Trump Is Appallingly Behind in Making Most Key Appointments
In the weeks following Trump’s election, reports on the transition offered an up-close view of how incompetence and lack of preparedness yield disorganization and confusion. The Trump team flaked out on important meetings with the Pentagon; experts who could fill the knowledge gap were fired or quit in frustration; and Trump, who still hadn’t been briefed by the Obama team, was using his unsecured personal cell phone for highly sensitive conversations with world leaders. (He’s still doing that, actually.) What’s more, critical positions weren’t being filled, a situation that persists even as the final touches are being put on inauguration events.
As Bloomberg columnist Jonathan Bernstein notes:
There's no Trump appointee for any of the top State Department jobs below secretary nominee Rex Tillerson. No Trump appointee for any of the top Department of Defense jobs below retired general James Mattis. Treasury? Same story. Justice? It is one of two departments (along with, bizarrely, Commerce) where Trump has selected a deputy secretary. But no solicitor general, no one at civil rights, no one in the civil division, no one for the national security division...Overall, out of 690 positions requiring Senate confirmation tracked by the Washington Post and Partnership for Public Service, Trump has come up with only 28 people so far.
This poses obvious problems for the government, which functions most efficiently when there are sentient beings in the positions required to run it. Bernstein points to a FiveThirtyEight piece that shows a president generally gets the most done in the earliest days of his administration. The “honeymoon period” allows for legislation to get passed and productivity to hit a level it rarely reaches after, for a host of reasons. Trump is already operating at a deficiency in this area, considering he will make history as the most unpopular president to take office in four decades. This, along with the fact that he is the least prepared, least informed president quite possibly ever, and a general disinterest in his job and being on-site during work days, doesn’t bode well.
When it comes to policy, Trump will be only a vague presence in the executive branch during the months when presidents normally have the best chance to get things done. It's not news to anyone that bureaucrats are skilled in resisting the preferences of presidents. But an entrenched bureaucracy against a secretary (and in most cases, a secretary with little government experience or little policy expertise or both) and a bunch of empty desks? That's no contest. Congress and interest groups may still have plenty of clout inside the departments and agencies, but Trump, at least until he has some people there, will have little.
Bernstein also notes that “[e]ven if there's no catastrophic failure, lack of leadership will, as should be no surprise, yield inertia and low morale, leading to steadily worse performance.”
This is what happens when you install an inexperienced, dangerously uninformed leader to “shake things up,” selecting him based on a demonstrated ignorance that reminds you of your own. While a steady parade of unqualified candidates are rushed through confirmation hearings, their answers to the most basic questions displaying their lack of knowledge, the executive office sits largely empty. It’s a safe bet that the federal government will be hobbled by having Trump at its helm, and his team lacks the skills to compensate for their boss. It’s yet another reason not to “give him a chance," one that just compounds the millions of others. Trump is already on track to do a fine job of destroying the country. Don’t let dumb optimism lead you to help him at the task.