Confusion has its cost

My wife and I were listening to a favorite CD on a day trip by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young called “So far.” It is the first album recorded after Neil Young joined the band. One of the songs is called “Helplessly Hoping.”

The song title is an excellent metaphor for what many feel about the tenure of the US president. A key line of the song echoes a concern that I have – “Confusion has its cost.”

Going into this administration, I expected a heavy dose of untruthfulness, bullying and name calling from the president. I expected concerns over policy decisions he might make, pulling out of the Paris Climate Change Accord, being an example. Sadly, I have not been surprised on these fronts.

What has surprised me is the level of chaos and incompetence present in the White House. And, I am not alone in this assessment. Conservative pundit David Brooks uses the term “equal parts chaos and incompetence.” Together, they cause confusion.

There is confusion around inconsistent messaging, unstable decision-making, overshadowing or derailing emissaries, being swayed by biased or misinformed sources, and a disdain for study or receptivity to input counter the president’s set notions.

This confusion has a cost. Other leaders have lamented they do not know who speaks for America. Republican leaders feel the same, but can only grumble under their breath. Perhaps, the best metaphor for the Trump presidency is his communication people hiding in the bushes to discuss what to say about Jim Comey being fired. Not only did the regal-minded Trump not tell Comey he was fired, he failed to tell his communication staff.

Ron Christie, a former Bush communication official noted that well run White Houses have monthly, weekly and daily talking points. I think one reason the daily press briefings went away, is the lack of such.

Confusion has its cost. Our reputation, our word, our commitment, our governance require clarity. Another measuring rod is White House turnover, which is much higher than previous administrations.

25 thoughts on “Confusion has its cost

  1. Donald Trump has demonstrated “street smarts” in how he deals with his growing opposition but in all other things, he is a blinking moron. Combine that with his extreme narcissism and you have hopeless confusion. Observing these things from Canada, I am appalled. I lean liberal in my political thinking, but I have never been upset by a Republican president before. He’s horrid mental pygmy. Thanks for the analysis, Keith.

    • John, his biographers and financial reporters have recorded a history of Trump that indicates an untruthful bent and poor management style. They speak highly of his salesmanship. Yet, it is not uncommon in business for the best of sales people to be not very good managers. Many go back to sales realizing this shortcoming.

      Someone noted that Donald Trump cites himself as a deal maker, but he said Trump does not have the patience or attention to detail to be a deal maker. His people makes deals. The person cited giving concessions to Israel without getting anything in return. What Trump ceded should be after negotiations, not at the beginning. This is a key reason Putin, Kim can take advantage of his disdain for history.


  2. The verbal bombs that are currently being lodged only serve to deepen the confusion. You are so right about the need for protocols, and communication. Taking it back to basics – a good write, Keith.

    • VJ, I cited only the Comey firing, but could have easily used the horrible travel ban roll out which was pulled after two days. He failed to vet it with other parties including those who had to do it. It was a “make it so” commandment from a king.

      And, there are many others. Keith

  3. Note to Readers: On CBS Morning News yesterday, Peter Bergen plugged his book, “Trump and his generals: the cost of chaos.” The premise is Trump had these generals to help him govern and yet would not listen to them. So, he ran them off, he fired them or they just quit. More than a few Republicans shared concern when James Mattis left last December. As Bergern says we now have a Trump with fewer guard rails. That should scare the crap out of Americans.

  4. Great taste in music Keith! Neil is one of my all-time favs, and his time with CSN produced some real classics. And to your point on potus? Spot-on. Confusion..chaos…the sky isn’t blue…the sun doesn’t set in the west….and on and on. We’ve never seen the likes of him before, and he WILL be gone some day. Hopefully we will never see anyone like him again. I wish it were sooner, rather than later. But the Dems did the right thing today. I believe history will record it that way.

    • Jeff, well done. I knew there was another reason to like you! I told my wife, this one album might be on a short list as one of the best ever. It has two great protest songs – Ohio and Cost of Freedom. And, Young is such a great songwriter, I love to hear folks like kd lang cover his work. She tears up Helpless and After the Gold Rush.

      The Dems did the right thing today. It may cost them, but we cannot have a president act the way this one does. The GOP leaders know this, but will not act. I am hopeful once people get under oath in the Senate trial, they realize they must tell the truth.


