Somewhere around 1800 years ago, a Chinese strategist named Zhuge Liang wrote a treatise called Mastering the Art of War. The treatise is a basic guide to organizing your forces and choosing generals. It holds up pretty well as far as guidelines of leadership go. Mastering the Art of War describes several good and bad characteristics of generals, and Donald Trump’s inner circle exemplifies a lot of what you don’t actually want in leaders. If he is to have a successful administration, he is going to have to make some changes.
In the section of the treatise called Chasing Evils:
There are five types of harm in decadence among national armed forces.
- First is the formation of factions that band together for character assassination, criticizing and vilifying the wise and the good.
- Second is luxury in uniforms.
- Third is wild tales and confabulations about the supernatural.
- Fourth is judgment based on private views, mobilizing groups for personal reasons.
- Fifth is making secret alliances with enemies, watching for where the advantage may lie.
All people like this are treacherous and immoral. You should distance yourself from them and not associate with them.
Pay attention to numbers one and four here, as they are perfect descriptions of Trump’s “Chief Strategist,” Steve Bannon. His running of Breitbart has resulted in weaponized propaganda, used to for character assassination, attacking people who are otherwise good solely for their opposition to something Bannon agrees with. He has also specifically ordered his reporters to take out politicians like Paul Ryan.
It is entirely likely that Bannon will work as hard as he can to torpedo anyone he believes is a threat to his position and power. He will undercut Reince Priebus at every turn, and anyone else Trump selects for a cabinet position will be the type of person that can’t overshadow Bannon.
There is a reason that Rudy Giuliani is the favorite for the Secretary of State position over a guy like John Bolton, who is a far, far better pick. There’s also a reason Linda McMahon could be overlooked for someone else whose successes in business aren’t as well known. Bolton and McMahon are good picks for the Trump Administration, but they are bigger personalities, and far more successful ones, than Bannon. His ego simply won’t allow it.
What Trump is at risk of in trusting guys like Bannon is bringing on people who might be okay at the job, but who simply are not strong enough to serve as a counter-voice to him. If Trump wants to be a successful president, and we know he does (it benefits his ego and brand all at the same time), then he’s going to have to wise up to Bannon’s act.
If he hires people who are not as strong as they need to be, then his administration will crumble around him. If he chooses strong voices who are not afraid to tell him (and, more importantly, Steve Bannon) “No,” then he will have a better shot at getting things accomplished. If he is the type of successful person he claims to be, then deep down he already knows this to be a fact. However, if he does not watch his step, this inner circle he’s building around him will be weak, inefficient, and cost him and the Republicans in the long run.