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Trump fires Comey – management by thunderbolt, not Russia, will bring him down

May 11, 2017

A few thoughts on Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey.

Firing people on reality TV makes great entertainment. People love to see other people being humiliated. But in real life, “tough guys” like Trump are anachronisms. Yes, people get fired, but those who do the firing are mindful of the potential negative consequences. They have to, because if they don’t go through the necessary motions, they can end up getting sued, or at the very least suffering serious reputational damage.

In my experience, firing people, especially when they are part of an organisation that is under stress, can cause a further dip in morale even if the firing was justified. People wonder who’s next, and take steps to cover their backsides. If the firing is done as a demonstration of power – management by thunderbolt as I call it – the danger is that those who have independence of thought, initiative and creativity either leave, or form disgruntled cells of resistance. Those who remain in power are the yes-men (and women).

The FBI staff were, according to some reports, overwhelmingly supportive of Comey. Trump has now upset two of the main planks of America’s security establishment, having previously made his contempt for the CIA very clear.

He may believe that whoever he appoints in Comey’s place will plug the constant leaks from various sources within the government. Actually his action might have the opposite effect. The leaks could increase, and if Comey was on the verge of discovering some damaging information that threatens Trump’s presidency, you can be pretty sure that it will eventually get into the public domain – with or without the appointment of a special prosecutor.

Parallels are being drawn across the media with Nixon’s firing of Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox. The difference between now and then was that in 1973 there was a limited number organisations willing and able to run with the story. Today, the Washington Post has competition from a host of other organisations – traditional and online – who would be all too happy to talk to a new Deep Throat, including organisations beyond US jurisdiction.

If Trump has anything to hide, I would be very surprised if there weren’t multiple Deep Throats ready and waiting for the appropriate moment to release the bombshell that brings him down.

Management by fear works for tyrants who are able to surround themselves with loyalists and put apparatus in place to weed out traitors. The United States is not at that point and hopefully never will be. So Trump is making enemies and doesn’t have the means to deal with them. Which suggests that Russia notwithstanding, his leadership style will eventually be his undoing. Every major media organisation in the US that he has insulted over the past year is watching and waiting for his next misstep.

I write this as someone who threw the occasional thunderbolt early in my business career. Each time I regretted doing so. I was young enough to learn from my mistakes. At 70, I’m not sure Trump is capable of learning anything if the lessons don’t chime with his long-established personality traits.

Live by the sword, die by the sword.

From → Politics, USA

  1. Ronnie Spraggs permalink

    Excellent analysis of a truly bizarre and contemptible development, even for Trump…

  2. Thanks Ronnie. Interesting thing is that Comey might be incompetent, but the manner and timing of his dismissal completely obscures any perceived shortcomings.

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