In her brilliant book about the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, “Team of Rivals,” historian Doris Kearns Goodwin showed how Lincoln intentionally built a cabinet filled with people who disagreed with him.
Not that Lincoln was a feather in the wind, blown this way and that depending upon the last person he whose advice he sought. He listened to what his cabinet had to say, weighed their opinions, and then made his decision. Sometimes that decision was based on the cabinet’s advice and sometimes it was a decision that went against all advice.
Lincoln had enough humility to know that he was not the font of all wisdom but also enough genuine self-confidence to make decisions he felt were in the best interest of the country even when those decisions went against the advice of all his cabinet members.
Definitely not Lincoln
Which brings us to the man who thinks he’s the greatest president the United States ever had. Donald J. Trump. Humility is a word that will never be associated with Donald Trump. No historian in the future will ever write a book one day about Trump being wise and full of genuine self-confidence. His actions in the past two weeks illustrate that he is an ignorant, insecure man, full of bluster and lies who cares little about doing the right thing.
Instead of being open to the opinions of others and unafraid to take counsel that may question his own beliefs, Trump has decided to surround himself with fawning lackeys, yes men and women who will only shower him with accolades and praise every decision, no matter how wrongheaded it is for the country.
You could say that instead of a “Team of Rivals,” Trump is constructing a “Team of Rubber Stamps.” Imagine a large group of Lindsay Grahams who support every decision Trump makes regardless how ridiculous it is. For like Graham, who once was so opposed to Trump, these people are more afraid for their jobs and for their standing among Trump supporters than they are for the safety and well-being of the United States.
The great danger in surrounding yourself with people who are afraid to question bad decisions, even when they know better, can best be seen in the Challenger shuttle disaster. In the now well-known story, scientists and engineers who worked on the Challenger knew about problems with the O-Ring caused by cold temperatures but Group Think prevented them from speaking out. The end result? The entire Challenger shuttle crew perished.
Now take that dynamic and transpose that reluctance to challenge the group on the opinions of one person, the most powerful individual in the world, the president of the United States. It is a recipe for disaster.
You can see the danger in the decision to replace the Director of National intelligence Joseph Maguire, a respected and decorated military professional who knew his job well, with a man who is basically a toady of Donald Trump, Richard Grenell.
McGuire was fired because he did his job. He gave permission for a subordinate to testify to Congress, as he was required to do. When the subordinate told the truth to Congress, Trump fired Maguire. Like humility, truth is also a word that will never be associated with Trump.
The result of being surrounded by minions
Think about how this will affect the economy, the intelligence that we need to protect ourselves against enemies foreign and domestic, the response to the coronavirus, the 2020 federal elections and the list goes on and on. With the act of rooting out “disloyal” political appointees who have failed to kiss Trump’s behind properly (and let us not forget that these were all people appointed by Trump) with every decision he makes, Trump is placing every American in danger.
Without those voices in the room who can tell this man bloated with his own self-importance that he’s making the wrong decision or that he needs to at least temper that decision, there’s no telling what damage he will do to the Constitution, to the courts, to the media and to the country at large.
Trump’s “Team of Rubber Stamps” is another indication that he is not be the best president America has ever had, but the worst.