[Published in Trump’s blind spot - The Sunday Guardian Live]
Republicans are rejoicing that Donald Trump says he has learned lessons from his first term and will unleash a full-scale assault on big government and the Deep State. Democrats are raising alarms that Trump will exceed his powers to wreak vengeance and settle personal scores. Trump’s recent musing about being a “one-day dictator” inflamed his critics and enraptured his supporters.
They will all be disappointed.
President Trump completely failed at personnel. He never grasped the concept that “people are policy”. Unfortunately, Trump and his transition planners are already ignoring this maxim and heading for disaster.
Many of the people being discussed for Trump’s second term were ineffective in the first. Learning from one’s mistakes is a key to successful leadership. It is not happening.
Trump and his Second-Term planners continually refuse to look to the Reagan Transition (1980-81) for inspiration and its leaders for advice. The Reagan Transition is considered the best planned and executed transition in history. Even liberal historians admit this. Its success was based on ideological alignment of all participants and a clear plan for how Reagan’s Revolution would become an operational reality.
During the 2016 campaign and transition, Trump and his advisors repeatedly ignored those who led the Reagan transition. Eventually, some of these experienced “Reaganites’ were allowed into his transition, but in minor roles. Their detailed reports and recommendations were tossed aside.
Instead, Trump relied on former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus. Trump felt he had to reward them for defending him at critical points in the 2016 Presidential Campaign. However, they filled his transition and White House with their friends drawn from Bush, McCain, and Romney political circles. These Christie/Priebus cronies never respected Trump or supported his populist, “America First” policies. They went onto to undermine Trump at every turn.
Trump was his own worst enemy. He shut out potential allies among the Reaganites and welcomed anti-Trump activists. He compounded his mistakes by not filling key positions, thinking this crippled the bureaucracy. Instead, it empowered the Deep State players, as no one was monitoring them.
The result was Trump never achieving operational control of the Executive Branch. Obama holdovers remained astride key functions. “Washington Swamp” operatives pursued their own agendas. Disloyal appointees, even among his senior staff, leaked sensitive information and ingratiated themselves with the opposition media.
There were attempts during Trump’s final year in office to correct these strategic mistakes. They failed. Biden was handed the gift of leftist programs, policies, projects, hires, and contracts that were started while Trump was still in office. Trump’s last wave of loyalists was blindsided because there were too few placed in the wrong places.
Except for judicial appointments, Trump’s legacy was swept away. America, and the world, are suffering the consequences.
The opportunity to bring fundamental, and lasting, change to the Executive Branch during Trump’s second term is already slipping away.
Planning for the next Republican Administration is fragmented among five competing organizations: The Heritage Foundation, the Center for Renewing America (CRA), Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), Personnel Policy Organization (PPO), and the America First Policy Initiative (AFPI).
Besides duplicating effort, these five entities are competing with each other to raise millions of dollars to finance their operations. They conveniently ignore that volunteers prepared for the 1980 Reagan Revolution and that the Reagan Transition’s federal support was supplemented by only $2 million in private funds from his “Kitchen Cabinet”.
The Trump Transition money chase has led to leaking detailed plans to the media. News outlets have published insider accounts of private meetings and decisions. The transition planning groups hope donors will be impressed with their proposed actions and write big checks. It is like General Eisenhower leaking plans for the Normandy Invasion to promote WWII War Bonds.
Leaking details may inspire donors, but it allows opponents to develop counter measures. It violates timeless wisdom, “boast when coming from battle, not going to it”.
They are ignoring a fundamental truism: change occurs because there is a mandate. These competing organizations, along with Republicans everywhere, need to be making the case for their revolution. Otherwise, they may not gain traction for their plans, and even lose the 2024 election.
Trump’s key strategy is to remove merit system protections for thousands of career government employees. His advisors dismiss the fact that this could be derailed by Congress (if in Democrat hands) and the courts. However, retroactively removing protections is probably unconstitutional.
Trump likes “blunt instruments” to get his way. Reagan’s appointees “sweated the details” to establish complete control of the Executive Branch. His appointees, and their political staff, thoroughly studied each agency and methodically implemented substantive and sustainable change.
Establishing a compelling mandate for change, and effectively implementing it, can be summarized by the “SARS” strategy: Stop; Abolish; Reverse; Streamline.
Every day, until the election, a vivid case must be made to:
- Stop Biden’s Leftist assault on America. Detailed lists of executive orders, policy memos, budget plans, regulations, court cases, hires and contracts must be compiled and exposed. Every agency and program must be searched.
- Abolish every entity and program started by Biden and Obama. We must roll back big government back to at least 2009.
- Reverse Biden/Obama decisions, especially personnel. Most Americans don’t realize there are countless advisory boards within each department and agency that shape policy. Their members are selected by agency heads not the President. Reagan established a special unit to select loyalists for these panels.
- Streamline the Executive Branch. Republicans should cite hundreds of reports generated by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the 74 Inspectors General among Departments and agencies. Each one exposes waste, fraud, and abuse, which can guide revolutionary change.
These “SARS” actions are opportunities to educate and motivate voters to elect a Republican President, Senate, and House in 2024. Ignoring them places America’s future in jeopardy.
Scot Faulkner served as Chief Administrative Officer of the U.S. House of Representatives. He was Director of Personnel for the 1980 Reagan Campaign, served on the Presidential Transition team, and on Reagan’s White House Staff. He currently advises corporations on strategic change.