When Nothing Sticks to the Wall

Back in the mid-eighties, in the aerospace years, those of us in Training and Organizational Development – whatever that was – often “facilitated” brainstorming sessions, and those had strict rules. Anyone could shout out any idea, no matter how wild, and no one was supposed to laugh dismissively. Arrogant bullies, who liked to pull rank, were scolded. All the ideas were written out on flip charts. Tear off page after page of those ideas and tape them to the wall, then ask for more, and more. Reject nothing. Draw out the timid folks – make things safe for them. Someone would sooner or later “think outside the box” and come up with something brilliant that would fix the problem, whatever it was – but of course that never happened. These were engineers. They built geosynchronous military and civilian satellites that orbited the earth – way out there – that had to work flawlessly for years. They didn’t throw stuff against the wall to see what sticks. They were methodical. There was a “systems” solution to every problem – everything accounted for, all contingencies covered, to make the damned thing work right. All changes were carefully documented, so everyone knew what was what at any given time. Nothing was left to chance.

These were, of course, dull folks, like Hillary Clinton. She’s been running her campaign like a systems engineer – cold and calculating with nothing left to chance. She has well-staffed ground operations in all states. She has an army of nerdy and obsessive pollsters. Her appearances are strategic – in specific swing states at just the right time – and she prepared carefully for the three debates. All contingencies were covered, no matter which Donald Trump showed up. She disappeared for days to rehearse exactly what she’d say if this or that happened. She probably rehearsed, over and over, how to appear loose and spontaneous, while staying “on message” at all times. That’s why people hate her. She’s the Ice Queen. That’s also why she’s winning.

Donald Trump is not a systems engineer. He does none of these things. He wings it, and that seems to be what his folks love about him – he’s authentic – he refuses to be politically correct – he says whatever comes to mind, no matter what anyone thinks. Even he doesn’t seem to have thought through what he’s saying – he often says he didn’t say what he had said on record. His spontaneity is refreshing, but that’s also why he’s losing. He throws things against the wall to see what sticks. Most of it doesn’t stick.

Philip Bump notes the most recent example of this:

In retrospect, it was perhaps inevitable that Donald Trump would eventually call for a criminal investigation of President Obama.

After all, Trump has kept ramping up his posturing against Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, as she has continued to hold a strong lead in the upcoming election. Chants of “lock her up” were once sporadic at his rallies; now they’re as common as “build the wall.” In a remarkable and disconcerting move, Trump directly called for Clinton to be investigated, even threatening at the second presidential debate that Clinton would “be in jail” if he had control over the country’s legal system.

The rationale for imprisoning Clinton is rooted far less in fact than feeling. Trump sees Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state as inherently illegal and the role of the government in investigating the server as hopelessly corrupted.

On Tuesday, two weeks before voters cast their final votes in the race, Trump told reporters from Reuters that new revelations from WikiLeaks necessitated a separate investigation of the president.

That was based on this:

The WikiLeaks email to which Trump was referring was a March 2015 exchange forwarded to Clinton attorney Cheryl Mills from Nick Merrill, who now acts as Clinton’s press secretary. Several Clinton aides were discussing how Obama had told the news media that he learned about Clinton’s private server from news reports. Mills responds, “We need to clean this up – he has emails from her – they do not say state.gov.” In other words, Obama had emails from Clinton’s private server – suggesting that he should have known or did know about her server before the public.

That’s the outrage, and the heinous crime:

“That’s why he stuck up for Hillary,” Trump told Reuters’s Steve Holland and Emily Stephenson, “because he didn’t want to be dragged in. Because he knew all about her private server. This means that he has to be investigated.”

Bump then goes into great detail about who said what, when, and who knew what, when, and doesn’t see much that Trump can work with here, and sees a bit more:

Trump’s call to investigate the president is highly unusual and another breach of the norms governing the transition of power in the United States. Obama himself was called to launch an investigation into the behavior of his predecessor, George W. Bush, around the use of torture and the push to launch the invasion of Iraq. He declined to do so. Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon for his activities surrounding Watergate, a move that likely helped undercut the odds he would earn the presidency in his own right.

It is also the case that there is no actual evidence that Obama was involved in anything even remotely illegal.

Donald Trump hadn’t thought things through, although he was being amazingly spontaneous. He was throwing stuff against the wall. This one didn’t stick. The whole thing is probably too convoluted for his base anyway.

And then there was this:

Donald Trump, never short on campaign shockers, pulled one off Saturday simply by setting foot in Virginia.

The Republican presidential nominee’s rally in Virginia Beach, part of a renewed push here that includes a $2 million television ad buy, flabbergasted political analysts and GOP strategists who have considered the swing state off the table for months.

