Amateur Government

Voters seem to love it when candidates for public office proclaim “I’m not a politician.”

I always wonder if those voters take their car repairs to businesses proclaiming “We’re not mechanics!” or get their cavities filled by “dentists” who never went to dental school. Probably not; evidently, however, there is a widespread belief that anyone can “do” governing.

Hey, America! How’s that working out?

Michelle Goldberg, the new New York Times columnist, considers the consequences  of electing a profoundly and proudly incompetent President.

A little more than eight months ago, the United States inaugurated one of its worst people as president, a nasty showbiz huckster whose own staffers speak of him as if he were a malevolent toddler. Yet the country has held up pretty well, considering.

Yes, there were emboldened Nazis marching in the streets, and crucial intelligence on the Islamic State casually passed to the Russians. Striving young immigrants who’d been protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program have seen their lives upended and trans people have been barred from enlisting in the military. Yet most of the institutions of American governance continued to function.

Then came hurricane season, and the stunning devastation of Maria. After detailing multiple administration failures in the wake of that disaster, Goldberg makes the obvious point:

For months now, observers have been noting that all the crises in the Trump White House have been self-generated, but that eventually the president would be tested by external events. Now a test has come, and he has performed about as badly as his worst critics could have feared. Hurricane season isn’t even over, and more catastrophes are surely on the way.

Maria should be a lesson: We need a working executive branch.

Our need for competent governance–or at the very least, elected officials with some idea of what government is and how it is supposed to operate–was also highlighted in a recent post by Robert Reich, in which he asserts that America really doesn’t have a President. Sure, Trump has the title,

But he’s not actively governing the United States. That work is happening elsewhere – in Congress, the courts, the Fed, the career civil service, lobbyists, and in the states. Or it’s not happening at all.

It’s not just that Trump lost the epic battle to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Trump never understood the Affordable Care Act to begin with, and played no part in developing Republican alternatives….

Meanwhile, Trump has run out of Obama executive orders he can declare void. Major regulations, such as the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, can’t just be repealed. They have to go through a legal process that could take years.

Trump doesn’t seem to be aware of this. He told a cheering crowd in Alabama recently that he had ended the Clean Power Plan by executive order. “Did you see what I did to that? Boom, gone.”…

Trump’s Cabinet secretaries don’t seem to have a clue. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos still wants to spend taxpayer money on for-profit schools and colleges that cheat their students. Won’t happen. The EPA’s Scott Pruitt is trying to strip the agency of scientists. Another brainless scheme.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin still has no idea how to deal with Congress. He tried to persuade Republican House members to support Trump’s budget deal with the Democrats by asking them to do it “for me.”…

By the start of September, more than a third of the leadership positions at the Federal Emergency Management Agency were still vacant. Not a good way to begin hurricane season. Puerto Rico, anyone?

As of mid-September, out of 599 key government positions that require Senate confirmation, Trump had made only 159 nominations, according to The Washington Post. Trump had yet to submit nominations for 320 positions.

Both Goldberg and Reich include much more detail on the cluster**** that is today’s Executive Branch.

It is really past time for Americans to grow up and accept that we live in a complex modern society that requires a functioning government, staffed with people who understand their jobs and have the specialized skills and technical knowledge that today’s public sector administration requires.

America isn’t amateur hour, and it definitely isn’t Reality TV.


  1. I read recently that there are two types of thinking:
    Those who think they are smarter than everyone else.
    Those who think everyone is as smart as they are.

    The flaw in the first way of thinking is that the individual does not listen or grow.
    The flaw in the second way of thinking is that the individual continually questions themselves.
    When individuals in the US decided to push everything to the extreme, the dead end of both ways of thinking becomes obvious.

    When I look at the thinking of Donald Trump or Howard Zinn (two extremes on a political spectrum) it seems obvious to me that they both think they are smarter than everyone else. One uses facts, one emotion.

    America is and always has been amateur hour because action overcomes reflection.

  2. The same logic is often applied to teachers; many think anyone could be a teacher just because they attended a school. But Trump demonstrates what happens when someone who is a complete fool thinks he can be president because anyone can.

