Emotion Trumps Reason by Al Sikes


President Trump needs to understand or maybe just honor the physics of abrupt departures.

The United States government is often referred to as the ship-of-state. The origin of this metaphor goes back to the 17th Century and Machiavelli’s, The Prince.

Ships are built to compensate for error, not as much the ship of state. All seasoned Captains avoid abrupt turns when the ship is at full power; President Trump has his White House at full power, even though his Administration is largely unstaffed by his appointees.

And just like a ship captain faces immutable forces, so too does a President operating in a swirl of power centers led by self-regarding people. There are people with big titles who will be subservient but at the end of the day no one that will count.

He can declare the news media the opposition but he cannot take them out of the game. Mark Twain famously said, “Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel.” Today in a world of many voices, you can take on the media if the counter move is skillful and used selectively. I repeat used selectively.

You can also ridicule members of the other Party but you need to understand the rules of the United States Senate. It’s a simple, not complex numbers game, for a graduate of Wharton. Recall that your side has only 52 votes and that Senator John McCain is one of those 52, that he is fearless and has a few very devoted allies, who are also Senators. Also, McCain actually won Arizona with a 54% majority.

You need to understand that if your chief White House strategist, Steve Bannon, had your back he would have turned down inclusion on the National Security Council. He knew that nothing would anger McCain and his allies more. Those who truly serve you do not create unforced errors that will light you up like a neon sign.

Finally, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt rounded up Japanese Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the country’s population was largely European in origin. Note that German-Americans were not rounded up, just a small number of German nationals. Today’s America is many hued ethnically and religiously. Blunt bans, not tempered by careful discretion, should and have created a backlash.

I could go on but will stop there. Emotion can be a useful source of energy, but when it is detached from reason it becomes toxic. The only long-term strategy that makes any sense is one that uses emotion to aid reason.

Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books. 

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