Trailing Democrat Hillary Clinton by double digits in the latest Virginia polls, Trump will dispatch key surrogates — his children — for a series of visits to Northern Virginia this week. His campaign said Trump and running mate Mike Pence will return to the state “a lot” before Election Day.

“There is absolutely no logical reason for Trump to be spending resources in Virginia,” said Jennifer Duffy, a senior editor for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “Especially since there are a handful of very tight states out there that could use those ­resources.”

Virginia-based GOP consultant Tucker Martin wrote on Twitter that the reality star’s chances were as low as they could go in a state that sent George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and six other native sons to the White House.

“He’s at 29% in Va.,” Martin tweeted this week. “Which is what you would get if you got nominated, burnt down Monticello, and then went on vacation until November.”

The man may be spontaneous, but this won’t do:

Some Republicans are bitter about the Virginia focus, which they variously attribute to inept campaign strategists, the billionaire’s stubborn pride, and even a desire to protect the Trump brand in a state where the family owns a winery and a golf course. The most positive take was that it was a head fake – a bid to project strength nationally following reports, disputed by the campaign but damaging nonetheless, that Trump was pulling out of Virginia.

“I think it’s an absolute joke, the notion that he would continue to make a pitch for Virginia,” said a senior GOP strategist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be frank about the party’s nominee. “It is the most unprofessional campaign in modern presidential history. Don’t assume there’s a strategy.”

Duffy said there was no use trying to explain it.

“Logic hasn’t applied to anything this campaign has done,” she said. “It’s time to stop looking for it.”

Perhaps he was just brainstorming – no idea is too wild after all – but Eli Stokols at Politico covers where that leads:

At a campaign event at his Miami-area golf resort Tuesday morning, Trump said President Barack Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act legislation is “just blowing up,” blaming the controversial law for his employees’ struggles with health care, but once again he made a mess of his attack.

Speaking with Trump National Doral Miami resort employees behind him, the GOP nominee pledged to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, which he said has raised health care costs for those who buy insurance through exchanges created by the legislation.

“And I can say all of my employees are having a tremendous problem with Obamacare. You folks, this is another group. Is that a correct statement?” he said, gesturing to the crowd. “You look at what they’re going through with their health care is horrible because of Obamacare. So we’ll repeal it and replace it. But this is about jobs. And we have thousands of employees in Florida.”

Moments later, Trump appeared to contradict himself, stating that his employees don’t have to deal with Obamacare exchanges because his corporation provides them with health care coverage. “These are just amazing people,” Trump said. “This is what jobs do. Jobs just make lives and they make people and they make families and they’re not worried about their health care because we take great care of people.”

He had been handed the perfect campaign issue late in the campaign – Obamacare was suddenly in deep trouble. This was the October Surprise that the Republicans had longed for, but their candidate didn’t seem to know what Obamacare is:

In a telephone interview with Fox News shortly after his Doral event Tuesday morning, Trump seemed to misunderstand how the Affordable Care Act works, telling his interviewers that “I don’t much use Obamacare, I must be honest with you, because it is so bad for the people and they can’t afford it.”

But employer-provided health care is wholly separate from Obamacare insurance, which is designed to offer health plans to Americans who do not get insurance from their job. Trump said of Obamacare, “We don’t use it. So you know, when they interviewed those people, they’re happy with their health coverage.”

He simply stopped making sense, but he’s not a systems engineer. Republicans will have to live with another opportunity lost, but Greg Sargent sees more:

I’ve figured out what really drove Trump’s botching of this attack. He may or may not know how Obamacare works or what it really is. But it’s likely that what really happened here is that Trump – as the GOP nominee for president – knows he has to say Obamacare is a disaster for pretty much everybody in America. So he simply tried to illustrate this point by describing it as a disaster for the people who happened to be around him, i.e., his employees. The details don’t matter.

Trump did contradict himself immediately afterward by saying that his employees don’t actually have to deal with Obamacare, because they have health insurance through his company, providing them with a sense of security. That’s funny! But here, too, there’s a more serious point, one that unwittingly makes a good case for keeping Obamacare, rather than repealing it, as Trump wants to do.

Trump may have made the opposite argument:

Trump knows that he needs to make the case that Obamacare is a disaster for everybody, if he is going to make this work for him politically. But the new premium hikes would only hit a tiny fraction of Americans, as the Times points out today:

“While the problems in the individual insurance market are real, they affect only a small fraction of Americans. In 2015, 49 percent of Americans got health insurance through a job, 34 percent got it through Medicare or Medicaid, and 7 percent got it through the individual market, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan research group. Of the 10.5 million Americans who get health insurance through the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, about 85 percent receive income-based subsidies to defray the cost.”

