Doing U-Turns in the Oval Office
|Schuylkill Banks, in the brief interval between Isaias and the flood.|
I think I detect a new wrinkle in the president's modus operandi. It involves doing a u-turn. The first time I noticed this was with the Republican National Convention, which started in North Carolina and then moved (mostly) to Florida and is now back to North Carolina (maybe).
Then he did something similar with mail-in voting. First it was terrible (except when he does it himself). Then it was wonderful in Florida, although it continued to be terrible in Nevada.
I'm now waiting for a 180-degree turn on his demolition derby at the post office.
(You'll notice, by the way, that none of his one-eighties are clean. The turn always involves some splintering. Everything this man touches becomes a chaotic jumble.)
I do think the U-ey is a new move for him. I may have missed some earlier examples, and I'd be happy to be corrected. But I do think it's new. And I think it's dangerous for him.
The president has had a couple of standard moves.
Usually, he does something for a while and then just drops it. And then he may pick it up again later on. This is what happened with the coronavirus briefings, now resumed after a hiatus that may have had something to do with the ingestion of bleach.
For a quicker and apparently more permanent drop, have a look at his proposal to postpone the election. A quick and noisy flash followed by - nothing. An old, old term for this is "flash in the pan."
The four executive orders, or memoranda, are still playing out, but I think they will also be a flash in the pan.
I think launch-and-drop is his go-to move. After all, he has the attention span of a gnat, so it fits well with his psychological profile.
Sometimes he does stick with an initiative, slogging ahead in a famous corporate bad move - attempting to make a failure look like a mediocre success. The management consultants will tell you not to try to save face. Just kill the turkey, and spend your time working on stuff that may indeed be a real success.
An example of the president as slogger would be his dogged pursuit of a border wall with Mexico.
He may have some other moves, but I'm not seeing them right now.
And that brings us back to the 180. I mentioned that it was dangerous for him. Why is that? Because it's going to piss off the people who work for him.
I understand the fascist goal of keeping the people in a state of permanent anxiety - angry, frustrated, uncertain. The 180 is different. The people most disoriented and eventually annoyed are the leader's own troops.
In the army it's called marching and countermarching. As a bright-eyed second lieutenant you line up your platoon and march them down a dirt road from one little village to an identical village five miles away. Then you get a call from headquarters, informing you that you were in the right village in the first place, and you should get back there tout de suite.
And so your soldiers get to walk ten miles in one day, and wind up exactly where they started. This results in sore feet and what the army calls "poor morale."
The army has an old saying: Move with a purpose. The troops know when they're being jerked around, and they don't like it. Meanwhile the people, who are supposed to be "all wee-weed up," as President Obama put it, are actually starting to laugh. (Mr. Obama's phrase, by the way, dates back to Chaucer and puts in an appearance with Shakespeare. For a story, click here.)
Is the president capable of moving with a purpose? I don't think so. Not with his inartful turns, his splintering focus, his tendency to unbalance himself as well as all those around him. What I see most consistently is an impulsive reaction to some outside stimulus and then an ocean of semi-coherent blather. And then on to the next one.