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Guest Commentary

The unavoidable learning curve

4/20/2016

We’ve actually heard presidential candidate Donald Trump promise that, under his leadership, we’d potentially get “bored” with winning so much and so often. Now, however, we’re seeing him get the most votes in Louisiana, but fewer convention delegates.

The same in Colorado.

The same in South Carolina.

In Washington State, the Trump campaign sent an email encouraging supporters to sign up as potential convention delegates; it was sent two days after the deadline for signing up.

He was dealt similar setbacks in Indiana, North Dakota, Tennessee, South Dakota and Georgia. Comparable setbacks are currently in the making in Iowa and North Carolina.

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And now, like a frustrated child in the school playground, Trump is crying foul, blaming others for the failures and claiming that the system is rigged against him. “Wa-a-a-a-a!”

This is all happening in the course of a campaign for president of the United States, where the rules are spelled out in advance for the edification of anyone who wants to be a serious contender. When the rules of the game are knowable from the git-go, one either studies those in order to map a winning strategy, or one humbly hires top-notch political types who already know the rules and can help in generating that winning strategy. Trump has obviously done neither.

Purportedly, pride goeth before a fall, as the Bible warns. Trump’s pride, his bravado, got in the way of doing his homework or hiring smart people to do the homework for him.

As he himself wrote in 1987, “You can’t con people, at least not for long… If you don’t deliver the goods, people will eventually catch on.”

In actual governing, there are diverse interests, some rules and myriad checks on dictatorial power, unlike in the private business environment in which Trump has had some success. The person most effective in the governance arena understands all of that and has the enviable ability still to get from point A to point B. When it comes to governance, finesse and cunning are indispensable skill sets to delivering all those potentially “boring” wins Trump has promised. He has demonstrated neither.

Talk is cheap. Really cheap. It can actually be counterproductive when it comes to delivering the goods in the face of concerted opposition from powerful vested interests. In the arena of governance, those interests will hand Trump his proverbial lunch and laugh behind the scenes while they’re doing it. Sen. Ted Cruz is among them in his trek toward the convention. He has to be saying, “This self-righteous rube is clueless when pitted against someone disciplined in the art of knowing, following and even taking advantage of, the rules.”  Trump, having made it his “brand” to be unconventional and not to follow the rules, may have made it impossible to do otherwise in his White House quest.

More to the point, however, is the important fact that there are very few hard and fast rules in the international political and economic arenas. There are almost no hard and fast rules in the battle to deal with the threats of international terrorism that defy all civilized boundaries (short of committing war crimes and otherwise adopting the tactics of the terrorists). If Trump has not done his homework or hired others to do it for him in the context of a rules-driven presidential campaign — which he indisputably has not done — it’s almost a certainty that his promises of “boring” repeat wins in those larger arenas are utterly illusory.

Reality is a cruel teacher. It delivers the test before delivering the lesson. As Iowan Meredith Willson wrote in “The Music Man,” “You gotta know the territory.” There is no substitute. There are no shortcuts around that truism. You either do the homework or hire it done. That’s it. Otherwise, you’re headed for loser status.

It’s actually not pride that goeth before a fall, at least not directly. Pride goeth before unbridled ignorance. Ignorance goeth before a fall.

It is perhaps what one should expect when an ignorant apprentice is running for president. It’s time we said, “You’re fired.” CV

 

Jonathan Wilson is an attorney in private practice with the Davis Brown Law Firm in Des Moines.jonathan wilson He lives in Des Moines, owns a small farm in southeast Iowa, served on the Des Moines School Board for 12 years, and has two children and four grandchildren. He can be reached at JonathanWilson@DavisBrownLaw.com.

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