With new allegations of White House disarray being reported daily, if not hourly, and with the possibility of eventual impeachment being floated as a trial balloon by a past presidential adviser and members of Congress, it is understandable, but nonetheless unfortunate that a bunker mentality would tend to prevail within President Trump's West Wing.
It is understandable in that the president and his advisers must deflect an endless barrage of criticism. From their vantage point, partisan adversaries who care hardly at all about making America great are on the attack. Licking wounds and orchestrating the next response in a game of tit-for-tat, all in the comfort of the White House bunker, is surely predictable behavior.
But the behavior is unfortunate in that tit-for-tat is a losing strategy. As former Mercer University President R. Kirby Godsey wrote, "You will never live long enough to get even"—which, I would add, is especially true in Washington. More to the point, the process of governing is ultimately not about winning and losing partisan battles. It is about leadership. Building a stronger America requires a positive agenda and leadership to move it forward.
It seems only human to blame personal failure on others. Is it the unfair, biased media? An intelligence community dead-set on undermining an administration that seeks to consolidate and reduce intelligence-gathering expenditures? Or is it the loyal opposition that will go to any extreme to derail a fledgling administration? Unfortunately and ultimately, it is none of this. Shakespeare has reminded us: "The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars but in ourselves."
Challenging as it may be to do so, Trump and his leadership team should get out of the bunker, recognize that for better or worse they are in charge and embrace a new strategy ending tit-for-tat and embracing cooperation with the American people. They should lay out their positive agenda, identify a coalition that wishes to move it forward and — following the Gerald Ford strategy after the failed Nixon administration — organize a nationwide series of town halls chaired by cabinet members to discuss it honestly with the people.
The agenda should include just a few key economic elements that focus on reducing unnecessary burdens that stand in the way of economic growth and progress. First, pursue thorough regulatory reform that begins with congressional lawmakers, who are the source of all regulation, and establishes required review of all statutory mandates by the Congressional Budget Office prior to any proposed statute being finalized.
Second is an open and honest revision of personal and corporate taxes that reflects the concerns of ordinary citizens as well as those of investors and enterprise operators.
Third, be the administration that comes to grips with and truly addresses the nation's massive federal debt. This debt now rests on the shoulders of the country's youngest generation, who are truly the forgotten men and women that Trump claims to serve.
Can it be done? Maybe. But not many of us, with our fragile egos, are capable of accepting Shakespeare's analysis of personal failure. After all, the bunker beckons, and those in it are hell-bent on getting even … even if doing so stands in the way of making America great.
Bruce Yandle is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is an adjunct distinguished professor of economics with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and dean emeritus of the Clemson University College of Business & Behavioral Science. He developed the "Bootleggers and Baptists" political model.
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