Sunday, March 26, 2017

Keeping Enemies Close

One day it's fine and next it's black
So if you want me off your back
Well, come on and let me know
Should I stay or should I go?
--The Clash

Soon after Abraham Lincoln stepped into the Oval Office he immediately fired over half of the employees working under the executive branch. After a highly contested election, Lincoln wanted to reduce the chance that those partisan to someone or something else were in a position to hurt his administration.

Many wonder why Donald Trump has not done similar. Yes, he recently fired several federal attorneys appointed by his predecessor, but thousands of Obama appointees and others who are ideologically opposed to Trump remain as his employees. For an individual who achieved celebrity status by uttering the words "You're fired!" on weeknight television, one would think Trump would have been dealing out pink slips in size by now.

It is possible, of course, that Trump just hasn't gotten around to it yet. Perhaps, based on his previous experience as a manager, he thinks it prudent to better familiarize himself with the current situation before making decisions about who should stay and who should go.

His managerial experience might also be telling him that diversity in terms of political ideology will help his administration make better decisions. Trump might achieve better long term results with a varied crew.

There is also the political argument that he wants to project an image of bi-partisanship when it comes to personnel. By keeping people on his staff that others know he doesn't like, he demonstrates restraint and tolerance that might win him cooperation from various factions over time.

A further possibility is that Trump is heeding age old advice of keeping friends close but enemies closer. Keeping enemies in his administration enables Trump to accumulate knowledge about his opposition. He might better understand strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies of his foes when they are working for him.

By keeping his enemies close, Trump could use them as bait. If, for example, Trump suspects that progressives will stop at nothing to get him out of office, then perhaps he keeps partisan operatives around in hopes that progressive leadership recruits them as agents for illicit activities. Agents, say, in intelligence agencies could illegally leak classified information designed to hurt the Trump administration. If Trump is prepared, then he might catch the agents in the act, and use them to trace back to the principals of the crime.

Perhaps the unfolding story about Spygate exemplifies this approach.

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