    Just like it can take years to help students recover from an unqualified teacher, it will take years for our country to recover from the unqualified idiot that occupies the White House.

  3. I recognize the current form of “governance” which has taken over this country and is spreading toward a pandemic level due to Trump’s destruction of any form of diplomacy dealing with our allies and our enemies. That is why I go to sleep at night in fear and wake each morning in fear and dread the new chaos and threats ahead in the day.

    Back to Steve Goldsmith (if you are sick of me mentioning that name, please scroll on by); his first order as Mayor of Indianapolis to all employees was to destroy all files and paperwork from the Hudnut administration; huge wheeled trash carts were brought into every office to accomplish this. We were then instruction to ignore all laws, rules and ordinances because “they can be changed”; we never learned of changes so worked around that order as well as we could. Trump has replaced highly competent leadership at all levels with his unqualified cronies and repealed Executive Orders enacted by President Obama and other protective orders and laws which have benefited this country for years. Goldsmith placed former realtors in positions of authority in areas having nothing to do with real estate. He appointed the former Director of the Male Infertility Clinic at Indiana University Medical Center as Administrator of the Division of Planning and Zoning. The continuing vice president of a Columbus, Ohio, bank who was not a resident was given full authority over the entire Department of Metropolitan Development. The Chief Financial Officer of DMD was an immigrant with a Masters Degree in Personnel Management from the University of India. People who had never worked in government were “imported” from out of town to supervisory levels in city departments and divisions. Mayor’s Office employees were “hidden” in and salaries paid by other departments to publicize how much money he was saving vs. the money wasted by Mayor Hudnut. All of this must sound familiar to you and I, for one, with Pence as Trump’s VP question possible placement of Goldsmith’s cronies now at the federal level; some remain here at state level after working in Daniels’ and Pence’s administrations.

    One difference I see is that Trump daily publishes his Tweets to the world at large and blatantly lies at every turn. Goldsmith had his “underlings” verbally relay his orders and messages, leaving nothing in writing to protect himself.

    What you don’t see or hear about are those support staff who remain loyal to the this country and are trying to function as best they can to prevent total internal collapse of the federal government. They are qualified, experienced employees who do understand the importance of continuing actual governance within the federal government. Many are working without proper or, in some cases, without any supervision due to Trump not allowing replacement of former qualified leadership. These people are in precarious positions as they are attempting to carry out the day-to-day work which keeps all governments functioning. They are below the attention of Trump’s lofty belief that he is the end-all, be-all source of salvation for this country and the world beyond. His format of “governance” is partially based on placing unqualified people in high level positions who have little understanding of their job function and look to him for his misguided leadership which is sliding downhill faster and faster by the day with the support of a Congress, the likes of which this country has never seen.

    I recognize Sheila’s message is vital to our survival; the survival of democracy, America and all Americans and that we must REGAIN our place of leadership in the world beyond before Trump can do what he is headed for, to nuke ’em. “It is really past time for Americans to grow up and accept that we live in a complex modern society that requires a functioning government, staffed with people who understand their jobs and have the specialized skills and technical knowledge that today’s public sector administration requires.”

    Voting out Republicans in 2018 is only a beginning and we must find a way to work now toward that happening, in 2017. Rallies, protests, marches are our public voice; our private voice is to strengthen, energize and bring together the Democratic party. Now is not the time to further separate us as a country by attempting to create a three-party system and certainly not to “accept the fact that Trump was elected”.

  4. I too am growing weary of living in a country where ignorance is considered a virtue when it comes to powerful positions. We can’t forget though that to many Americans this election was about the establishment which has for a long time done little to improve the lives of the little guy. There’s some ignorance in that too…see French Revolution, etc. That said, Trump was a bit far to go on the Anti-establishment spectrum. Wait…waaaaay too far on the anti-establishment spectrum. I’m reminded the phrase throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Hope we make it thru all this.

  5. JoAnn:

    ” Voting out Republicans in 2018 is only a beginning and we must find a way to work now toward that happening, in 2017. Rallies, protests, marches are our public voice; our private voice is to strengthen, energize and bring together the Democratic party. Now is not the time to further separate us as a country by attempting to create a three-party system and certainly not to “accept the fact that Trump was elected”.

