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Trump's On-the-Job Training

Issue of the week

Apr. 18, 2017
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Most of us learned a lot in our early jobs through some very basic on-the-job training, (OJT) which is, of course, very good. As you get older and have gained a lot of experience and wisdom, the on-the-job training in a new position is less pronounced, but there is always some. For a new president, even one who has been a governor or senator, nothing in their past experiences fully prepares them for what they are going to be confronted with as president and commander-in-chief, but in Trump’s case, it is just far more extreme. 

Looking back over the past 100-plus years, there is no individual who has been a real serious candidate for president, let alone one that actually got elected president, who had less knowledge and understanding of how the world really works and all of its complexities. His ignorance of the world is absolutely amazing. Perhaps it is because he refuses to read any complex material about world affairs. He didn’t even go to the briefings by his intelligence experts early in his administration. On the positive side, he is slowly learning that it is very different and far simpler to build hotels and golf courses in foreign countries or to run the Miss Universe Competition than it is to understand the intricacies and complexities of international relations, international economics and international trade policies. As a result, he seems more willing to listen to the experts and modify his positions.


Is Trump Slowly Realizing He is Way Over His Head? 

Trump’s OJT would be fascinating to watch if it wasn’t so pathetic and potentially dangerous. After pushing Paul Ryan’s naïve health care plan that Trump barely understood and only 17% of the public supported, he concluded that, gee, this health care policy stuff is difficult. Again, one does have to give him some credit in that occasionally when it is pointed out that his policy positions are so ill informed or just wrong, he will quickly change his position. He freely admitted that after about a 10-minute explanation of the history of North Korea by the leader of China, he realized that this Korea stuff is more complicated than he realized. In some cases, he then denies that he ever held his original positions. 

More examples. On the campaign trail he repeated, that on day one, he will label China a “currency manipulator,” which he dropped when he learned that it has been years since China tried to artificially devalue its currency and therefore, are not currency manipulators. Then there was his repeated comments that NATO is obsolete until he met with the head of NATO and learned what NATO actually does and that they have been quite successful and they fight terrorism and are definitely not obsolete. He declares that the Export-Import Bank is useless until someone explained to him what they do and that it helps create many U.S. jobs in our export industries. And there are many more examples. Unfortunately, this uninformed person is no longer just some reality talk show character but rather the president of the United States, the country the world still looks up to and admires. The rest of the civilized world tries to be polite about Trump but are frightfully appalled. Go abroad and the first question you hear is, “What is going on in your country?”


Should We be Losing Sleep?

Recently, on the more scary side, Trump has learned firsthand how 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles can do wonders for your poll numbers. His recent bombing of Syria and Afghanistan was not an unreasonable action in these two situations, although we know some readers will disagree with that, but we have to make sure he doesn’t get into the habit of bombing some country when he wants to distract Americans from his domestic problems like the FBI investigation into various criminal activities concerning his campaign and Russia. So the real question is how frightened should we be considering the fact that he is also commander-in-chief of the most powerful military in the history of the world.

Despite the comments above, things are definitely improving. Regarding some of the scummiest advisers he has, the media has done a very good job over the past couple of months of investigating and exposing these individuals for who they really are and they are slowly either losing power or being moved out of the administration completely. 

Regarding the military and national security, Trump is learning how little he understands and as a result, he is empowering his foreign relations and national security team. The thing that should still enable you to not lose much sleep over these issues is that his national security team is composed of some serious, experienced adults. Though we don’t generally share their views on many issues, his Secretary of Defense James Mattis, his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster are knowledgeable and solid and willing to use force but in a very measured way. They are not going to be attacking North Korea, for example, and even if we have another tragedy like 9/11, we believe they will stand up to Trump and keep his insecure ego in check, so sanity would prevail. 

The Shepherd continues to believe that America will get through the four Trump years. Our country will certainly be bruised up by some reactionary policies but—provided the current energized electorate continues to stay active, informed and involved in monitoring their government—four years from now, America may actually end up being a much stronger and smarter democracy. Please stay involved.


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