      • As a kid, Keith, my best buddy and me wore out the album Four Way Street, CSNY live. One half, amazing acoustic, the other half-jamming electric. And, I saw their reunion tour concert in I believe, 2000 in Boston. It was awesome. Plus, I’ve seen CSN by themselves, and Neil at least 4 times solo, and with Crazy Horse.
        Here’s a good one for you. When I lived in Ohio, on May 4th, 1997, which happened to be the 27 year anniversary of the Kent State Shootings, CSN appeared at the University in a surprise concert. Neil wasn’t able to attend. That would have been even more incredible. Nevertheless, I was there, with my wife and sister-in-law. They sang “Find the Cost..” and of course, Neil’s “Ohio.” I think you can imagine the goose bumps I got on that day. I’ll never forget it. Ahhhh….memories!!
        I miss that kind of passion in the music today. The artists in the sixties and seventies were deeply inspired by the wrongs being committed by our government and it’s leaders. War, racism, assassinations. You name it. It’s a period of time that will never be matched, musically, in my opinion. I consider myself lucky to have been around for it.

      • Jeff, great stories. You are indeed a fan.i wonder if they will do a 50th anniversary of Kent State? There is a show on PBS where Graham Nash and his son perform. Keith

      • That’s a great question. I plan on being there regardless. If they show up? Wow. I’ll be a happy guy Keith!

      • Jeff, Watergate gets the ink and was terribly wrong and corrupt, but Nixon calling out the national guard on college students was another low point. Keith

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  6. With the mass chaos in the White House and throughout this administration, is it any wonder that We the People are increasingly confused? Not only do we have to spend all our waking hours perusing various news sites just trying to keep up with the actions and verbiage happening in Washington, but we have to try to understand it all. I find myself increasingly confused … a while ago, I was sitting her with a towel wrapped around my wet hair, wondering if I had already showered. Sigh. We are living, I think, in very dangerous times, to say the least. Sadly, I don’t think impeachment will remove the core of the chaos from office, and I’m no longer even sure the 2020 elections will.

    • Jill. even when the current president leaves office, he will be on Fox giving us his opinion whose bravado won’t match the data. Trump is all about perception in current time. Many of the changes he has made to boost a pretty good economy for a short period have waned and will come to roost later – debt, deregulation, trade wars, shrinking impact, et all, will all hurt us long term. And, there he will be in Fox saying I told you so, without taking culpability for the decline.

      At the heart of all this is we have a soilid 35% or so of American voters who believe what this person says, when he is known to be very untruthful. How do you convince someone Trump is lying when he only listens to Trump and his sycophant? That is confusion. Keith

      • Oh wonderful … I hadn’t even considered that! Blech. I hoped that once he left office, we would never have to see his ugly mug again! But, I’m sure you’re right … he isn’t going to go away quietly, unless we can somehow “lock ‘im up”. Additionally, all those 40% of people who think he is great aren’t going away and I have no doubt that the next president, whomever it is, will have their hands full trying to re-unite this divided nation. Can it even be done, I wonder? Sigh.

  7. When their nightmare happened and ‘one of those people’ was in the Whitehouse (twice) a portion of the population took a collective unconscious oath to make sure it never happened again. In that mindset they perceived ‘The Political System’ allowed this to happen. They therefore gravitated to a vulgar loudmouth with a media presence (we have one here a carophile Jeremy Clarkson who spouts simplistic rubbish in his books and makes large amounts of money). Trump happened to be there and in his vanity he willingly became their poster boy.
    The fact that he is totally unsuited to the job had no bearing. Now they sit in denial that they have made a mistake and pretend America is great.
    The only peaceful way this harm can be undone is actually in 2020, Impeachment will only make him a martyr is the eyes of his fanbase who display dangerous signs of fanaticism.
    Nothing short of a humiliating defeat in 2020 will rid you not just of him but the force which propelled him there, for he is nothing. Were there no Trump tomorrow someone in his court would step into his place and try to throne for size and please the followers.

    • True on the way to rid us of him. I am saddened, frustrated and embarassed by the spineless GOP sycophants who are not only looking the other, but are denigrating honorable people who care about our country.

      • Roger, Jeremy needs to pass the baton to a more appealing leader, as well. It is appropos that Boris be in charge for Brexit since he was an instigator. It will bs ugly for more than a few years. And, Putin smiles. Keith

      • I know Keith, I know. Corbyn would have made a good Minister of Health or Education. His failure was not the hauling in of the rabid wing of the Labour Party or to simply just expel them; with their Alt Right style bile and sheer ignorance of how the nuances of politics work they are a dream gift to the opposition.

      • Roger, at least here, the party model provides oxygen to the extremists and puts a blanket over moderates. When someone goes against the party, they get a “talking to” and if not remedied, the get an extreme opponent in a primary. There was a GOP SC Congressman who went to Antarctica and saw evidence that climate change was real. When he announced to Congress his findings, the fossil fuel industry funded his opponent in a primary who beat the enlightened Congressman.


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