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Does Donald Trump deserve a chance?

August 03, 2017 08:35 IST

While political observers are unable to make head or tail of the US President, those moving in high business and industry circles tell B S Raghavan that Trump's style is exactly that of an aggressive and successful businessman.

Donald Trump

Illustration: Dominic Xavier/

United States President Donald J Trump, both during his campaign and after assuming office, has stood on their head all the canons held sacrosanct by students of leadership, management, public administration and governance.

He has, in fact, set at naught a whole corpus of literature, and centuries of practice and experience, in the art and science of running organisations, conducting negotiations, maintaining inter-personal relations, promoting teamwork, and taking decisions.

He minces no words in conveying face-to-face or by tweets what he thinks the very instant he thinks it.

No one is at any time in any doubt as to what he thinks of an issue or an individual.

In the course of Presidential debates in the run-up to the election, the words and phrases he used against Hillary Clinton were decidedly unparliamentary. He called her 'that woman' in one debate, and, in another, publicly vowed to have her jailed if he was elected.

He has been continuing his vituperative attacks on the media to this day, singling out correspondents, publications and television channels by name.

Neither has he spared people he himself appointed to high-profile positions in his administration.

Over the last week, he has been hurling barbs at his Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Within the brief period of six months, 17 top appointees have either resigned (11), or been fired (6).

Among them are the acting attorney general, his chief of staff, national security advisor, FBI director, press secretary and White House communications director.

He seems to be living up to the punch line 'You're fired!' of the game show The Apprentice he hosted before he was elected President.

On the international plane, Trump has rattled a number of leaders and countries by going public with his incendiary comments.

He summarily scrapped both the Trans Pacific Partnership and the Paris Climate Agreement.

NATO (The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) has also drawn his ire, and he has expressed himself at cross purposes with the policies of many members of the G-20.

The fate of several other agreements and treaties, and American installations, bases and enterprises abroad, is hanging fire.

The most high-profile exits of the Trump administration

When Trump joked about replacing Nikki Haley as UN ambassador

His tweets, rather than formal government notifications or US Congressional resolutions, have begun promulgating policies. He told the joint media meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on June 26 that he was 'proud to announce to the media, to the American people and to the Indian people that Prime Minister Modi and I are world leaders in social media. We're believers.'

He outlined the rationale behind it thus: 'Giving the citizens of our countries the opportunity to hear directly from their elected officials and for us to hear directly from them... I guess it's worked very well in both cases.'

There have been US Presidents who stamped their unique and unforgettable personality on national politics and governance. The names of Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Teddy Roosevelt, Harry Truman and John F Kennedy readily come to mind.

But they functioned within the confines of established organisational systems and procedures.

Observers of the US political scene, long habituated to elected officials, especially at the highest level, conducting themselves in a particular mode, are in a fix, unable to make head or tail of Trump, sometimes calling him a maverick, sometimes plain mad.

They would not have so much minded a change or even reversal or repeal of policies and strategies, in any of the areas of governance, or even a root-and-branch reform in the structure of the government.

But Trump is the first US President who seems to thrive on self-generated chaos, and even is sure of getting the desired results out of it.

Looked at from another perspective, he seems to be applying the techniques of 'creative destruction' to governance, not for the purpose for which Joseph Schumpeter coined the expression, but somewhat on the analogy of the cosmic dance of Lord Shiva, the God of Destruction, of Indian mythology.

His Rudra Thandava, performed in an aureole of fire, created wild thunderstorms all around the universe, even shattering the sun, the moon and stellar bodies.

This is the prospect that alarms observers.

The US commands such gravitational pull politically, economically, technologically and militarily that any disruptive forces unleashed there have a multiplier effect on the rest of the world.

Also, hitherto, the US was the one power which, rightly or wrongly, acted as the world's policeman, taking responsibility, according to its lights, for establishing and maintaining some sort of an international order. But for contributions from the US coffers, many international institutions, including the UN, will totter, or cease to exist.

Orderly functioning of the US political system, and observance of processes of governance as per known norms become, therefore, the sine qua non for stability and progress within the country and promotion of smooth and harmonious relations with other countries.

Those moving in high business and industry circles and familiar with the current trends in business administration in the US discount the applicability of these ponderous precepts to fast-moving turbulent times.

They tell me that Trump's style is exactly that of an aggressive and successful businessman: Eye on the ball, restless for results, take aim, shoot the arrow, pros and cons be damned.

A July 2 write-up, 'Why Mr Trump deserves a chance to govern' in The Washington Times, a part of the mainstream media not usually sympathetic to Trump, by the wife of a former secretary of commerce for President George H W Bush, and, therefore, belonging to the inner circle, puts it thus:

'If Donald Trump's standard of behaviour gets the job done, perhaps that standard should become the new normal. It is time to reset protocol to something that will better serve the nation. We should redefine what is presidential to take account of results, as in the business world. A businessman defines a problem, finds a solution, and acts. Yes, the president's decisive style of action doesn't always follow protocol, but it moves the ball…

'Conformity with the past will lead only to more stagnation. Instead of criticizing the businessman president who gets the job done, we should applaud him... Who is to say that the way things have always been done is the right way? Obviously, those who voted for Mr Trump to "make America great again" didn't feel served by the status quo. Some in power may be intimidated by the change that the new president brings — but those who elected him crave it.

'But the Trump way is working. Supporters are happy that he is challenging the way things have always been done. They feel closer to the presidency than ever before, because this president doesn't go through media consultants. He says it how he sees it -- unfiltered.

'At the end of the day, if Mr Trump's new way of doing things fails, Washington can always go back to doing things the way they have always been done. But first we owe it to our nation's future to give Mr Trump a chance.'

Amen, but with trepidation!

B S Raghavan is a former member of the Indian Administrative Service and was a Policy Adviser to the UN (FAO) and US Congressional Fellow.
He has held wide leadership positions in the state and central governments, including charge of the Political and Security Policy Planning Division of the Union ministry of home affairs.
He was also the chief secretary of a state.
He is a frequent commentator on national and international affairs.

B S Raghavan