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President Trump and the Art of Pointless Controversy

Updated on June 11, 2017

Why President Trump is his own worst enemy

All leaders are forced to make controversial decisions. It is the primary reason we have leaders. If the proper course of action was obvious to everyone all of the time, then we could always find an easy consensus and proceed on our merry way. But life isn't that simple, so when inevitable differences of opinion and conflicting interests arise, we need someone to make the call.

Some people who complain about the decisions of leaders have legitimate grievances that they can articulate very clearly. Many others will automatically object to virtually any decision a leader makes if that leader happens to be of a different political party or is somewhere else on the ideological spectrum. While it may be impossible to keep everyone happy, good leaders will try to minimize controversy as much as possible. Since pushback is going to come, it is important to make sure that your most controversial actions are really worth it. There is no point in pissing people off any more than necessary.

This simple truth has clearly not sunk in for President Trump. Sure, some of the anger directed his way is coming from liberal Democrats who would hate any Republican sitting in the White House. But Trump seems to have a unique ability to stir up controversy for no good reason. Virtually every time he makes a new contribution to his Twitter feed he hands fresh meat to his opponents.

The recent terror attack in London is a good example. It does not take a genius to know how to follow the standard playbook after a terror attack, especially an attack against one of our closest allies. A leader simply condemns the horrific attack, expresses condolences, and vows to do what he can to help our ally in the fight against terror. An effective leader does not take a shot at the mayor of the city where the attack took place (by taking a statement out of context) and try to use the tragedy to promote one of his political policies. Say what you want about Presidents Bush or Obama, neither would have been so insensitive or politically incompetent in the same situation. President Trump, on the other hand, does this kind of thing repeatedly. And by repeatedly shooting himself in the foot for no good reason, it makes it harder for him to push through the controversial policy changes that really matter.

Some seem to believe that Trump is a brilliant strategist and communicator using his Twitter feed to push through the master plan. I suspect that the Twitter feed is the place where Trump is truly himself. And since being himself got him to the White House, he sees little reason to change his behavior. I guess we will all find out if he is right.

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