Adventus

"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

"There are chains upon his hands/he is just riding on a train...."

Rosebud!

"The president has a modus operandi:
He hits back, he strikes back, he's very impulsive at times. He likes to be authentic. It's worked for him for decades, his reputation, his brand, his candidacy," Ruddy said. "The problem is he's moved into a different position and that hasn't fully sank in yet. He's not speaking for Donald Trump and his company. He's speaking as the leader of the free world."
Donald Trump has no idea what he's in for.

He's already shown it, with his tweets, his refusal to leave his businesses behind, his inaugural address which Josh Marshall rightly called a Xerox of a campaign speech.  But I mean it literally.

All of my life I have worked for someone else, and I am the first to admit that, as I grow older, I grow crankier.  I prefer to think I'm just "ornery," but I know I'm not that charming.  I'm cranky.  I keep it in check, but it has cost me jobs from time to time.  The closest I got to being "self-employed" was when I was a pastor, because I was in charge.

At least, I thought I was.  What I was, primarily, was responsible. I was to blame.  Anything I said was twisted into what someone wanted me to say, what they wanted to blame me for.  If I spoke up for myself in a meeting, I was accused of behaving like a lawyer (it was the worst sin my opponents could accuse me of).  If I brought up a different point in another meeting from the one being mentioned, I was later accused of being dismissive, argumentative, even rude and arrogant.  Once I got a report of a hospital visit I conducted, with a comatose patient and an adult daughter of the patient whom I'd never met.  What I heard was that I did the exact opposite of what actually happened.  But my enemies had long knives, and I had only the position of responsibility; responsibility for keeping my enemies happy.

It's an impossible position.

Now look at the position of the President of the United States.  You are the most powerful individual in the world, you are told.  So close the prison at Guantanamo.  Pass gun control laws after the horrific massacre of children at Newtown, Connecticut.  Prevent war in the Middle East without sending in more American troops to die there again and again.  Unite the nation.

Go ahead; you are the most powerful person in the world, aren't you?

Now consider the daily realities of the job.  You aren't in power, you are in responsibility.  If you set up the systems below you in the right way, only the impossible situations reach your desk.  Daily operations of the Administration should never get to you; but you aren't the CEO.  You aren't the owner.  Your name isn't on everything that goes out, just your responsibility.  You can't fix the economy, but if it declines, it's your fault.  You can't control energy prices, but if they go up, it's your fault.  You can't stop wars in the Middle East, but if they break out, or go on, you are to blame for acting, for not acting, for doing too little or too much.  Am I exaggerating?

Obama was a terrible president who shepherded the American economy through a weak-kneed recovery, increased partisan divisions, diminished America's presence abroad, abandoned our allies, and emboldened our foes. He trapped his party inside a flaming wreckage so terrible that it enabled Donald Trump to get elected president.
Thanks, Obama!  Now, of course, Barack Obama is not directly responsible for the election of Donald Trump, but that's an article critical of Donald Trump!  You see how this works.  You aren't so much in charge, as you are responsible.

And you aren't in charge.  You can nominate people, but the Senate must approve them.  You can appoint some people, but that's all you can do.  You can't put anyone else in charge of all the operations, ultimately the buck stops with you.  You can't even decide what the operations are, where the crises will be, where you will put the nation's efforts.  Those things get decided for you.  You aren't running a business, you are dealing with crises.  A black man is shot in an American city; murders go up or go down; a terrorist bomb kills people somewhere overseas.  A country rattles its saber.  You don't get to choose which of those to respond to.  You don't decide to stop a business deal in the foreign country, to wait for conditions to change, to seek another lender or business partner.  You don't get to withdraw, wait, seek profit elsewhere.  You are the President. You are responsible.  You answer, not to your creditors, but to the nation.

Does anyone really think Donald Trump is ready to do that?  He's been in business all his life, going where he wants to go, doing what he wants to do, and engaging any number of failures.  Remember his football team?  His airline?  Trump University?  He can't abandon America like a bad business deal, or put it into bankruptcy and walk away.  He's worked for himself all his life:  convincing creditors to back his developments, selling his name for fun and profit, running everything with just family members as his closest advisors and employees.  When you're the President, you don't get to start new ventures and then put them into bankruptcy (i.e., engage the laws of the nation) to protect you.  It isn't you anymore, it's the nation that's involved.

Does anyone think Donald Trump understands that?

He think it's about power.  He's going to find out it's about responsibility.  As a businessman he has power, at least as much as his creditors give him.  As a President, he has responsibilities.  And he's really, really not used to that.  He's not even ready for that.

He think he's defeated his enemies, and he's won the prize.  He has no idea what defeat means, yet; and no idea what victory looks like.  He's going to find out his job is to keep his enemies happy.  He's going to find out his job is to be responsible for what happens.  He told FoxNews he had to be on Twitter because he had to counter the lies told about him in the media.  Then he went and told the CIA, in front of their most sacred memorial, how victimized by the press he still is.

The President has more power than a pastor, but also much more responsibility.  And the power is not the power to silence your critics, or to decide who will, and who won't, be able to approach the throne.  Trump thinks he can threaten the press and cow them into submission, or go completely around them and govern via Twitter.  He hasn't begun to encounter the Congress yet, and his team, who seem incapable or uninterested in filling the hundreds of positions the President must appoint, seem to have no clue how the Presidency works, either.  Three of his most public advisors spent the first weekend of his Presidency lying and antagonizing the press, as if that will make them more powerful, or well-serve the needs of their President. 

Trump has no idea what he's in for.

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