Note to managers in the Trump administration: Do your thing — toxic leadership, self-enrichment, profligate government spending — but keep it hidden. Do NOT outshine the boss.
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“Gina Haspel CIA Nomination in Trouble; 109 Legislators Sign Letter of Non-Support” (4/23/2018)
“Ronny Jackson VA Nomination in Trouble; Senate Delays Hearings Due to Allegations” (4/24/2018)
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President Trump nominated his doctor March 28, 2018, to be Veterans Affairs secretary. The White House physician takes Donald’s vital signs a few times per month and is trotted out once a year to rave about the president’s good health and lie about his height and weight to produce a bogus BMI. A Veterans Affairs secretary runs a behemoth of a bureaucracy, overseeing 385,000-some employees and 9 million or so veteran-patients. Immediately, many legislators of both hues criticized the pick due to Jackson’s gross lack of large-organization management experience. To use a technical military term: SNAFU (Situation normal: all f***ed up).
Ronny Lynn Jackson is a United States Navy rear admiral. His nomination is in deep trouble over new allegations of leading a hostile work environment, overprescribing medications, and drinking “too much” on the job. I guess some drinking on the job is OK.
But I don’t see the problem. Dr. Jackson’s qualifications seem to fall right in line with standard Trump administration job qualifications.
Experience for the Job
Let’s look at experience for the job. Trump’s current Cabinet is teeming with officials who had little prior experience or the exact wrong experience.
Take Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos: no relevant experience and the exact wrong experience. She’s a billionaire heiress who never attended a public school — probably doesn’t know anyone who attended a public school. As a wealthy ultraconservative activist in Michigan, she spent lots of money supporting school choice, school voucher programs, and charter schools, all policies that potentially hurt public schooling (especially vouchers). She’s also well-known for embarrassing the administration during congressional testimony. She’s uninformed on essential education issues and has trouble speaking in complete, thoughtful sentences.
Look at Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson. He’s another doctor — actually a prominent former neurosurgeon — who knows nothing about management or the current experience of urban American citizens. Mr. Carson is also known for being issue-knowledge-deficient.
Consider Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Mick Mulvaney. He does know about finances. As a legislator, he fought to protect big banks and Wall Street from government oversight. Before he was appointed interim director, Mulvaney railed against the agency he now oversees and repeatedly called for its elimination. This isn’t just the fox guarding the henhouse — this is putting Donald Trump in charge of beauty contestant privacy.
One more. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is a gem. As Oklahoma attorney general, he described himself as a “leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.” He sued the EPA about 14 times to weaken environmental protections. Scott doesn’t believe in anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change and claims (wrongly) that scientists haven’t come to a consensus on this. As director, he’s thrilled large corporations by rolling back regulations that protected Americans from industry poisons and the dangerous warming of our planet. Additionally, Pruitt has been under fire for extravagant government spending on travel, extra-custom vehicles, and a “cone of silence” (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility aka SCIF, of which EPA already had two; Pruitt needed one more custom-built for him).
Oh, and Scott got a sweetheart housing deal from a lobbyist that had business before the EPA.
So far, President Trump is sticking with Pruitt, Mulvaney, Carson, and DeVos. That means Ronny Jackson should fit right in. Why, with their lack of applicable experience, Betsy, Ben, and Ronny could even switch jobs when they got bored. They all have the same degree (zero) of knowledge for each of their respective Cabinet positions.
Leading a Hostile Working Environment
The lack of experience disqualifying Admiral Jackson for VA secretary was widely noted the day President Trump tweet-nominated him. “Leading a hostile work environment,” however, is one of several new misconduct allegations against the good doctor:
“Jackson was described as ‘the most unethical person I have ever worked with,’ ‘flat-out unethical,’ ‘explosive,’ ‘100 percent bad temper,’ ‘toxic,’ ‘abusive,’ ‘volatile,’ ‘incapable of not losing his temper,’ ‘the worst officer I have ever served with,’ ‘despicable,’ ‘dishonest,’ as having ‘screaming tantrums’ and ‘screaming fits,’ as someone who would ‘lose his mind over small things,’ ‘vindictive,’ ‘belittling,’ ‘the worst leader I’ve ever worked for.’ Day-to-day environment was like ‘walking on eggshells.’ As Jackson gained power he became ‘intolerable.’ One physician said, ‘I have no faith in government that someone like Jackson could end up at VA.’ A nurse stated, ‘this [working at WHMU] should have been the highlight of my military career but it was my worst assignment.’ Another stated that working at WHMU was the ‘worst experience of my life.’
