by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Jay Cost of National Review Online argues that the president ought to be a better one.
We can debate whether and how much the Deep State is actually countering Trump’s agenda. But one thing that is not debatable is that the anonymous author is not part of such a group. Anonymous is, rather, a “senior administration official” who, based on what his op-ed reveals, serves at the pleasure of the president. Trump could get rid of him, if he knew who he was. …
… President Trump clearly has put together a chaotic and unpredictable organization, or perhaps his administrations suffers for the lack of any organization whatsoever. His managerial style seems to be impromptu, and his approach to staff is apparently mercurial. These are not good ways to handle the principal–agent problem he necessarily faces. Such an approach leads to low morale and lackluster oversight of staff, which by all accounts is what we have seen, time and again — from the Anonymous op-ed, to the new Bob Woodward book (not just its contents, but the fact that so many officials willingly participated in it), even to Omarosa’s recording conversations in the West Wing, including in the Situation Room. These are all symptoms of an executive branch that is suffering from a lack of sufficient management.
And look: If Trump does not have a good handle on what his agents are up to, then his power necessarily is going to decline, as the principal–agent problem grows. We can bemoan the fact that his political appointees are undermining democratic accountability by ignoring or circumventing Trump’s dictates, but that misses the point. The principal–agent problem exists just about everywhere. It is a consequence of human nature, whereby people are prone to put their own judgments and interests first. That’s why principals must monitor their agents.
Trump has clearly not done a good job of that. And that is on him.