    Assuming JoAnn is right, how can we accomplish all of this without the creation of a new super, CONTEXTUAL, pro-democracy, NGO? Answer: We can’t.

    Our present institutional set-up, I have tried to warn, for the most part, is worse than nothing and we all know that the Democratic Party has no ability to create any UNITY at this time.

  6. I’m glad that Mr. Tillerson didn’t refute his reported statement, because 45 is indeed a f…ing moron.

  7. Amateur government reminds me of the time when professional NFL players went on strike, sort of voluntarily “draining the swamp”. Owners brought in amateurs because the business must go on. I suppose it is debatable if amateur hour was a good thing, but it certainly was not very interesting and could not have lasted long.

  8. i think the problem goes deeper than believing non-politicians can do the job. There is a strong belief in the country that most politicians aren’t serving the people so we decided to try a non-politician. With predictable results I might add.

  9. Reproductive rights advocates raised alarms on Friday when the Trump administration rolled back a federal mandate requiring employers to include birth control coverage in employee health insurance plans.

    The Trumpet took a knee to the Pence Theocratic Wing of the Republican Party – The Trump administration’s decision to roll back the federal birth control mandate, the American Civil Liberties Union announced that it is filing a lawsuit to challenge the interim final rules issued on Friday by the Department of Health and Human Services and other federal agencies.

    “The Trump administration is forcing women to pay for their boss’s religious beliefs,” said ACLU senior staff attorney Brigitte Amiri. “We’re filing this lawsuit because the federal government cannot authorize discrimination against women in the name of religion or otherwise.”

    SEIU-UHW president Dave Regan. “Apparently, ‘religious freedom’ to this administration is the freedom to allow bosses to make medical decisions for and discriminate against female employees.”

    Given the above: If rational thought ruled, Trump-Pence-Theocratic Wing of the Republican Party would receive virtually no voting support from woman. Estimates, I have heard is that an overwhelming majority have used birth control at some point in lives. Men have a stake in this too, i.e.., family planning and the health of their wife or significant other.

    Will the Democrats make this an issue? Will the Democrats as a party stand up and oppose the Trump-Pence Theocracy on birth control??

  10. Marv; would a three-party system require 51% to declare a winner or the majority of votes and would those small parties remain active and garner votes? If the majority of votes elects the winner, that would leave 2/3rd of the country against the winner and the winning party. We can look at results of the 2016 presidential election by considering those who didn’t vote, those who wrote in Bernie’s name (against his pleading to do otherwise) and those who voted for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson as creating a 6-party system or combining the four factions as one 3rd party which helped elect Trump by throwing the election to the Electoral College, taking the election entirely away from voters. If all voters in this country were involved and interested enough to stay informed, I still don’t see a 3-way option as being beneficial. But the possibility of all voters becoming involved and staying informed is as likely as Trump suddenly becoming intelligent and mute.

  11. There appears to be more than one institution in the country that has been taken over by armatures. I’m referring to TV cable news and to some extent to the regular broadcast news.

    Most notably since Trump took the stage, the news cycle is 24 hours of nothing but Trump. His every move and utterance is reported, dissected, analyzed and spewed out like vomit from the whirl y bird ride at the fair. The rest of the world news be damn… if it does not connect to Trump it does not air.

    The other night while having his picture taken Trump said, “The calm before the storm”. Instead of treating this for what it was, the embarrassing utterance of the crazy old uncle at the dinner table, the mighty TV media turned it into a national crisis. (We can’t seem to have a week go by without at least one crisis to keep the ratings up.)

    You know what I would love to hear the news media report on… the status of the recovery in Houston, in Florida, in PR and the Virgin Island. I’d like to know how the Brixit thing is going. Why did we have Green Berets dying in Africa? Anyone know how the AIDs battle is going?
    Does anyone know anything other than Trump is king and the king is crazy?

