Wednesday, August 03, 2016

The Hazards of Inconsistency

Daniel Drezner has a piece on MorningJoe's interview with ex-CIA head Hayden which might be setting records for him for the number of comments.  His big problem is the revelation that several months ago a high level foreign policy type was briefing Trump, and Trump asked three times during the interview why the US couldn't use nuclear weapons. (This was Joe Scarborough belatedly revealing the information.)

I've a different problem, based on Hayden's comments: Trump's inconsistency.  Hayden is a former bureaucrat, as am I, and apparently we both share a belief that perhaps the most important quality in a leader is consistency.  Whatever good and bad qualities a leader has, the supporting players, including the permanent bureaucrats as well as the leader's personal retinue, can adapt.  Is the leader an idiot? Then speak and write simply, and keep complex issues away. Is the leader intellectually omnivorous? Write 100 page tomes on every issue?  Is the leader a drunk? Structure his time so the drunk periods don't overlap with decision making.  Does the leader fly off the handle and order "off with their heads"? Agree, and do nothing.

Note: some of my examples are written based on the revelations of the Nixon tapes and the memoirs of Nixon's official family,another from Reagan's.

The point in all this is, if the leader is inconsistent from day to day, it's much harder for the good bureaucrat to adapt to compensate for his/her deficiencies and maximize her/his strengths.

No comments: