is his guarantee that he would surround himself with only “the best people.” In fact, he has surrounded himself almost entirely with sycophants, self-aggrandizing functionaries and mediocrities unsuited for the important jobs they have been given.
Most presidents really do want the best and the brightest manning their administrations because they know those people will not only do a good job, but also make the president look good. Trump does not get that. He clearly does not like competing for credit with experts who can rightly claim they know more than he does about a particular subject. This has become abundantly clear in the daily White House briefings on the coronavirus pandemic where medical specialists repeatedly correct Trump’s cascade of misinformation as he stands fuming on the sidelines.
Trump is much more comfortable gleaning wacky ideas about the current health crisis from the feedback loop that he shares with various professional ranters on Fox News. His preference for loyal amateurs and cranks is evidenced by the prominence of his dabbler son-in-law, Jared Kushner, whom Trump has tasked with sorting out the mismanaged federal response to COVID-19. And it shows in the way Trump has turned to his private lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to give him the latest news about fringe miracle cures that will fix everything overnight.
It is fortunate that the country can boast a cohort of very able state governors who have taken charge and are listening to specialists and gathering facts. They have had to bridge the huge leadership gap left by a president who does not like to be told what he does not know.
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