At age 74, President Donald Trump is a week and a half away from his first real job evaluation by his bosses — the people of the United States. He'd never worked full time for anyone before, other than his father and himself, which may explain a thing or two about his first-term performance as a public employee.
Carelessness, lack of diligence, deception and actions outside the job description can put anyone in trouble. Whether that person is fired, though, depends on whether an acceptably competent replacement can better fill the slot, at least for the time being.
Trump made clear again this week how he feels about being tested and evaluated. He cut short his interview with CBS' "60 Minutes." In it, veteran journalist Lesley Stahl had the temerity to ask Trump how he'd protect patients with preexisting conditions if he succeeds in his quest to eviscerate the Affordable Care Act.
"I’ll protect it," Trump said. "Will be totally protected."
"They’ll be protected, Lesley."
"As they are now."
On it went. He essentially said a health plan was coming. He didn't answer the question. Four years ago, he promised the greatest of health insurance for all.
Basic competence and preparation are an overarching issue in this race.
Challenger Joe Biden, 77, can be judged in part by the record of the Obama administration in which he served as vice president, following a long U.S. Senate career.
One of the most salient put-downs from several Democratic rivals during the party primaries was that Biden hasn’t been a reformer, either in matters of corporate influence on government or racial disparities.
But Trump tries to paint Biden as corrupt in an effort to make the Democrat look more transactional than he is.
Mudslinging worked to a degree against Hillary Clinton, who Trump derided as if she were the incumbent. Now, Trump is answerable for what he's done and not done in government.
The president's performance in the escalating COVID-19 pandemic generally earns a poor evaluation in opinion polls. One of a leader's tasks is providing direction, but the president's coronavirus task force is at odds with itself. He's made false promises of a fast turnaround, and for some reason, he actively undermines those promoting preventive measures such as masks and social distancing.
Trump on the job failed to achieve numerous goals he set for himself on the record. China’s economic edge on the rival U.S. will outlast his first term. Illegal immigration and MS-13 and other criminal gangs remain unresolved problems. There is not a whiff of an often-promised infrastructure plan.
Trump made no effort to improve voting systems. He asked at least one foreign government for a political favor. He couldn't or wouldn't negotiate with Congress on major bills. He chafed against ethics rules by merging his political and governing activities in unprecedented ways.
His conduct makes him a dubious role model. He demeans people online, notwithstanding his wife Melania's anti-bullying messages to kids. He humiliates his own appointees. He promotes an authoritarian view of the American system and impotently screams for opponents to be jailed. He hires relatives over professionals, while attacking the kin of his rivals.
These are plain facts, up for review, reported on news media left and right.
It will be the Republican Party's burden to evaluate Trump's other practices, such as how he frittered away a tremendous fundraising advantage. There is concern Trump could drag down Senate and House GOP candidates.
Several of Trump's appointees and allies fell short in their own performance. Rudy Giuliani, his allegedly tech-savvy "cyber czar" and attorney, keeps mishandling his mission and getting himself recorded in an embarrassing way. The ex-mayor is just a small example.
Now it is up to the voters to perform their own evaluations.
Balloting, already underway, will determine which job candidate America hires.