I’ve long believed that most of us — if we were given exactly our way — would become unmitigated train wrecks. As we pursued our agendas completely unfettered by opposition, we would alienate friends and family. We would drive trusted advisers into exile. And we would find that many of the plans in which we have absolute faith are deeply flawed, and we would have been better off if someone had curtailed our impulses to act on them.
I mention this because President Trump has lately been waging war on his own cabinet, driving out every adviser who tries to, you know, advise instead of just agreeing. This could prove disastrous — for Republicans, for the country and, most of all, for Donald Trump himself.
Why? Three reasons.
First, no one knows everything. I have met loads of terrifically smart people, and the smartest are not those who insist on being right but those who can quickly see when they are wrong. They listen to others who disagree. They seek out opposing views. And through this process, while not giving up their right to decide, they expand their ability to make wise decisions.
Second, when you get rid of everyone who challenges you, you are left with something far more dangerous: people who only agree. This is satisfying in the moment, because who doesn’t want to be told he or she is right? But in such an environment, an emperor can quickly be found with no clothes on Pennsylvania Avenue.
And third, when you draw every decision entirely to yourself, you make it exceedingly easy for your foes to blame you when something goes wrong. Strong cabinet members who can voice their opinions, especially when they are not in lockstep, can help protect a president from his worst impulses and absorb the cannon fire when a plan goes awry.
To be fair, every president dislikes being told he is wrong. But historically, they’ve all learned dissenting voices are essential to success and survival. And while President Trump may hate the idea of anyone pushing back on his plans, he will ignore that lesson at great peril.