The Role of the Executive

Throughout his campaign, Donald Trump has said he would “hire the best people” to handle almost everything–foreign policy, economics, etc. In his book, “The Art of the Deal”, Trump also stresses the importance of hiring the best people to do jobs you yourself don’t know how to do.

Trump has been ridiculed for this. People say he is using this excuse to cover for his lack of policy knowledge.

I hate to say it, but Trump’s idea is, frankly, what I’ve always thought a good President–or any executive–needs to do.

There aren’t enough hours in the day for someone to be an expert on all the issues on which the President needs to make decisions. You would need to be the world’s greatest economist, diplomat, orator, military strategist, environmental scientist, financier and epidemiologist to do that. Nobody can do it all.

The President, therefore, needs to be able to figure out who the best people are for handling the myriad duties and put them in charge of each. That ability to recognize good people who can get results is what matters.

Look at F.D.R., widely considered the greatest President in U.S. history. He was not exceptionally bright, or even especially energetic. What made him great was that he insisted on getting people who knew how to get the job done. F.D.R. was focused on getting results, and that, in turn, led him to hire good people.

In contrast, look at George W. Bush, who even many Republicans now consider to be a colossal failure as President. He wasn’t a dumb guy, despite what some Democrats will say. He had degrees from Yale and Harvard. No, what made Bush’s administration such a mess was that he (a) gave important jobs to people who repeatedly showed they could not do them right (Cheney and Rumsfeld) and (b) failed to hold them accountable for their failures until it was too late.

President Obama’s track record has been sort of mixed as far as picking good people. And Obama is obviously smart–but identifying the right person for a job is a completely different skill set that unrelated to factual knowledge. And it’s especially hard in the world of politics, where jobs are given in exchange for political support rather than ability.

To be clear, I am just saying Trump is right in terms of the theory of being a good executive. It is by no means clear that Trump actually knows how to find “the best people”. The fact that his campaign manager is currently charged with assault, plus the fact that he has been obviously unprepared for easy questions in recent interviews, argues that he does not.


    1. So far, he really hasn’t needed much of a campaign organization because his strategy of getting free press by saying outrageous stuff has worked. But it appears that now, Cruz is completely outmaneuvering him because he has far more political know-how. Obama, Bush and everyone else ran far more conventional campaigns, so it is difficult to compare.

      My sense is that Trump and his people are a bit over-matched, and I suspect he won’t be able to hire “the best people” to get him out of this, because they will refuse to work with him on ideological grounds. (Trump has burned too many bridges among political veterans.)

      Thanks for the comment!

  1. In order to hire the best people you need to be a good judge of character. With all his failures in business where he hired “the best people” to run them. I’d say he sorely lacking in that capacity.

    1. I agree. The scandal with his campaign manager is the best example. And in his book, he repeatedly talks about employing various disreputable characters, seemingly without regret.

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