Wednesday, April 15, 2020


The lede of this CNN story suggests that President Trump's new advisers are attempting the impossible.
In the first phone call convened between President Donald Trump and some members of his newly formed business council, industry leaders reiterated to the President what public health experts and governors have been telling him for weeks: that there would need to be guarantees of ramped-up coronavirus testing before people return to work, according to one person briefed on the discussions.
Do the members of this council think they can persuade Trump that his government needs to do a more competent job in order to get the economy reopened? That won't work. Trump doesn't believe in competence. It's as if he's morally opposed to the pursuit of it. Trump believes in hype, razzle-dazzle, bunkum. He believes in the sizzle rather than the steak, as they used to say. You don't give the people a better product or service -- you give them a more impressive pitch. Competence is for losers.

Trump genuinely takes no pride in his work, if by "work" you mean what he actually does. He does take pride in his salesmanship -- in fact, that and his ability to insult and intimidate people are the only things he takes pride in. He once tried to make his buildings the glitziest and the most piss-elegant, but he gave up on that years ago, around the time of Trump Steaks, Trump Water, and Trump University, not to mention the Trump Network.
Ideal Health was a multi-level-marketing company—that’s the polite term for “pyramid scheme”—founded in the 1990s that sold personalized vitamin supplements based on the results of a urine test.

This pee test supposedly provided “a scientific window into your personal biochemistry.”

... Naturally, Donald J. Trump had to get a piece of the action.

In March 2009, Trump purchased Ideal Health and then took Worldcom and Stringer Bell’s advice on fixing a troubled asset by giving it a shiny new gold lamé moniker. He called it “The Trump Network.”

Under Trump, The Network offered a miracle “custom essential” multivitamin based on the “privatest.” They also offered pills for “silhouette solutions” (a diet program), skin care, low-energy, and of course some “Snazzle Snaxxs” for the kids. (I’m sure the health benefits of the Snazzle Twissters Sour Cream and Onion were legion).

But Trump’s real value add was as a pitch man. The Trump Network launch came on the heels of the financial meltdown, so he updated the Ideal Health proposition to would-be salespeople, convincing them that if they listened to Trump they would discover the cheat code to breaking out of financial hardship.

You should watch for yourself.

If you want to sell Trump on the idea of more testing, don't tell him that massive testing is a vital component of any post-lockdown strategy in the absence of a widely available vaccine. Tell him that not testing enough is making him look bad. That might bring him around. But at best he'll probably want to develop a half-assed test, put his name on it, and hope the rubes fall for it. He'll never try to get testing right.


Did I say Trump is morally opposed to competence? Let's go back to that CNN story and find out how this new business council was put together.
Some business leaders discovered they were part of Trump's council only when the President read off their names in the Rose Garden, said one person on the list and two others close to those named....

Others only learned in the moments before Trump made the announcement public.

"We got, maybe, 10 minutes advance warning that we were on the list," said one person on the list. "We were listening to the President listing off the names and that's about when they sent the list."

Others described the outreach to executives as chaotic.

"We got a heads up that there would be a call, but we got absolutely no information of what would be discussed, or what the nature of this call is," said another person who was included....

"The White House is just making sh*t up," said one person close to an executive who was invited to one of several calls the President convened with members of the group on Tuesday....

It was particularly challenging for some of the bank CEOs to join the calls. Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon and Citi CEO Michael Corbat couldn't make it because their banks hosted earning calls around the same time as the White House call.

"Who is organizing a call with banking executives in the middle of earnings week?" said another one of the sources.

Even after the calls, confusion remained as to what the White House wanted from the CEOs.

"There was no specific ask from Trump and no clarity on what's next -- how the groups work," said one of the people who was briefed after the 10 a.m. ET call....

At least one of the executives who dialed into a call said the phone line didn't work.
It's as if Trump think competence would make his hair fall out.

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