  12. Thanks for posting Michelle Goldberg’s fine and obviously very accurate opinion piece and your own spot-on comments. Trump is just a play-President and his Cabinet, with one or two notable exceptions, is also. Their dreadful reaction to Hurricane Maria is one thing but how are they going to react to an international crisis particularly after the “moron’s” coy tempting remark
    “You’ll see” the other day. If he is thinking of using military force against anyone, as he sort of eluded to, we could all be in grave danger.

  13. JoAnn,

    “Marv; would a three-party system require 51% to declare a winner or the majority of votes and would those small parties remain active and garner votes? If the majority of votes elects the winner, that would leave 2/3rd of the country against the winner and the winning party.”

    A three-party system or multi-party system would only make matters worse for the reasons you have stated. That’s why I support your vision on this matter. The Tea Party is a third force, in many ways analogous to the Nazi Party in Germany. We can’t emulate their organizational strategy and tactics which have successfully allowed them to take over the Republican Party. However, that doesn’t mean that we don’t need to counter their NEGATIVE influence.

    The Tea Party needs to be countered OUTSIDE partisan politics by, as I suggested, a powerful, specialized NGO. In that way, the Democratic Party can mobilize with one objective in mind: WINNING ELECTIONS by creating a UNITED FRONT based on a POSITIVE program.

  14. Trump is slowly creating a new type of leadership. OXYMORONIC LEADERSHIP: Leadership without followers. The last poll shows him around 25%.

    ox-y-mo-ron (ak’si mor’an) n., pl. -mora [< Gr oxys, sharp +moros, foolish] a figure of speech in which contradictory ideas or terms are combined ( Ex.: thunderous silence)

    ~Webster's New World Dictionary

  15. Theresa @ 9:33 am, I agree with you about the Cable News Obsession with all things Trump. Panels of “experts” comment on the latest hyped meaning of blah, blah, blah 24/7. So and so, ate tacos for lunch, let’s bring in our panel of experts, to determine what this means.

    Cable News is the new Pravda, endlessly repeating only the stories they want us to view. Cable News has all the depth of watching Sponge Bob all day.

  16. Marv; I thought maybe you would have answers I am missing as to why we keep hearing that a three-party system is the answer to everything wrong with our elections and our government. There are people on Facebook still pushing for Bernie for President; he appears to be headed in another direction and with more important things to do in his position as Senator. Just this week there was a Facebook post declaring that, if Bernie had put his support behind Hillary, she would have been elected.

    Actually; it appears to me that Trump has already created a third political party; the Uninformed National Committee.

  17. Tiller should never have called Trump a moron. Fake President Trump is not smart enough to be a moron.

  18. Theresa, you have to watch BBC or read news on-line. That’s what the internet is for.
    Theresa May is about to leave her PM position because of Brexit. You and I think the same. Where is the actual news? I can’t watch that moron all day. But I caught a bit of Anderson Cooper’s show that highlighted the victims of the LV shooting.

  19. JoAnn,

    “Marv; I thought maybe you would have answers I am missing as to why we keep hearing that a three-party system is the answer to everything wrong with our elections and our government.”

    They’re unable, unlike you are, to see the bigger picture. This is political warfare against a powerful foe. Unless you can match-up a little better than the other side you lose. You have to be UNITED. How can you count on that in a three-party system? You can’t.

    In the mid 30’s, France elected Leon Blum as their President thru a coalition of what has been described as a coalition of INCOMPATIBLES. The weakness of that coalition allowed for a powerful reactionary force to be created that fought back with crippling nation-wide strikes as a starter which ultimately empowered the fascist elements in France.

  20. AgingLGrl, I do catch the BBC quite often in the evening. And I do read a lot on line… but my complaint is with the TV news that runs 24/7 and the evening news that is all about Trump. Isn’t one network (FOX) carrying non-stop Trump news enough for the country? And what is it with live coverage of press conferences staring Sarah H. who does nothing but lie, lie, lie? Why send a reporter at all? Why ask questions? What would they do if no reporter asked any question?

