That pragmatic advice came from Thomas B. Lance, director of President Jimmy Carter’s Office of Management and Budget, in 1977.
I’ve religiously practiced that philosophy for a lifetime. When it comes to exercising my household handyman responsibilities, I’ll continue to use a failing device until it dies. Then, and only then, will I leap into action, reasoning that anything I do cannot make things any worse.
Donald J. Trump takes the opposite approach. This self-avowed “stable genius” believes himself to be a universal expert — so much so that he frequently declares that nobody else in the world knows more about any topic. Yet, he has consistently proven that he is neither a jack of all trades nor a master of any.
We all meet people like Trump in our lives, self-centered blowhards. As a rule, we soon dismiss them for what they are and, at worst, must avoid them at parties. Unfortunately, this blowhard happens to be President of the United States of America, and he is ever ready to tinker with things he does not understand if it will make his followers cheer.
A case in point and the biggest mistake being made by the blundering Trump administration is its ongoing tariff war with China. Granted, this trade marriage has not been a perfect union, but it worked.
Simply put, the Chinese make stuff; Americans buy stuff. Is it any wonder that a consumer-driven society like the United States buys more things than it sells?
The same people who fiercely defend free market principles are crying foul. Sure, the Chinese lie, cheat, steal and coerce in the course of doing business. So does Trump. Why allow a flawed yet mutually beneficial relationship to be destroyed by an individual who exemplifies the very worst of business practices?
That brings me to a promising possibility in this standoff. Trump’s trade war is hurting the national and world economies, including the segments of society which helped put him in office.
(No, I’m not talking about the Russians. They’ll be fine.)
I’m talking about farmers who are going bankrupt because Trump has cut off their markets and manufacturers who can’t remain competitive with increased taxes on imported raw materials. With every day that the standoff continues, these people and others, including consumers increasingly feeling the pain of Trump’s actions, are becoming less likely to give this clueless President another term in office.
In his typical, uncomprehending fashion, Trump’s efforts to please his base are, ironically, eroding it. Independent voters who thought Trump represented political change in 2016 are discovering that veering to the right was a bad decision. Some may decide not to go to the 2020 polls, while others may even (gasp) vote for Democrats.
The Chinese may succeed in accomplishing a feat which thus far has proven beyond the grasp of the American legislative and judicial branches designed to control something like the Trump administration – remove Trump from office and erase the most dangerous political mistake ever made in the history of American democracy.
Hang in there, Xi Jinping. You may be our only hope.