That leaves seven million people buying insurance on their own without subsidies, either because their income is too high or they are not aware of the option – a significant number but not a huge voting base.

As the Times notes, for this reason, Trump’s “political attack will not necessarily resonate.” This might be why Trump saw the need to suggest that it will be a disaster for…well, everybody, his employees, whoever.

But since that’s not the case, that means Obamacare is a good thing:

Trump then acknowledged that his company provides his employees with insurance. And Trump is right to say that it’s pretty good insurance. Indeed, as Trump himself pointed out, those fortunate enough to have it are “not worried about their health care.”

But in saying this, Trump implicitly confirmed that those who are not fortunate enough to have employer based insurance lack that security. In this context, it’s worth noting that one of the main aims of the Affordable Care Act is not to replace employer based coverage, but to expand coverage – via expanding Medicaid and subsidizing insurance on the individual market – to those who lack access to coverage through employers…

Remember, Trump used to say that this was generally a valid goal. During the GOP primaries, he famously said: “We do need health care for all people. What are we gonna do, let people die in the street?” That led pundits to declare Trump a different kind of Republican.

But that was before the increasing success of Trump’s presidential run forced him to take an actual concrete position, which had to involve wiping Obamacare off the face of the planet, since he is running as a Republican. And so, he rolled out a plan to repeal and “replace” the ACA, with something that could cost as many as 20 million people their coverage.

Today he reminded us that having health coverage means economic security – even as he reiterated that he would take it away from many millions of people.

There’s what that woman in Virginia said. Logic hasn’t applied to anything this campaign has done. It’s time to stop looking for it.

And Kevin Drum adds this:

I don’t want to minimize the pain that this year’s premium hikes are going to cause for a subset of insurance buyers. But the vast majority of low-to-mid-income Obamacare users are eligible for federal subsidies – and as premiums go up, so do their subsidies. They may end up paying a bit more in 2017 for their health coverage, but probably no more than a few percent.

So yes: headlines matter. Or, at the very least, the first few paragraphs of news stories matter. Coverage of this issue should make it clear that the average price people pay will go up much less than 25 percent, and for low-income folks it probably won’t go up at all.

So what the hell was all that about anyway? This was just more stuff thrown against the wall by a guy who doesn’t understand “systems” of any kind, which will kill the Republicans:

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has no further high-dollar fundraising events planned for the remainder of the campaign, dealing another serious blow to the GOP’s effort to finance its get-out-the-vote operation before Election Day.

Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s national finance chairman, said in an interview with The Washington Post on Tuesday that Trump Victory, a joint fundraising committee between the party and the campaign, held its last formal fundraiser on Oct. 19. The luncheon was in Las Vegas on the day of the final presidential debate.

“We’ve kind of wound down,” Mnuchin said, referring to formal fundraisers. “But the online fundraising continues to be strong.”

While Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is headlining her last fundraiser Tuesday night in Miami, her campaign has scheduled 41 other events between now and Nov. 3 featuring high-profile surrogates such as her daughter, Chelsea, running mate Tim Kaine and the entertainer Cher, according to a schedule sent to donors this weekend.

Trump’s campaign is continuing to bring in donations that will boost the party, but the lack of a formal fundraising schedule effectively turns off one of the main spigots to the Republican National Committee.

Again, logic hasn’t applied to anything this campaign has done. Stop looking for it. And things may be spinning out of control:

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich lashed out at Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly on Tuesday night for her coverage of the sexual assault allegations recently made against Donald Trump.

Gingrich, an open supporter of Trump’s candidacy, blasted Kelly for focusing too much on Trump’s sexual misconduct and not enough on issues like those raised by the speeches given by Hillary Clinton to bankers in 2013 where she discussed her views on immigration – part of the trove of hacked emails recently released by WikiLeaks.

“You want to go back to the tapes of your show recently?” he said. “You are fascinated with sex and you don’t care about public policy.”

She was having none of that:

Kelly quickly refuted him, saying she had covered the hacked emails and that Trump’s behavior towards women was an important topic to cover.

“Listen, Mr. Speaker, I’m not fascinated by sex,” she said, “but I am fascinated by the protection of women and understanding what we’re getting in the Oval Office.”

And then it got hotter:

Gingrich then brought up Bill Clinton’s past sex scandals and accused Kelly of ignoring the topic, which Kelly took exception to.

“We on ‘The Kelly File’ have covered the Clinton matter as well,” she said. “But he’s not on the ticket. And the polls also show that the American public is less interested in the deeds of Hillary Clinton’s husband than they are in the deeds of the man who asks us to make him president, Donald Trump.”

The prime-time exchange ended with a final pair of blows traded.

“You can take your anger issues and spend some time working on them, Mr. Speaker,” Kelly said.

“You too,” Gingrich replied.

