President-elect Trump’s Three Greatest Challenges
November 30, 2016
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There are three fundamental challenges to any effort to transform
I learned these principles from working with President Reagan on dramatic
change in the 1980s and then leading the Contract with America with its
deep changes (first GOP majority in 40 years, welfare reform, the only four
balanced budgets in your lifetime, the largest capital gains tax cut in
The principles I learned working with Reagan and applied as Speaker seem to
be universal for those who would enact deep, profound changes. They are:
1. The “normal” will try to convince the leader to be “reasonable”.
2. Solving symptoms feels satisfying and is an easy substitute for solving
the real, underlying problems.
3. The urgent drives out the important.
Let me explain each.
First, the “normal” will try to convince the leader to be reasonable. I
remember on election night of 1994 when we had won the House for the first
time since 1952. At about 2:00 AM, our key supporters–people who had spent
years of their life working for a Republican majority–sat around discussing
the historic victory. Their number one fear was that I would go to
Washington and be talked into behaving “normally.” They knew that the
lobbyists, the news media, the socialites, the bureaucracy and the old
order would gather together to “tame” the revolutionary reform effort of
the American people.
That Friday, three days after the election, I spoke at The Heritage
Foundation and shocked the Washington media by declaring, “I will cooperate
but I will not compromise.” This formula was a direct attack on the
Washington assumption that campaign promises are cynically made to win
votes but after the election “responsible” people forget those words and
get back to governing as insiders.
If we had listened to the Washington establishment, we would never have
reformed welfare, balanced the budget or cut capital gains taxes.
President-elect Trump should get up every day and begin by looking at his
own campaign promises. He owes his presidency to the people who believed in
him, not to the courtiers and schmoozers who had contempt for him as
candidate but adore him now that he is going to be president.
“Reasonableness” will be the death of Trumpism. The very essence of the
Trump candidacy was a willingness to set out new policies, new goals, and
new toughness that was “unreasonable” to Washington but made perfect sense
to millions of Americans. President Trump should “unreasonably” insist on
draining the swamp and changing policies. This is why he was elected.
Second, there will be so many symptoms of problems that a president could
satisfyingly spend every day focusing on little problems that require
little solutions. While that approach will yield many small satisfactions,
however, it will not produce the profound changes that are needed. Peter
Drucker warned of this tendency to allow surface symptoms to attract our
attention. In *The Effective Executive* <http://amzn.to/2fLYn4T> (a book
every Trump appointee should be required to read), Drucker wrote that great
leaders look below the symptom to find the real problem. Getting rid of one
bad bureaucrat may be satisfying, but it doesn’t solve the underlying
problem. Other bad bureaucrats will show up. Overhauling the bureaucracy so
that it quits producing bad bureaucrats and starts producing good civil
servants is a reform that could last a lifetime.
President-elect Trump and his senior team have to acquire the habit of
asking of every situation “Is this a symptom, or a problem?” If it is
symptom, they must take some time to look for the real underlying problem.
When they solve that problem they will have solved orders of magnitude more
Third, Washington is a city in which the urgent drives out the important.
Senator Jesse Helms first taught me this. He saw me on the street one day
early in my career and said, “Young man, remember that this is a city in
which the urgent drives out the important. Your job is to get up every
morning, place the important at the center of your desk, and work on it
until the urgent overwhelms it.”
As I thought about Helms’s rule and watched President Reagan, I realized he
had developed an antelope-and-chipmunk theory of leading.
Lions know that they cannot afford to hunt chipmunks because even if they
capture them, they will starve to death.
Lions have to hunt antelopes and zebras.
President Reagan was a lion. He wanted to accomplish big things. He knew
that meant he could not get bogged down by tiny problems (chipmunks).
President Reagan got up every morning and reminded himself of his three
antelopes: defeat the Soviet Union, grow the American economy, and renew
American civic culture so we would be proud to be American again.
When President Reagan entered the oval office, chipmunks would come running
in. Some federal chipmunks can be $10 billion or more. Reagan would listen
patiently and say “You are a fine chipmunk! Have you met my chief of
staff?” Jim Baker became the largest chipmunk collector in the world.
President-elect Trump has to pick between three and five antelope he wants
to hunt. He should focus on them relentlessly.
He should work out with Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and senior strategist
Steve Bannon how they are going to divide up the chipmunks.
Only with a system like this can the new president avoid having the urgent
and the trivial overwhelm his ability to focus on the essential changes
that will make his presidency historic.
Developing Trumpism as a governing system is going to be an enormous job.
Moving America from decay to dynamic growth is going to be an enormous job.
Draining the swamp in Washington is going to be an enormous job.
President Reagan proved it could be done.
These three principles will help get it done.
On Thu, Dec 1, 2016 at 8:57 AM, Kamakazee <mscotts...@gmail.com> wrote:
> Sucks to have some whiny bitch censoring your shit, eh Ewen? Particularly
> when it's so hit or miss depending on whether he's having his period at
> that very moment.
> On Thursday, December 1, 2016 at 4:05:48 AM UTC-6, euwe wrote:
>> I reposted the first paragraph only (up to "and which are not?") and it
>> was also deleted as spam.
>> On Thursday, December 1, 2016 at 2:04:06 AM UTC-8, euwe wrote:
>>> the topic:
>>> my reply:
>>> But if he breaks a *major* campaign promise, his supporters will turn
>>> on him with a blind ferocity, dwarfing their rage toward Jeb! because
>>> Trump’s is the more exquisite con. He will have duped them. And he will
>>> never, ever, ever get them back.
>>> That's a little Gothic baroque there, seems to me, especially in light
>>> of the mincing around the word "promise." Haven't we already begun bracing
>>> for what we already know are broken promises by giving permission for Trump
>>> to define which promises are major and which are not?
>>> Isn't it business as usual? Haven't we always found ourselves willingly
>>> yoked by the tyranny of low expectations? Reagan's rule - don't criticize
>>> our own - the opposition will do it for us.
>>> Only in the case of Trump, not only have we accepted the old politicians
>>> trick, "read my lips," on a sliding scale of meaning, but added permission
>>> to redefine the new red-meat phrases that energized the base as 'sarcasm,'
>>> 'literary license,' and 'hyperbole'.
>>> Ann, if you go ballistic about "broken promises," you'll be facing the
>>> populist movement we've based all our hopes on, alone.. Do I have to remind
>>> you what awaits you on that road?
>>> First, you'll be "crazy Ann" - that "disgusting person," who he never
>>> thought was a very good writer. Never read your books. Shortly followed by
>>> character assassination - every day will be a bad hair day - bad lighting
>>> in the studio, or in a late night, grainy paparazzi photo .. sunken eye
>>> sockets.. Rosie was a fat pig.. you'll be a skinny witch, maybe with a sly
>>> sniff into the microphone for emphasis. Perhaps Trump will muse aloud
>>> during a press conference without naming you, whether an Adam's apple is a
>>> dead give-away for... well, you know.
>>> and then there's twitter.
>>> Oh, your friends at Fox will help you out at first, give you some
>>> air-time like a two-headed snake - the sensation of the hour, poked and
>>> prodded like a specimen in a jar.. will Hannity abandon Trump, that he
>>> single handedly elected, for your unique commentary, book tours and biting
>>> If your list of "major" promises disagrees with his, I suggest you
>>> parrot his exact phrases describing his rationalizations - as all the
>>> others who depend on populism for their celebrity, and continued income,
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