Donald Trump is a polarizing figure. As such it’s hard to be objective in any discussion about his legacy. His worshippers think he could do no wrong and his detractors do not give him credit for even obvious accomplishments.
There can be no doubt that Trump has accomplished some good things. Peace agreements between four Muslim-majority countries (three of which are in the Middle East) and Israel are historic by any measure. Operation warp Speed and the development of not one, but several, vaccines for coronavirus in less than ten months is a feat of government-private partnership.
Yet detractors will point out, among other things, that Trump’s abrasive and childish nature turned off allies overseas and divided a nation, even friends and families, at home and that he was one of only three Presidents to be impeached and the only one ever impeached twice.
Many have written of what they believe will be Trump’s legacy, both good and bad, and there are indeed many examples of both. Yet, frankly, for all but his most ardent followers, he will be remembered in history for his last two weeks in office and his actions leading up to the riots of Jan. 6.
There is, however, one area of the Trump Presidency that has been left without comment. To fill that gap, the discussion that follows explores that area and, to be objective, uses Trump’s criteria to measure Trump’s performance.
During the campaign, Donald Trump touted his business experience and said that the government needed a leader to run the government ‘like a business’. Part of that is the ability to select good people and trust them to get the job done. This is where Trump has made a notable name for himself–in his selection of staff. He is unprecedented in the history of the presidency, if not in all of management, in his incompetence for his ability to select people and to put together a good team. You don’t believe me? Well, then let’s listen to Trump talk about Trump’s selection of his senior management team and defer to his public comments on his ability in that area.
Secretary of State
Trump said his first Sec. of State Rex Tillerson was “dumb as a rock” and “lazy as hell”.
Secretary of Defense
Trump appointed James Mattis as his first Sec. of Defense, but later said that Mattis was the “worst general in history”. Not just ‘worst general alive’ or ‘worst general in US history’ but “worst general in history”.
Trump had an ongoing public feud with his first Attorney General and after months of taking shots at him in public, finally fired him saying “I never should have appointed him.” Trump then appointed William Barr of whom he said “He hasn’t done anything”, just after Barr said that Trump’s claims of election fraud had been investigated by the Justice Dept. and were unfounded.
Secretary of Homeland Security
Trump had three Secretaries of Homeland Security in his first year in office. Later he fired the third, Krijsten Nielsen, by tweet after complaining she wasn’t tough enough on illegal immigration.
Head of the National Security Council
Trump’s first National Security Advisor was indicted. His second, H.R. McMasters, quit after he and Trump butted heads often. John Bolton was Trump’s third appointee. When Trump fired Bolton, and appointed his fourth person for that role in three years, he called Bolton “a real dope” and “one of the dumbest people in government”.
Trump announced Anthony Scaramucci would take over as Communications Director as soon as background checks and administrative matters could be completed. Scaramucci was so toxic that he was literally fired before he even officially took office.
Trump appointed more judges than any President in history. Yet he targeted many for personal criticism, especially the four District Court judges and the Appeals Court judge that ruled against his allegations of election fraud. After Stephan Bibas, a Trump appointee, wrote an opinion for the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, Trump’s team said “The activist judicial machinery in Pennsylvania continues to cover up the allegations of massive fraud.” Bibas had, apparently, not only been appointed by Trump but had then become part of the conspiracy to cover up fraud against Trump.
Trump had similar comments for the other judges he appointed who did not rule in his favor, including
US District Judge Steven Grimberg, who denied a lawsuit in Georgia over election results
Supreme Court Justices
Trump nominated three members (of the nine total) to the Supreme Court, one of them just under two months before the election. Yet after saying for weeks that all he wanted was for the Supreme Court to hear his case on election fraud, he then called them wrong and ‘unwise’ (which was among the kindest things he said) for allowing lower court rulings against him to stand and refusing to even take the cases. So in one month, one of his own appointees had become ‘unwise’. That didn’t take long.
The examples mentioned above are just a sample, and only include federal judges and senior people on his management team who interacted daily with Trump.
Using Trump’s own words and criteria, his record was abysmal and his inability to wisely select people for key positions of leadership was unprecedented.
Even more startling was that the overwhelming majority of ex-Trump Administration staffers who voiced an opinion, did not back Trump for re-election.
Whatever you may think of Donald Trump and his legacy, there can be little doubt that he had no idea of what he was doing when it came to judging talent, at least if we judge him by his own words.