As of the latest polling, Presidents Trump and Biden are neck-and-neck in how much people apparently don't want them and their party running the show. Count me among the crowd on this one – both are a train wreck. But while their failures are completely different stylistically, I think there's a common reason why so many of us don't like them: they're incompetent and lazy.
"Can't anybody here play this game? All I ask is that you bust your heiny on that field!" - Casey Stengel
Americans hate, hate, hate the combination of incompetence and laziness. You can get by having one of these character flaws, but not both. If you're incompetent but hard-working, eventually you'll stop being incompetent. You'll at least gain enough experience to know what does and doesn't work. On the other hand, if you're competent but lazy, eventually things will spiral out of control and you'll be forced to do the right thing. It'll likely be too late and a dollar short, but at least it'll be something.
My impression of President Trump is that he spent his days wildly swinging at (and mostly missing) one hot-spot issue after the other, completely self-absorbed and narcissistic. Even though his days were filled with activity and late-night tweets, he was unfocused, undisciplined, and self-serving. One suspects that whatever good happened during his term was because of what someone else was able to accomplish while he was busy driving the media nuts.
President Biden, on the other hand, is just an empty suit. He isn't physically or mentally well, and that has been obvious from the start of his campaign. He was never really competent at governing, and now he just says what others tell him to – and even that much is sometimes too difficult for him. He has completely run out of energy, he retreats to his bed when he should be up, cracking the whip.
So both of them – unfortunately for us! – are incompetent and lazy. The deadly combination.
So how does one become competent? I think competence comes from having practical knowledge and being honest about what's really happening. I have worked for a great many executive-level people in my day, and every successful one absolutely insisted on being given first-hand, factual information that was brutally honest, good or bad. Conversely, every shyster I ever worked for hated the truth.
The first response of a competent executive to a bad report is "OK, so what's the plan to fix it and how are we going to communicate it?" The first response of an incompetent executive is "OK, so how are we going to spin this?"
Competence comes from doing the work yourself. You can't become competent by merely reading a book or attending a lecture. Being informed is not the same thing as being competent – something to remember when people start throwing their degrees and credentials around in an argument. Being well-read helps, obviously, but experience is better. You have to grapple with the problems in your domain yourself to really find out what works and why.
This is why I favor state governors over representatives and senators for executive office such as President and Vice President – but I would favor the owner of any moderately-sized business over any of them. Almost any successful business owner would be more competent on Day 1 just by virtue of having the experience of holding people accountable, keeping within a budget, setting institutional goals, keeping the lights on and the payroll account solvent. (And by the way, Trump's history of serial bankruptcies should have been a warning sign to voters that he didn't know how to run a successful business. Note for next time.)
Disciplined Work Ethic
I'm a big believer that being disciplined and a nose-to-the-grindstone hard worker is all about being committed and interested. You show me someone who is absolutely committed to the success of their project, and that person will be hard at work on it. Show me someone who cannot stop thinking about their project, who drops to sleep thinking of the problems and whose first waking thoughts are its possible solutions, and I will show you someone who is focused like a laser beam.
In other words, discipline is an outcome of commitment and interest. If you haven't got the fire in the belly, you absolutely won't be able to climb every mountain and ford every stream. You can't "make" yourself care. You either care, or you don't.
As an officially old person, I have earned the right to say this: when you get old, your level of commitment and interest dies down. It gets harder and harder to keep the fires burning. You get used up. That's the truth of it.
And while that's probably a good thing for the individual, it's not the best thing for leading an institution. The best leadership comes from the young and the hungry. You want someone who is old enough to be competent, but young enough to still be driven.
I think it's a scandal that so many of our national political leaders are elderly. Of course those people will be heading back to bed for an afternoon nap. Not taking any questions. Losing their tempers. Trust me, I can relate.
So, let's have some fresh leadership. I personally don't belong to any particular political party, but I'm definitely taking a hard look at casting an anti-vote in the next election if there's a candidate who clearly should be put out to pasture by now.
And, let me add: if Dr. Fauci worked for me, I'd have put him out to pasture years ago. That guy really needs to go.