(Senate Veterans Affairs Committee; “Summary of Allegations” [against Admiral Ronny L. Jackson from 23 current or former staff]; 4/25/2018.)
After Ronny Jackson’s nomination process began in March, over 20 current or former military personnel under his command came forward to express their concerns about his fitness for a Cabinet position. This prompted the release of a negative 2012 military inspector general’s report on Jackson, followed by the nonpartisan Senate Veterans Affairs Committee’s “Summary of Allegations” report (excerpted above and below).
But what’s the big deal? This description of Jackson’s conduct as a leader and manager literally — and I mean literally — sounds like he could have been trained personally by Donald Trump. If this management style is good enough for Mr. Big, everyone should be fine with Dr. Jackson’s take-charge attitude. Maybe that’s what the VA needs: someone who knows how to be “abusive toward staff” and “explosive” for a change. This is directly out of Trump’s playbook.
Drinking “too Much” on the Job
Mr. Jackson reportedly drank “too much” on the job. I’d love to see where, in the White House medical unit manual, it specifies how much alcohol is OK and how much is “too much.”
There are two stories in the news. Once, Jackson was on an overseas trip with the president and was passed out drunk in his room. His services were needed, so one of his underlings had to fill in. The other story is that, also during presidential travel, Jackson was drunk and repeatedly pounding on a female associate’s hotel room door late at night. He was so loud and obnoxious, the Secret Service had to step in for fear he might wake the president.
“Multiple incidents of drunkenness on duty were described to [Senate] Committee staff. … When ‘on duty’ or ‘holding the medical bag,’ Jackson was required to be on call at a moment’s notice in the event of a health issue with the President. On several occasions, Jackson would reach for ‘the bag’ while intoxicated to show he was in charge. On at least one occasion, Dr. Jackson could not be reached when needed because he was passed out drunk in his hotel room. … At a Secret Service going away party, Jackson got drunk and wrecked a government vehicle.”
(Ibid.; Senate VA Committee; 4/25/2018.)
I ask you: Who among us has never crashed a government vehicle while plastered?
Now, you might be thinking this does not fit in with Trump’s accepted view of behavior because Donald is an avowed teetotaler whose brother Fred died of alcoholism. But substitute illicit sex and sexual assault for alcohol. Mr. Trump has no problem with Mr. Jackson because one man’s vice might be breaking the rules with alcohol, and another man’s vice might be breaking the rules with rampant sexual misconduct and adulterous debauchery with adult-film stars and Playboy models. Either way, in Donald’s eyes, a good leader takes what he wants, when he wants it, without regard for ethics or rules.
Dr. Jackson has been accused of prescribing controlled medications to staff members indiscriminately and “off the books”:
“Multiple individuals cited the nickname ‘Candyman,’ used by WH staff because [Dr. Jackson] would provide whatever [sleep, stimulant, or pain] prescriptions they sought without paperwork. … Missing Percocet (used for pain) tabs once threw WHMU into a panic. It turned out Jackson had provided a large supply to a White House Military Office (WHMO) staffer. Jackson also had private stocks of controlled substances. … A nurse noted that Jackson wrote himself scripts. When caught, he had someone else (his PA) do it.”
(Ibid.; Senate VA Committee; 4/25/2018.)
Again, Trump doesn’t normally approve of chemical abuse. But Jackson was simply helping out associates who could do him a favor someday. If anyone is down with scratching other people’s backs with shady favors or goodies — in this case, “candy” — so they will owe you a back scratch in the future, it is Donald J. Trump.
People, I mean, really, What is the problem? Admiral Ronny Jackson seems to manage and lead almost exactly in the mold of Donald Trump. Jackson could have been a Trump University valedictorian. Why are GOP legislators now concerned about this brand of leadership when they have accepted and embraced it in the guy at the top for two years? This presents a staggering contradiction. Jackson leads and manages exactly like the president, but he is unfit for a Cabinet position? The burning question about the Trump presidency is, How in God’s name did we get here?
Also note: “Those who fail to learn from redundancy are doomed to repeat it, again” (— friend of the show and American philosopher R. Emanuel, 2006).
This week we got to see what a real president looks like for the first time since the morning of January 20, 2017. The reminder is extremely important for Americans, who are becoming numb and desensitized to Donald Trump’s utter lack of self-awareness and respect for the office.
Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron have been in Washington for the past few days. It is President Trump’s first official hosting of a White House state visit.
Trump and Macron shook (some say held) hands a lot. At a press conference Tuesday, they mugged for the cameras and Mr. Macron feigned one side of their mutual respect while graciously enduring a classic Donald passive-aggressive insult-in-the-guise-of-a-compliment:
“You’ve got to hand it to Trump. The president may be a global joke but he has an uncanny knack of always making sure he has the last laugh. … ‘They’re all saying what a great relationship we have, and they’re actually correct,’ Trump gushed to the camera as the pair posed for photos. ‘It’s not fake news. Finally, it’s not fake news. It’s a great honor, a great honor that you’re here. In fact I’ll get that little piece of dandruff, that little piece,’ Trump said. He then made a very public show of brushing invisible dandruff off Macron’s shoulder. ‘We have to make him perfect. He is perfect.’ Meanwhile, Macron grinned and appeared somewhat lost for words as he subjected himself to this humiliation.”
(Mahdawi, Arwa; “Trump Gave Macron a Taste of His Bizarre ‘Dandruff Diplomacy’”; The Guardian; 4/24/2018.)
French President Emmanuel Macron is everything President Donald Trump is not. Donald knows Emmanuel shines a hundred times brighter than Donald does on the world stage. So he tried to bring Macron down a notch with his ridiculously transparent attempt to embarrass the French leader. Except Macron handled it judiciously and diplomatically, the world clearly saw through Trump’s galactically low self-esteem, pseudo-alpha-male attempt to get the better of the French president. And now Emmanuel Macron shines a thousand times brighter than Donald.
Macron addressed Congress Wednesday. Macron is everything Trump is not.
Macron believes in science. He knows that the Paris Climate Agreement is not just for Parisians:
“I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”
(Trump, Donald, R-N.Y., U.S. president; White House press conference to announce U.S. withdrawal from Paris Climate Agreement; 5/25/2017.)
[FUN FACT]: After Trump’s cutesy declaration, the mayor of Pittsburgh immediately, defiantly announced that his city would continue to abide by the guidelines of the Paris Climate Agreement.
“I am sure one day, the U.S. will come back and join the Paris Agreement. Let us face it: There is no planet B. We must find a smoother transition to a lower carbon economy. Because what is the meaning of our life, really, if we work and live destroying the planet while sacrificing the future of our children?”
(Macron, Emmanuel, French president; address to joint session of Congress; 4/25/2018.)
And Macron believes in keeping one’s end of a bargain:
“We signed [the Iran nuclear deal] at the initiative of the United States. We signed it, both the United States and France. That is why we cannot say we should get rid of it like that. … That’s why France will not leave the JCPOA, because we signed it.”
(Ibid.; Macron; 4/25/2018.)
Macron believes in not isolating from the other countries of Earth, being a good world neighbor, and true American exceptionalism:
“The 21st century has brought a series of new threats and new challenges that our ancestors might have never imagined. We can build the 21st century world order based on a new breed of multilateralism, based on a more effective, accountable, and results-oriented multilateralism. This requires more than ever the United States’ involvement, as your role was decisive for creating and safeguarding this free world. The United States is the one who invented this multilateralism. You are the one who has to help now to preserve and reinvent it.”
(Ibid.; Macron; 4/25/2018.)
(At this point, this author sighs a wistful sigh, as if yearning for a lost loved one.)
Today, Thursday, Admiral Ronny L. Jackson withdrew his name for consideration to be Veterans Affairs secretary. Let there be no doubt: Jackson was everything President Trump looks for in a leader — except controversy. Donald had no problem with Jackson’s alleged behavior as commander of the White House medical unit. Jackson’s leadership style was a mirror image of Trump’s:
“Jackson was viewed as someone who ‘would roll over anyone,’ ‘worked his way up on the backs of others,’ ‘was a suck up to those above him and abusive to those below him,’ a ‘kiss up, kick down boss,’ ‘put his needs above everyone else’s.’”
(Ibid.; Senate VA Committee; 4/25/2018.)
But there are two things Donald cannot abide: 1) his managers bringing bad publicity to the White House; and 2) his managers becoming more talked about than him. Just ask former communications director Anthony Scaramucci, former presidential chief strategist Steve Bannon, and former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. EPA Director Scott Pruitt, I’m eyeing you next.
Note to managers in the Trump administration: Do your thing — toxic leadership, self-enrichment, profligate government spending — but keep it hidden. Do not outshine the boss. ■
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