The Long …and the Short

The Long …and the Short

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

The Long…

This week has brought a reality to Washington and a sense of inevitability like never before. The President is gradually learning—although not accepting– that he is operating in a system which he cannot totally control. Being President of the United States is not like running a real estate empire, even a multi-billion dollar one. The Presidency cannot be run as a privately held business to which Trump finds himself having been elected. 

Being President of the United States is also not like being CEO of any other American corporation; even the former head of Exxon-Mobil, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, appreciates the difference. There are just too many moving parts and you can’t control them all. Tillerson recognizes that fact but Trump cannot accept this fact. Trump—or so it seems—never will. So he and they will go down because of it. It will take time and will not be soon. Eventually there will be an end and it will be very ugly.

The tragic shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise only brought a partial moment of reality to Washington. The shooting raised numerous questions beyond the horror and heroism of watching American Members of Congress being shot and recognizing the extraordinary courage and bravery of the Capitol Police. Even beyond the debate which will eventually occur again over gun control, there is a genuine question about what has happened to the spirit of the nation.

Americans need to recognize that the internal binding fabric which made America great–where the country could debate, disagree, and move forward—has been lost.  Americans no longer respect their institutions. They do not accept the fact that people come and go, but it is the institutions of Government which have made America great.

Officials of Government suggest the attacks are personal. The consequence of all the ad hominem attacks is that the offices and institutions themselves are undermined. Polarization is the theme of American politics today and too many Americans are comfortable with it. This is true of the public as well as of elected officials. It is now pervading all levels of Government.

…and the Short

There was a tradition in the U.S. for new Presidents to appoint the outgoing chairman of the winning party (DNC or RNC) to the Cabinet position of Postmaster General. Officially this individual was entrusted to be the head of the Post Office Department and the regulator of the post.  In 1971, Congress replaced the Post Office with an independent agency, the U.S. Postal Service, and the regulatory function was given to a newly created Postal Regulatory Commission. Postmaster General had been a largely honorific position and the highest domestic patronage position that a new President had to offer. The Post Office Department like many plum foreign embassy ambassadorships ran fine with the Deputy or the Head of Mission handling the job with little interference or oversight from the official head.

It is now being reported that the President is giving new meaning to the word patronage. The White House is scheduled to announce the appointment of Lynne Patton, a New York City friend of Eric Trump and lavish party planner, to be the head of the office of HUD for the NY/NJ region. In addition to apparently having a very sketchy academic background, with an alleged unverifiable law degree or university undergraduate degree, Patton has no experience with housing issues. In this position, she would be assigned to allocate billions of dollars—the largest amount in the country–to assorted Housing projects in the HUD Region II. These would include the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) funds, rental vouchers, block grants for housing inspections and housing for seniors. 

Is there any wonder why people are cynical about Government?

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