TODAY'S PAPER
Good Morning
Good Morning
OpinionColumnistsDan Janison

Donald Trump proved too inept to hold on to his public service job

President Donald Trump at a meeting in June.

President Donald Trump at a meeting in June. Credit: The New York Times / Bloomberg / Doug Mills

The presidential transition has become a mundane employment issue. Sometimes a boss fires somebody for incompetence or negligence. In this case, the people of the U.S. voted to fire President Donald Trump.

On a basic level, it is that simple. The rest of what you hear out of Washington is extended Trumpian noise.

Last week, Trump lost a simple yes/no referendum on his presidency by a margin of millions. He's trying his best to overturn the outcome, and some fans are still singing in his bizarre chorus. But don’t believe for a second that he was wrongfully dismissed.

The job description of a president would seem to include at least a slight effort to confront all national crises. Instead Trump lied about a ravaging virus and razzed others who responded properly. The citizens — his bosses — noticed.

For nearly four years, Trump compiled a poor service record. He constantly inflated his resume and accomplishments to the world. He appointed lightweights for serious assignments. His policies were muddled, and he ignored repeated warnings from Congress about his abuses.

Often he failed to read important reports or heed advice. He used job resources to campaign for himself and promote his businesses, making the donation of his salary a hollow gesture. He golfed at his resorts more than anyone expected. He publicly humiliated some of those under his command for no good reason.

Like judges and generals, presidents have far stronger job protections and bigger perks than most civil servants, at least during their elected terms.

Any public hospital would discipline an employee who peddled sketchy assurances about certain drugs. Police officers face charges when their conduct is found to be "unbecoming." Firefighters would raise an eyebrow if one of their own took credit for rescues they didn't make.

This president had many incumbent advantages going into the election, along with a major political party under his thumb.

Now that Trump's getting the boot, Attorney General William Barr appears to be doing his best in the lame-duck period to act like a kind of union delegate for him.

Barr can't work miracles. He can only try for the best deal under the rules. Consider all his failed efforts to mollify Trump in the past by trying to impugn the president's political foes with regard to Russia, Ukraine and crimes committed by ex-campaign associates.

Even Barr's controversial new memo involving election investigations states: "While serious allegations should be handled with great care, specious, speculative, fanciful or far-fetched claims should not be a basis for initiating federal inquiries." So far, the latter is pretty much all we've been hearing.

Notably, the electorate did not broadly reject conservative ideology or the GOP. Senate Republicans did very well and may have kept their majority, which is remarkable in a year when Trump, at the top of the same ballots, lost a plebiscite. And House Democrats lost more seats than expected.

Trump lost his race because he failed miserably as president. Author Bob Woodward was guilty of comical understatement when he concluded a few weeks ago, after much research, that Trump was the wrong man for the job.

The boss — the electorate — voted in Democrat Joe Biden, who served as vice president in the last administration. Biden was the only alternative on the ballot for those who thought Trump deserved to be dumped. This is like a company or agency reaching out to a retired former executive to clean up the incumbent's mess.

Sometimes people with no qualifications get themselves hired. Then they screw up, and a simple job separation becomes complicated. Maybe there should be a Civil Service exam for president — something a little more challenging than reciting the words "person woman man camera TV" in a cognitive test Trump once took — though that's not likely to happen.

Columns