Jim De Bree: His not a winning presidency

Jim de Bree
Jim de Bree

By Jim de Bree

SCV Voices

In its July 28 edition The Signal published a letter to the editor from Betty Arenson entitled  “No way to win if you’re president.” In that letter, Ms. Arenson took exception to a point in my recent column that Trump is obsessed with the media.

Specifically, she objected to comments made by Mr. Trump’s critics.

I agree with Ms. Arenson’s view that the president’s family should be off limits for the press — unless they take an active role in government like Hillary Clinton did.

However, when considering the attacks on Mr. Trump, one has to understand the biblical adage that you reap what you sow. Had Mr. Trump not been as visceral in his comments about others, he likely would not have been subject to the intense level of criticism to which Ms. Arenson objects.

During the course of my career I attended numerous leadership training sessions. One of them covered the topic of dealing with criticism. Being criticized by others is part of being a leader. While some of the criticism is constructive, much is malicious.

A key to effective leadership is discerning between the two and learning from the constructive comments while putting the remainder into perspective. To date, we have seen little of this from Mr. Trump.

I spent most of my career providing tax advice to real estate developers, owners and operators. I served scores of clients in this industry, including many of the largest real estate companies.

While I never served Mr. Trump, I noticed that large real estate companies generally fell into one of two categories.

The first were those who profited by exploiting investors, lenders, customers and others with whom they do business. These clients were always difficult to serve. The patriarch typically had a huge ego, and there was rampant employee turnover within the organization.

The patriarch accumulated wealth but lacked a strong organization.  When the patriarch passed on, there frequently was no legacy.

The second category came of age during the real estate crisis of the 1990s. Those clients developed organizations with strong corporate governance, understanding the needs of all stakeholders.

The company’s interests are aligned with those of its investors. They enjoy access to the capital markets and provide appropriate amenities to customers, thereby insuring future growth.

As the first generation of leaders is now of retirement age, the organizational teamwork of the past quarter century ensures an orderly transition to the next generation.

Which category do you think Mr. Trump’s organization falls into?

I have been concerned about Mr. Trump’s abilities since he became a viable candidate. A year ago, I expressed these concerns in a column entitled  “It’s time to dump Trump,” which can be read athttps://archive.signalscv.com/archives/155399/.

In that column I noted that Trump has a history of manipulating and demonizing people around him, resulting in an inability to build a team capable of sustained success. He oversimplifies issues, offering solutions that make little or no sense. His primary driver appears to be self-gratification.

I abstained from writing further about President Trump until he was in office for six months to give him an opportunity to prove me wrong.

Unfortunately, in the first six months of the Trump presidency, my concerns have materialized.

Instead of building a team, many of those who supported the president are now demonized. Ask Sean Spicer, Reince Priebus or Jeff Sessions.

No landmark legislation has passed. John McCain made an accurate assessment of health care legislation when he stated, “While the amendment would have repealed some of Obamacare’s most burdensome regulations, it offered no replacement to actually reform our health care system and deliver affordable, quality health care to our citizens.”

Tax reform is similarly described. To counter this, Steve Bannon recently floated a tax reform proposal that is remarkably similar to Hillary Clinton’s campaign proposals.

Globally, we are pursuing policies ensuring that other nations, such as China, will usurp our leadership in certain regions of the world.

In short, Mr. Trump is not exhibiting winning behavior. But the timing is right for him to fulfill the hopes of the electorate.

To do so, he needs to stop worrying about No. 1. He can’t let critics get under his skin and waste his valuable time bickering with people about trivial matters.

He needs to listen to those who offer constructive criticism. He cannot punish dissent from those who offer it in good faith.

Based on my personal experiences, when dealing with complex problems, those who get data points from diverse perspectives have the best chance of making objective decisions that afford the greatest probability of success.

The president needs to gain a greater understanding of the underlying issues and use the power of his office to drive optimal conclusions.  Historically, the most enduring legislation has been that which enjoyed bipartisan support.

It’s not a matter that Mr. Trump can’t win as president; his narcissistic behavior has prevented him from doing so.

Jim de Bree is a retired CPA who resides in Valencia.

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