Thursday, May 25, 2017

Don't Confuse Donald Trump With A Businessman

I've been hearing the above statement - or something similar - from a lot of people ever since il Duce rose to power. The failures of the Trump Administration, they argue, is proof positive that you can't elect business people to run the government. It's simply beyond their capabilities to handle.

To which I say, bullshit!

Look, I'm not suggesting that running a business and being the chief executive of the largest bureaucracy on the planet are analogous, and no doubt there are many facets of the latter which cannot and should not be run like a business. For instance, businesses must earn a profit and I wouldn't want agencies like the FDA or the FAA - which are tasked with regulating the food we eat and the planes we fly in - to be motivated by profit. Just the opposite, in fact.

But please, let's stop this nonsense that Trump's ineptitude is due to the fact that he has no experience in government and that he thinks like a businessman. Apart from Trump I know of no one who's successful in business who behaves like this idiot. Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg, even Marc Cuban, none of them would act like this.

In fact the only person that comes even remotely close to matching Trump's bizarre and eccentric behavior would be Steve Jobs. But while Jobs did everything humanly possible to make people despise him, in the end he transformed an entire industry and invented another, creating millions of jobs in the process. Apart from making a few tax accountants filthy rich by keeping him from going bankrupt, the only thing Trump has managed to do successfully is to find enough gullible people to license his name to.

No, Trump's problems have nothing to do with his background, but rather who and what he is. The fact is we have a 70 year old man child living in the White House. He could've been a career politician and the results would've been the same. To quote Forrest Gump, "Stupid is as stupid does."

How can I be so sure? After all, how do I know that Bill Gates in his own way wasn't just as bad as Trump? The difference, one might argue, was that Gates lived in the world of technology, whereas Trump came from the real estate industry. The former was primarily a private person; the latter far more flamboyant. Maybe deep down, both men were just as egotistical and full of themselves and that the only reason we know about Trump's idiosyncrasies is that he chose to air them in public.

Okay, let's play this out. Let's assume that all successful business people have huge egos. After all, Gates's company Microsoft was once sued by the Justice Department because it was believed to be a monopoly. Though the suit eventually failed, it nonetheless tarnished the reputation of Gates. Cuban has been in the public spotlight more than the Kardashians these days. And he hasn't exactly been the poster boy for restraint of tongue. Bloomberg thinks so highly of himself he took advantage of a loophole that allowed him to serve three terms as mayor of New York City, then had the audacity to support a measure that would've restored the city's two-term limit, AFTER he had been elected for the third time. Now that's balls.

So why do these men get a pass and not Trump? Because while all three of these men, I'll admit, have huge egos the size of the Grand Canyon, all of them have had the good sense to surround themselves with quality people who - and this is the rub - actually run their companies. Yes, as strange as it may seem, successful businessmen and women hire people to carry out the day-to-day operations of their companies. As CEOs, they chart the course, then turn the helm over to their respective officers and management. In return those people are responsible to them for the results. Even with all their enormous egos, successful business people have enough humility to know they can't run the show by themselves. They are only as good as the people directly under them.

Just this past weekend I was one of about a hundred or so sales reps who were honored by the senior management of my company at a posh resort in the Dominican Republic. It was a proud moment for me. The senior vice president of the company started off by acknowledging the enormous contributions all of us had made to the company and said this weekend would not be possible without us. You see he knew that success is a shared accomplishment not simply a policy initiative handed down by the president. Without our efforts there'd be no company. He knew that and so do the Bill Gates and Marc Cubans of the world.

I can just imagine Trump addressing his people at a similar awards celebration. He'd probably say something like, "I'd like to thank myself, because without me none of you would be here today. My greatness is the reason you all have jobs and your failures are the sole reason we haven't been as successful as we could be." If you think I'm being too harsh, remember the Yemen raid that went bad a few months ago that led to the death of Navy SEAL Ryan Owens? Rather than take responsibility for the failure, the first thing Trump did was blame his generals. No real leader - or man for that matter - would ever have done that.

Another character trait of successful business people is that they know how to build partnerships. While they always put their own company's interests first, they know full well that without strong relationships with their partners they will inevitably fail. It's called quid pro quo and every salesperson I know has employed it to one degree or another. Successful negotiation involves giving up something to get something. Our economy - indeed the world economy - depends on this basic principle. It's the common thread that binds us all together. Only a fool would believe he could go it alone.

Take a good look at Trump and tell me what you see. If you can honestly say that you don't see any difference between how his administration and most businesses are run, I pray you never start one yourself. You'd be broke in six months. The truth is the differences are night and day. The chaos that has enveloped this White House is the direct result of a man who has all the machinations of a would-be king, but none of the wisdom. He hires people and then refuses to let them do their jobs. Worse, he often undermines them in public. He is the consummate control freak who needs to be the center of attention everywhere he goes. It isn't just that he has a YUGE ego; it's that he sucks the oxygen out of the room.

This isn't genius personified, it's the sign of a very insecure man who is deathly afraid of being found out. He almost reminds me of George Steinbrenner, save for the fact that while Steinbrenner was a notorious micro manager, he did have the good sense to hire Gabe Paul and Gene Michael as GMs. The former was responsible for building the team that won two consecutive World Series titles in the 1970s; the latter built the team that won four championships in five years from 1996 to 2000. And though Steinbrenner could be vindictive and often treated his managers terribly, he was also fiercely loyal and generous to a fault to those who worked for him. Billy Martin may have been fired by him three times, but he was handsomely rewarded while in his employ, as was just about everyone else who worked for him. He was the very definition of a contradiction in terms.

There is no such contradiction in terms with Trump. The man is as obvious as a wooden nickel and just as shallow. He demands complete loyalty from his employees, yet never shows any in return. He screws his partners, berates people he doesn't like and threatens those who challenge his authority, be they the press, the intelligence community or his own cabinet. He has no moral compass to speak of and openly flaunts his contempt for the law and those who enforce it. He does not inspire confidence in his employees, but rather fear and loathing. The massive leaks that have come to define his administration are a plea for help from those who are rightly concerned by what they are witnessing.

And what they are witnessing should terrify all of us. It is the understatement of the century to say we are in unchartered waters. The leader of the free world is running amok. He is not the answer to our prayers; if anything he is our worst nightmare come true. A man bereft of even the smallest semblance of humility, with no business acumen to speak of, zero communication skills and the maturity of a pro wrestler. As I said in my last piece, he has all the impulse control of a four-year old in front of a batch of cookies.

To confuse Donald Trump with a businessman is to impugn the integrity of millions of successful business people across the country and around the world. Maybe one day someone with an actual resume in the business community will get elected president. Then and only then will we finally be able to put this issue of whether a government can be run like a business to bed.

Until that day we are stuck with Donald Trump.

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