He has some showman skills, a good nickname game, and a sporadically good Twitter game

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2022

Trump made a lot of noise, Dominic Cummings notes, but got very little done:

And Trump showed:

1. He does not understand power in Washington.

2. He doesn’t have a CEO mindset or skillset in the Bezos/Gates/Jobs/Musk sense of being able to execute at scale and speed.

3. Like Boris Johnson, his insecurities mean he can’t face his lack of skills and trust/empower anyone to build the team to run the administration for him.

4. He has some showman skills, a good nickname game and a sporadically good twitter game. But like Johnson, he prefers to spend his time babbling about and at the media rather than the (often mind-numbing) problems of institutions and incentives you need to focus on to change big things.

This combination meant Trump made a lot of noise but got very little done.

He could not control the government. He was sometimes right, sometimes wrong, sometimes idiotic, often right in his complaints that the media were lying, but very little he said mattered because his words did not connect to power. He annoyed the swamp but he couldn’t drain the swamp — not the tiniest corner. From the intelligence services to the public health bureaucracy, he ranted and threatened but he could not persuade them to change, he could not appoint people to make them change, he couldn’t close them, he couldn’t replace them. He could not even force the deep state to vet his appointments some of whom were given the run around for over 18 months by the FBI before giving up in despair. If you can’t force the FBI to vet your appointments, you can’t do much of anything. And though he hated the media, was seriously weakened by them, and wanted to weaken them he actually flooded his enemies with a wave of energy and money! As the boss of CBS said, Trump ‘may not be good for America but he’s damn good for CBS’.


  1. Gavin Longmuir says:

    Dominic Cummings — the guy who barely managed to secure a small plurality for Brexit, which has caused problems ever since because the majority of Brits who did not vote for it were not convinced and the large minority who actively voted against it saw the election defeat as temporary & reversible. Yes, he is a good guy to give advice!

    Nevertheless, he has some interesting thoughts. His comments on Trump are perhaps the least relevant parts of his discussion — which is built on his reasonable observation that “the [political] governments don’t control the [real bureaucratic] governments”.

    Cummings lays out a plan to correct this:
    “To pull off something like this needs a mix of A) ultra-simple things that are popular to help you win and B) an ultra-sophisticated plan for replacing the existing regime.”

    Trump had an extremely popular plan — control the US southern border by building a wall. He also initially had nominal Republican control of House & Senate. And it was those nominal Republican politicians who undermined & defeated what Trump’s voters had asked for — the politicians, not the bureaucrats.

    Nevertheless, Cummings has a clear idea of the power of the bureaucrats and the media who defeated him as well as Trump:
    “The bureaucracy does not need flashy victories. It wins by inertia — by just having dumb meeting after dumb meeting, by having its lawyers declare your idea ‘unlawful’ …”

    Cummings failed. Trump failed. The only way to achieve Cummings goal of shutting down bureaucracies and building new ones would be in the event of very major societal disruption. Maybe the nuclear war with Russia which our Best & Brightest are stumbling towards will be the necessary disaster on the path to rebuilding a better society.

  2. Altitude Zero says:

    Trump forced TPTB to come right out and steal and election, and unmask themselves for what they really were. That’s not nothing, no matter what Cummings thinks. Overturning TPTB is a process, not an event, and Trup was an important part of that process.

  3. Harper’s Notes says:

    Perhaps Dominic doesn’t understand how limited the power is of a US President when Congress is controlled by the opposition party. Especially on domestic policy issues. In Parliamentary systems the Prime Minister is generally elected by Parliament.

  4. David Foster says:

    Trump…”got very little done”…really? How about:

    1–driving Project Warp Speed to produce vaccines at unprecedented speed…a lot more effective, in terms of lives saved and illness reduced, than “strict lockdowns” would have been (cf China)

    2–greatly improving prospects for peace in the Middle East via the Abraham Accords, bypassing the Palestinian leadership rather than allowing them to act as a perpetual veto.

    3–getting better control of the border than previously or late.

    4–passing business tax cuts which impacted the economy very positively, and not only for ‘the rich’

    5–energy independence, now reversed

    6–getting China taken seriously as a competitor and potential adversary

    7–selling the concept that manufacturing in America was not a lost cause…a point that is now much more widely accepted than it was.

  5. Adar says:

    As to the personality of Don, any man who can take a $40 million dollar inheritance and create $10 billion of wealth just has to have the ability to do something right.

    As if the professional long-time serving politicians have done a whole lot better.

  6. Altitude Zero says:

    That Trump did not accomplish everything that he could or should have accomplished is obvious. That he was also the most consequential US President since Reagan is equally obvious. People like Cummings insist on seeing Trump as a failure because of their dislike of his personal style, which makes about as much sense as downplaying the accomplishments of FDR (mostly baleful, but still..) because you disliked his “Fireside Chats”. And of course, the Trump story is not yet over.

  7. C. Matt says:

    Aside from the fiasco of poisoning everyone with the vaccine at warp speed, he did have an overall positive impact. Much more so than the buffoon who stole the last election.

  8. Altitude Zero says:

    “Aside from the fiasco of poisoning everyone with the vaccine at warp speed”

    The business of the vaccines helps to point up the fact that Trump does have some genuine weaknesses, and one of them is not understanding the current era. Trump as President often reacted to events as if he were leading the United States of the 1950′s-1980′s, with a media that skewed left but still basically reported the truth, a dedicated and patriotic military and intelligence community, and a medical sector that was still interested in curing people and preventing disease, not in piling up the maximum number of bucks. If he’s re-elected, I hope that he doesn’t make this mistake again.

  9. Gavin Longmuir says:

    Trump aside, the bigger point of Cummings’ piece is that elections can’t make much of a difference because the people who get elected have little influence over the bureaucracy.

    If someone like Soetero gets elected and tries to push the bureaucracy in the direction it wants to go (bigger, more intrusive, more expensive bureaucracy), he can have a modest impact. If someone like Trump or Reagan gets elected who wants to go in a direction contrary to what the bureaucracy wants, he faces very tough sledding.

    The answer is to make the bureaucrats personally accountable — and make them suffer real personal consequences when they fail to perform. Cummings thinks the approach should be to shut down all the agencies and replace the useful parts with new agencies. Good luck with that ever happening, short of societal collapse!

  10. Elrod says:

    Trump, for all his shortcomings — and there were/are many — was necessary. He was also “the only other game in town” at that juncture.

    A few have said “Trump was elected to stop the Deep State, DeSantis will be elected to destroy it.”

    We can hope, but whomever becomes Prez in 2024 will have that as their mission, and their success will be judged by how much of the fed dot gov he/she is able to shut down.

    Ruthlessness will be rewarded, devolvement of (parts of) DC to the 50 will be the measure (not much of DC deserves to be “devolved to the 50″ because it shouldn’t be done en mass by anyone, anywhere; that’s what The Citizens are for.).

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