Following the exchange, Trump’s social media director, Dan Scavino, tweeted that Kelly “made a total fool out of herself” by challenging Gingrich, adding, “Watch what happens to her after this election is over.”

Gingrich sounds a lot like Donald Trump here – angry and defensive and dangerously spontaneous. Throw that stuff against the wall. The Gingrich crew is gonna get Megyn Kelly. She’ll be sorry – and Trump is going to put Obama in jail or something.

Some people like that sort of thing, and hate Hillary Clinton’s plodding and bloodless systematic approach to things. But who is winning this thing? Systems engineers are underappreciated.


About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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3 Responses to When Nothing Sticks to the Wall

  1. Great one!
    But all I could think of was the time I was in one of those “throw ’em against the wall” sessions, and my manager ridiculed one of my dumb ideas, and the evidence was right there, on that piece of newsprint on the wall….
    Oh well.

  2. Rick says:

    Dana Bash interviewed him today after not taking his ribbon cutting ceremony live on CNN’s air, and he was obviously a little perturbed with her.

    To her question as to why, in the final two weeks of his close race with Hillary Clinton, did he spend valuable time off from his campaign on a commercial project, his answer was that, first of all, he found her question “insulting”, but second of all, simply because the hotel came in “under budget, and ahead of schedule” — as if she, and we, would immediately understand what that meant.

    But mostly, we don’t.

    Yes, we do know what he was trying to say — that wouldn’t it be cool to have a president who knows how to get things done sooner than promised, and costing less than planned for? It’s just that, not being in the construction business, we don’t see those two skills as being all that helpful in solving any of the problems the country is facing right now.

    We do see an economic recovery that is doing well, but not well enough for everyone. We see the problem of trying to make sure most everyone in America has access to good healthcare. We see we need to walk a tightrope through ticklish relations with other countries, such as Israel and Palestine, and Turkey and Iraq, and Russia and all its neighbors, and China and nearby island nations, and we do need to carefully maneuver around wars in Iraq and Syria, and need to try to calm down our xenophobes who spend way too much time worrying about immigrants. We need to figure out how to stop domestic terrorists before they strike. We see a climate that is out of control and threatening the way people will be living on the planet in the near future.

    These are things we need to think about, more than we need to panic over whether some fancy hotel somewhere is renovated “within budget and ahead of schedule.” He seems to overestimate the interest we all have in his chosen career.

    In addition to that, even if the hotel renovation were impressive, he’s not the one who deserves the credit anyway, since he didn’t make it happen! He’s been too busy, running for president for the past year or so, holding rallies, sometimes seven of them a day (and often foolishly, in states that were not even in play) while Hillary, according to him, took “naps” or something, for all he knew.

    He keeps reminding us that he’s not a politician. But the fact is, when you run for president, you are, by definition, a politician.

    So the problem isn’t that he’s a politician, it’s that he just isn’t very good at it!

    And so, when we hear him brag that he’s never done any of this before, we need to hear that as a confession that he hasn’t the necessary experience to do the job he’s applying for. Would you pay someone to fix your car who had no experience in fixing cars? Or a brain surgeon who brags about never having done surgery on anybody? Anyone who thinks you don’t need to know anything about politics to run for office should take a closer look at what Hillary and her quite capable staff have been up to lately.

    In fact, he seems to think you don’t even need political experience to run a country! What will follow from this is a belief that a candidate doesn’t need to understand how a bill becomes a law, or how nations interact, or how wars are fought, or how jobs are created within an economy, or maybe how to plan far enough ahead to figure out how Americans will someday colonize Mars, something Obama has been doing.

    Nor, ironically — and no matter that he’s always enjoyed fighting since he was a little kid — does he think he needs to understand how to fight a political foe, without getting trounced.

    I have to admit, I don’t think he even realizes that Hillary did trounce him recently. Remember he announced his plan to bring scorched-earth methods to his campaign by forcing Hillary to apologize for all that alleged victim-shaming she engaged in against all the women who had sex with her husband way back when?

    But then, instead of that happening, the next thing he knew, he found himself victim-shaming all those “lying” women — who, he then announced, he would be suing immediately after the elections.

    Hillary 1, Trump 0. The guy never knew what hit him!

    So the Democrats are lucky to have a candidate who not only already knows how the world works, and not only knows how Washington works, but given the fact that she (unlike a certain other candidate) knows how important supporting the down-ballot is, she also knows how American partisan politics works! And on top of that, she knows how to knock another “fighter” out so stealthily, he doesn’t even realize he got KO’d!

    So yes, she’s a politician — and he’s not! — but these days what America needs is an experienced politician who believes, as Hillary says, that “America is great because America is good!”, and also has the political skills to kick the asses of those who don’t.


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