Donald Trump and you

If you’ve ever worked the finish line of your local 10K  or half marathon road race, you may have noticed an odd phenomenon. A few runners, maybe one in 20, doesn’t seem to stop at the finish line. They barrel through into the finish chute you’ve so carefully set up, threatening to slam into the finishers ahead of them, who are just standing in line to get their finisher prizes.

Many a time I’ve tapped a sweaty shoulder and admonished, hey buddy, it’s over!

A friend of mine was so intent on finishing a 10-miler years ago, he crashed into the timing table, sending the equipment flying and the horrified volunteers scrambling.

I’m hoping Donald Trump knows the election is over, my concern prompted by his tweet that the protests occurring throughout the country are “incited by the media.”

Trump’s win succeeded in making big media look sheepish, if only momentarily. How delicious it must be to force The New York Times to wear a journalistic hair shirt. So why tweet a complaint about the media now? With a little deftness he could have the whole flock eating out of his hand.

I think he overran the finish line on that one.

He seemed to wisely stop short with a subsequent tweet, praising the protesters for their “passion for our great country.” Trump of all people should know, once you close the deal, stop selling and get on with the task of carrying it out.

Other ETTs (early Trump thoughts):

The country is in a paroxysm of projection, lobbing all of its hopes, fears, anxieties, identity crises, pathologies, cravings and dreams on the nascent Trump administration. The worst of it wreaked havoc on a Toyota dealership in Portland, Oregon. I’m wondering how the rioters thought smashing up a new Camry would stop the approach of what some of them call fascism.

Closer to home, federal employees have become the object of debate. Trump has promised a federal hiring freeze. That move comes from a dog-eared playbook, and it’s either happened or been threatened by every administration or concurrent Congress. The Government Accountability Office found — back in 1982! — that freezes “regardless of how well they are managed, are not an effective means of controlling federal employment.” Auditors under then-Comptroller Chuck Bowsher had looked at four freezes going back to the dim past of 1977.

So, frankly, I wouldn’t get too exercised over this one.

The president-elect has also promised to make it easier to fire federal employees. He’s unclear on what this means. It actually is fairly easy to fire federal employees up to a point, but not as easy as in the private sector. There’s the matter of Title 5, which under court rulings gives federal employees constitutional rights to their jobs. To make them completely at-will would require a big legislative effort.

Presuming you won’t be fired, you may nevertheless have trepidation about whomever will come into your agency as leadership after inauguration. You all will cross not a finish line but rather a start line. The goal is to accelerate fast.

Understand that the new group — and it won’t arrive on the payroll en mass Jan. 21 — will have detailed briefing books and information about the projects and programs in the respective agencies. Between now and then, though, transition operatives will be swooping through the agencies.

But individual program and project managers and team leaders should be prepared to help the new people understand the reality of what goes on, the day-to-day operational and human factors not captured in the briefing books. They’ll be as uncertain about you as you are about them. And they won’t even have the benefit of job descriptions, as the Partnership for Public Service’s David Eagles points out.

That incoming group will grow large. A review of the numbers, courtesy of D.C. lawyer and political enthusiast Steve Ryan:

  • 1,217 — Senate-confirmed positions
  • 680 — non-career senior executive appointees
  • 1,392 — Schedule C appointees
  • 364 — “other” non-Senate-confirmed appointees.

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