Presidents Need to Be Able to Do Nothing. Donald Trump Can’t Do It.

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Media Outlet: the Washington Post

J. Peter Scoblic wrote for the Washington Post about Donald Trump:

Donald Trump is many things, but most of all he is a doer. He builds buildings, he starts businesses, he does deals. As he put it in his 1990 book, “Surviving at the Top,” “One thing I’ve learned about the construction business — and life in general — is that while what you do is obviously important, the most important thing is just to do something.”
This may sound like good business advice, and it may even be good life advice, but it is precisely the wrong attitude for a president of the United States. In fact, knowing how and when to do nothing — or, to put it less absolutely, knowing when to show patience, to tolerate delay and to restrain the urge to act — may be the most critical element of presidential leadership. U.S. interests depend on having a commander in chief who not only can handle the proverbial 3 a.m. phone call but also understands that sometimes it’s best to go back to sleep. Such self-control is necessary for maintaining alliances and defusing confrontations with enemies. On at least one occasion, it probably prevented nuclear war.
So what happens if we have a president who is incapable of inaction, preternaturally irascible and fixated on payback? (As Trump’s wife, Melania, put it, “When you attack him, he will punch back 10 times harder.”) Nuclear scenarios are obviously the scariest — which is why critics from Hillary Clinton to New Yorker humorist Andy Borowitz to former defense secretary Bob Gates have warned that Trump shouldn’t get the launch codes. But the codes are really a metonym for foreign policy more broadly. The risk is less that a President Trump might launch a nuclear strike out of pique and more that his judgment on national security issues would be thoroughly compromised by what resembles an almost pathological anger.

Author:

J. Peter Scoblic is an International Security program fellow with New America, where he researches U.S. nuclear strategy and the power of prediction.