Monday, December 5, 2016

Tyranny of Low Expectations, Trump Edition

General Mattis, if nominated (not official yet) to be Secretary of Defense, needs to get a waiver as existing law says that military officers need to be retired seven years before filling this role.  Some Democrats are not inclined to pass such a waiver.  I have argued that filling this role with a recently retired general is a bad idea as one key job of the Secretary of the Defense is to be THE civilian in between the operational commanders and the President of the United States.  His (or her) job is to manage American civilian-military relations. 

So, I have argued against this, focusing on how such exceptions (the only waiver before now was for George C. Marshall) are problematic in a time where we have an incoming administration determined to undermine pretty much all norms and institutions that are at all inconvenient.

The main pushback I have gotten: Mattis is the best of Trump's picks.  Yeah, and?  This is a key problem--that Trump is making so many awful decisions that we then think that the least awful could be ok or even good.  That our expectations are pushed so low that we don't mind problematic exceptions to good rules.  A guess this is what folks worry about when they say "this is not normal" and "prevent normalization."

So, I will try to remain resolved to not lower my standards and my expectations.  I will call out when the Trump Administration makes bad decisions and awful appointments, even when these are somewhat less bad than other ones.  Perhaps the appointment of Michael Flynn as National Security Adviser, one of the first big decisions, was meant to set the bar so very low.  But I refuse to use that standard.  Will you?

No comments: