Saturday December 29, 2018
Inside the Building
I read the following this morning in Michael Lewis' must-read book “The Fifth Risk“:
[Kevin] Concannon was pushing seventy, but he came out of retirement to take charge of the box inside the USDA labeled ”Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services.“ He'd run the place right up until the Trump people finally arrived, in January 2017.
In his job at USDA, Concannon had overseen for eight years the nation's school-lunch program; the program that ensures that pregnant women, new mothers, and young children receive proper nutrition; and a dozen or so smaller programs designed to alleviate hunger. Together these accounted for approximately 70 percent of the USDA's budget—he'd spent the better part of a trillion dollars feeding people with taxpayer money while somehow remaining virtually anonymous. ”We used to say if we stopped the tourists outside the building and told them what we were doing inside, most of them would have no idea that we were doing it,“ he said.
He'd helped to prepare for the Trump transition, but, of course, that transition never happened. He hadn't had a single encounter with anyone associated with it. Nor had the Trump people bothered to speak with anyone who reported to him. And so it seemed fair to say, as Concannon had said to me on the phone, that ”they don't seem to be focused on nutrition.“ The Trump people were a bit like those tourists outside the Whitten Building. Only now they were inside it.
”The Fifth Risk" is ostensibly about what our federal government does—how much we rely upon it to keep us safe. It's about how all responsible president-elects transition into the behemoth to ensure it keeps running smoothly and efficiently, and what a shitty, irresponsible job Trump and his team did. Instead of 30-40 people showing up in each department the day after the election, as Obama‘s and Bush’s teams had done, there was no one. For days or weeks or months. And when Trump people finally showed up, they knew nothing and didn't want to know anything.
Lewis' book re-enforces my longstanding view of the true danger of Donald Trump. It's not just that he's a horrible person that cozies up to dictators and racists and has the attention span and TV-viewing habits of a 5-year-old. Most of us would make better presidents than Trump because at least we know what we don't know; so we would shore up our deficiencies with experts who do know these things. Trump not only doesn't know what he doesn't know, he thinks he knows it better than anyone. He thinks it's easy. He thinks it's all easy because he doesn't know any of it. He's the biggest idiot that's ever walked across the international stage.