The political class is still coming to grips with what appears to be
The president-elect often emphasizes the value of being "unpredictable." And he has a point -- in certain contexts. Keeping our enemies guessing has advantages. Defenders of Trump's habit of jabbing corporations about their offshoring decisions will tell you that Trump is "setting the tone from the top." Since such decisions are often made with a narrow and subjective cost-benefit calculus, the argument goes, using tweets to encourage executives to err on the side of "America first" is a valuable way to change the business culture.
Whether or not you like Trump's economic reasoning, you can see why he likes keeping CEOs afraid of the crack of his Twitter whip.
But what about his own appointees and allies in
When I've talked to veterans of the Ronald Reagan administration, particularly from the speechwriting or policy shops, I've often heard a common observation. Knowing what the boss believed was both empowering and efficient. If you know a policy or a line in a speech will never fly with the president, you won't bother pursuing it.
The vast literature on leadership and management hammers away on this point: Provide a vision and then let the troops do the hard work.
Except for trade policy, there are few areas where Trump's troops have a clear idea of exactly what the boss wants, and his compulsive tweeting adds a layer of unpredictability. I've talked to a half-dozen committed and principled conservatives considering jobs in the administration, and I heard one recurring concern: "
The point isn't about personal loyalty, but resolve in the face of the inevitable political and media backlashes that will come with any serious reform effort.
Consider two recent incidents. The House GOP caucus voted to sharply curb the power of the
A more crucial example is the effort to repeal Obamacare. Trump issued a series of Twitter fatwas last week, saying that
Politically, I think Trump is right to be concerned about the perils of repealing Obamacare without having a replacement ready. But his glib response elicits fear among some conservatives that he won't stand fast on repealing Obamacare, or much else. There are countless areas -- entitlements, civil rights, immigration, etc. -- where serious conservative reforms will spark controversy, horrible headlines and negative coverage on "the shows" the president-elect watches obsessively.
Right now, Trump's defenders wave off such concerns, saying he's using Twitter to communicate a clear vision to his team and the whole country. Time will tell. To me, that seems like a generous reading between the lines -- or between tweets about Meryl Streep.