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OPINION: When the chickens come home to roost

By Don Hubble. March 2, 2020. BLOWING ROCK, NC — The leader of our country is ultimately responsible for the safety of all Americans, including national defense and some sense of domestic tranquility.

About the Author: Don Hubble lives in Blowing Rock, although he spends much of the winter in Greenville, SC.  In his business career, he was a senior executive in corporate America.  He has volunteered extensively in Blowing Rock, serving on the Chamber of Commerce Board, the Board of the Village Foundation, the Board of Blowing Rock Art & History Museum, and the Board of Blowing Rock Country Club.  He also served on the Planning Board for the Town of Blowing Rock.

Of course, the president can take actions that either support or help foster economic growth but, for the most part, capitalism and a market-driven economy will prevail in spite of (not because of) the man or woman occupying the Oval Office.  Indeed, safety and all of its ramifications are, arguably, THE primary responsibility of our President.

“When the chickens come home to roost” is a colloquial expression meaning that there is a reckoning to be faced when the bad things a person has done comes back to bite or haunt them.

Are we safer?

Well, here we are. The bad things that our chief rooster has done are coming back to bite and haunt him.

Many observers of the national political scene have wondered how President Donald Trump would act in a crisis situation.  With the coronavirus, we are getting an answer to that question. It isn’t one that is comforting.  (Please review my thoughts in a previous position paper published in Blowing Rock News about “false comfort.” It is titled, “Good leadership trumps short-term personal gains.”)

When a crisis appears, a leader needs to have many different skill sets.  A leader needs to be believable.  A leader needs to have an organization staffed with experts.  A leader needs to work for the greater good (as opposed to his personal interests).  A leader needs to allocate financial resources to combat the likelihood of any single one of many potential crises that might occur.  (This requires strategic thinking and appropriate action plans supporting those strategies.)

A leader needs to know how to muster resources which will, most likely, mitigate a crisis.  A leader needs to make people feel and be “safer” and more secure — and proud to be associated with their organization (company, country, organization, etc.)  In short, a leader needs to lead!

Donald Trump fails in the test of having any of these different skill sets as a leader:

  • He cannot (absolutely cannot) be believed
  • He has virtually destroyed the reputation of the institutions that are responsible for responding to the current coronavirus crisis – or others which may arise
  • He has fired experienced and competent individuals, replacing them with inexperienced, opinionated (and only those holding opinions that support Trump’s opinions), and, in too many cases, incompetent individuals
  • He has failed to staff critical positions in our national governmental organization
  • He has cut the funding for programs that are essential to deal with crises that are “very likely to happen” and makes no attempt to consider funding for crises which “just may happen.”   (The latter may be forgiven but not the former.)
  • He has decreased the feeling of safety and not made our country more secure from foreign influence or, God forbid, foreign attack, whether that attack be military, economic, cyber, or other

None of this should be surprising to anyone who studies the qualities, character traits, experience, et al of a successful leader.  In fact, Trump possesses few, if any, of those factors normally used to define a successful leader.  This was obvious even before he was elected.

A fox is not the only threat at the henhouse door.

BUT, he does have a unique ability to appeal to the “populists” (defined simply as any group that is “anti-elitist”) in our country.   Why this is the case is still being studied, but it can be observed at his rallies and in interviews with his die-hard supporters that he does have this appeal.  Almost mystically, he has maintained the rabid support of some half-dozen different such groups — which was sufficient to get him elected (with other factors in play at the time) as President.

Central to his ability to maintain the unique support of these populist groups is playing to their fears, prejudices, possible personal gains, and promises of a “better day coming.”  Trump doesn’t just lie a little bit — and not just about inconsequential things — and he doesn’t just misrepresent facts a little bit. Rather, he does both with remarkable enthusiasm and consistency.  Trump even is untruthful when telling the truth is more likely to fit his end goals.  “Incorrigible” is the best summary description of Trump’s worst character traits.  He is incapable of embracing integrity — and humility is a foreign concept to him.

Each of his support groups appear willing to accept his failings as a leader because they are getting something in return. And they are different things for each different support groups.  To Republican elected officials, supporting Trump seems to provide them with a good chance of getting reelected and feed longer at the taxpayer trough.

To the business community, favorable tax treatment and deregulation (even when much of the deregulation will be harmful in the future) beckons their support.

Humility is a foreign concept to Trump.

To the Evangelical, Trump’s position on Pro-Life is sufficient to get their support. Whether he really is or isn’t Pro-Life doesn’t seem to really matter because he says that he is.

To the racists and bigots (there are still far too many of those in our country), his tolerance of the White Supremacy movement – which is more than tacit — is sufficient to maintain their support.

How he is able to maintain the support of the populists who are anti-elite is far more difficult to understand.  It may not be just the “promise of a better day.” It may simply be the diminishment and disparagement of the so-called elite that has capture the populist groups’ respective imaginations.

Trump may be rich and maybe he is elite but he is a “blue collar” and unsophisticated elitist.  He is an elitist only in the terms of wealth — and he got there by screwing other rich people.  To the many populists this makes him one of them.

He is an elitist only in terms of wealth — and he got there by screwing other rich people.

As we think about these things, there are some basic questions about the safety of our country that are worthy of consideration:

  • Are we safer because of Trump’s friendship with Putin?
  • Are we safer because of his tariff “war” with China?
  • Are we safer because funds originally allocated to the Pentagon are being used to build a massive wall on our southern border with Mexico?
  • Are we safer because he has attacked the credibly of our institutions, including in health-care, legal and judicial, military, intelligence, et al?
  • Are we safer because he has deregulated long fought for environmental protections?
  • Are we safer because he has added economic sanctions against Iran while canceling the nuclear proliferation agreement that was previously in place?
  • Are we safer because of his mutual admiration relationship with Kim Jong Un?
  • Are we safer because we have defunded the World Health Organization or reduced the funding for our own government health care institutions, such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)?

In short, the question must be asked: Are we safer because Donald Trump is our President?

The coronavirus is the first crisis where the “chickens are coming home to roost.”  And sadly, our rooster seems ill-prepared to offer any protection against other crises, should they arise.  Adding to the metaphor: the fox isn’t the only predator that is at the henhouse door.











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