  21. Theresa; you and I agree about the Trump news overload, 24/7. We do need to know everything he is up to but…not repeated continually as on MSNBC. Schedule a time for the “Trump Report” and maybe later a “Trump Update”; there can always be bulletins for actual news but not everything is “Breaking News” every 30 minutes. I have reached the point where I simply ignore it and usually change channels.

  22. The world doubles in complexity every ______ years. Scientists would like to fill in that blank and many are trying but it’s a difficult thing to measure. Intuitively it seems likely that each successive doubling comes quicker. That sounds like progress but it also probably means that each of us becomes over our lifetimes more ignorant; we individually know a declining percentage of what we collectively know. To some that is a joyful challange but to others it’s a frightening reality.

    The latter find themselves inevitably and uncomfortably more dependant on others to lead them through the bewildering maze. The former however are proud and comfortable with their achievement. They see themselves as elite as in “elite athletes”. Those struggling to keep up though are more likely to scapegoat them as “elitist”

    As these dynamics unfold the strugglers grow as a percentage, the tribal tensions grow, and in a democracy societal success becomes less certain as elections elevate those who hate the elite over those who are elite. I write that as factual rather than egoistic. I personally have some modest science chops but accept that I have way more to learn than to teach in other fields.

    Does this mean democracy has limits? What’s better? Can we find it without collapsing first?

    Good questions.

  23. Anthony – I don’t get how you can put Donald Trump and Howard Zinn on the ends of any meaningful political spectrum. Donald Trump has no consistent internal philosophy that guides his actions and decisions – his only goal is self-aggrandizement and that doesn’t fit on any political scale. It is true that at the moment, most of his actions are consistent with the minority of the electorate he considers to be his base, but he has no intellectual affiliation with any political principles.
    In addition, I think it is a misdiagnosis to say that he thinks he is smarter than everyone else. He says those words, but I think that deep down he knows and has known since childhood that he is not really smart at all. At some point he discovered that he possessed a different set of manipulative skills in abundance and had relied up them ever since. And repeating the claims of being a ‘smart guy’ just happens to be part of the alternate reality he chooses to live in. But the obsessive need to make these claims repeatedly just shows, in my opinion, the deep insecurity about his intellect that he has felt all his life.

  24. I can now see it more clearly.

    We’re all like the passengers on the S.S. Titanic. They thought the ship couldn’t sink. How wrong they were.

    I knew there must be something behind my 4 foot antique model of the Titanic’s life boat resting on the top of the bar in my kitchen.

  25. Donald Trump is the Captain of a “ship of state” with structural damage. And he is completely unaware of the fact. A fatal voyage is UNAVOIDABLE.

  26. Theresa, exactly. 24/7 dump truck. I’m sick of it too. outrage fatigue is high today. I like JoAnn’s idea of a dump truck review of the day and be done with it. I want to know what else is going on in the world. That’s the worst thing about America is the isolation of proper world news.

  27. And like the sinking of the Titanic; there are not enough lifeboats available to save us from this sinking of democracy and our government.

  28. JoAnn,

    Our only chance is to convince the Captain and his Republican crew that they can’t successfully complete their voyage as planned. The data explaining the structural damage is available. The prior Captain [G.B.] and his Republican crew have covered up the damage. It’s still there. The problem must be communicated to save the ship of state.

    If the Captain refuses to order the damage control after the warning is delivered, I believe his Republican crew will have no other alternative than to take over the ship like in “The Caine Mutiny.”

    Hopefully, at least one or members of the Republican crew has retained some semblance of civic courage.

  29. The Caine Mutiny, note to self to watch that or read up on it. I’m nearly 60 and there’s so much I don’t know yet, that I feel like, I’m running out of time (health-wise) and won’t be able to learn EVERYTHING I want to know before I die. g’night.

  30. I may be the oldest one among you, 92 YO at the end of this year.
    When I read your penetrating posts I wonder how I accumulated so much assorted data over the years and really know so little.
    As one of the “Greatest Generation” I ought to be able to tell you how we can get out of this shipwreck. I can’t. I’m sitting this one out. If I make it past the next two national elections I will have voted AGAINST. I don’t like the idea but I’m a victim of our political times so I really have no choice. Sad, isn’t it?

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