Monday, February 6, 2017

The White House: Live from the Improv

This is from the New York Times morning briefing.
Two weeks in, miscues are worrying Mr. Trump’s aides.
The bungled rollout of his executive order barring immigrants from seven Muslim countries, a flurry of other miscues and embarrassments, and low approval ratings have led to Mr. Trump and his top staff rethinking an improvisational approach to governing that mirrors his chaotic presidential campaign.
Time and again Hillary Clinton warned that running a campaign is not the equivalent of governing and that running businesses is not like running a country. The way Trump ran his campaign gave every indication that his "governing" style was going to be fast, loose, and superficial.


Hillary tried to tell us, but you know: Tracy Flick, emails, private server, low energy, criminal, "lock her up," and worse.

Meanwhile Trump, all along, had a private server just to communicate with Russian parties not yet completely identified, had surrogates talking to Russians with close ties to the Kremlin and to Putin, and even told Russia to hack Hillary's email.

He has never bothered to inform himself, has eschewed reading and security briefings, and does not, to this day, read documents that are put in front of him for a signature, so he cannot ask questions about them, and concerns himself with whether the women on staff are wearing sufficiently feminine garb  - a twist darkly similar to the fashion police in Iran and other Islamic republics.

Improv is theatre and does entail skills, and there is no doubt that there are times when skilled statesmen and stateswomen must employ them. They are not, however, the go-to in the playbook. No matter how often we may refer to political kabuki, there is never an implication that preparation is not involved. To perform political kabuki, successful parties overprepare as do all good actors, students, teachers, and just about everyone else in a broad variety of responsible positions.

Of course there is theatre in politics. There have also been entertainers who have made the transition to politics relatively smoothly including George Murphy, Ronald Reagan, Fred Thompson, Hulk Hogan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Al Franken for example.  But it is a transition involving different skills sets.

Trump team moving on from improv? That involves homework, and homework involves reading. We'll see how this goes.

P.S. On another note, it is not lost on me that the Times chose the verb to bar rather than to ban. Just saying.