“I want them to be themselves and express their own thoughts, not mine!”
“I told them, ‘Be yourself and say what you want to say. Don’t worry about me.'”
“I’m going to do the right thing, whatever it is. I may be right, they may be right. But I said, ‘Be yourself.'”
– President-Elect Trump on his Cabinet Nominees
With these words President-Elect Trump sent his cabinet nominees off to their respective Senate Confirmation Hearings. And Trump appears to have meant what he said as there were some notably divergent views expressed from his nominees.
Ret. General James “Mad Dog” Mattis, Secretary of Defense nominee; Rep. Mike Pompeo, the CIA Director nominee; Senator Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General nominee; and Rex Tillerson, the Secretary of State nominee all made statements on issues that were in direct opposition to views stated by Trump.
Mattis credited Russia as being the primary threat to the United States and accused Putin of “trying to break NATO”. He also advocated against termination of the Iranian Nuclear Deal noting that while “it was not a deal he would have signed..when America gives her word, we have to live up to it and work with our allies”. Tillerson also sounded a cautious note on Russia and said he supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Tillerson opposed a ban on a Muslim Registry as well. Pompeo stated he opposed interrogation techniques like waterboarding and noted that he believed Russia was involved in hacking efforts. Sessions noted that he too, opposed waterboarding and a Muslim Registry.
Please note that I am not trying to provide any type of an exhaustive list – only illustrations of differing views between Trump and his nominees. And, in the interest of personal disclosure, I am strongly in favor of tearing up the Iranian Nuclear Deal and I believe we need a Muslim Watchlist or some other workable variant.
So, Trump’s most prominent cabinet appointments to undergo Confirmation Hearings thus far have all expressed some sharply divergent views from the President-Elect who nominated them.
And that is a great thing and should give reassurance to both foes and supporters alike. When I was working as a portfolio manager and co-head of a high yield department, my goal was to build the best team I could. I wanted to surround myself with like-minded, smart people who were in general agreement with my investment philosophy. But my single greatest criteria was finding people who held firm opinions of their own and were willing to express them. People who were composed of intelligence, honesty, integrity and conviction. As a HY bond investor it was often more crucial not to be dead wrong than it was to be right. A single disastrous investment could undo the gains made by many good ones. I wanted to hear divergent views and opinions and have the opportunity to thoughtfully walk through them. I wanted to examine and explore the good, the bad and the ugly of each investment we made – especially given that I and/or my co-head would be the ones making the final decisions – and would bear the primary risks from doing so.
Purpose. Meaning. Impact. Growth. These are the four things I noted in an earlier post that every organization needs to offer their employees if they want to attract top-tier talent. Any good organization wants to invest itself with the best and brightest – people who are generally aligned in their overall views and goals – but who are independent minded and hold and value their own viewpoints. No company of any great success was ever carried or created by a culture of “yes men”. And you will not attract and retain great employees unless they are not only allowed but are encouraged to express their own views and beliefs. Divergent viewpoints united under the umbrella of common core beliefs and goals leads to a stronger organization.
And this is exactly what President-Elect Trump has done with his cabinet nominees. For the first time in a long while we are seeing some of the very best and brightest being drawn to Washington. Many on the Left are decrying the level of wealth accumulated by these highly successful individuals. I admit being baffled by this reaction – to the extent that reaction is honest. I want the most successful people – proven in the fire of free markets – to be running our country. I want candidates who have already made their fortunes outside of Washington – not those coming to make their fortunes.
Other comments from critics noted that as a result of differing cabinet views, the Trump Administration will likely run into difficulties implementing policies or will face internal friction and dissension. They also more quietly question the integrity of the answers given by the nominees. I find these responses almost laughable and simplistically critical. Given that Trump has run his whole candidacy espousing views that are often viewed as controversial, would you not be concerned if you did not find opposing views within his cabinet – especially when the nominees are generally being questioned on the more extreme policies? I would personally find this far more alarming. These nominees are some of the most successful ones we have seen. Steven Mnuchin, the nominee for Treasury Secretary, took on a highly risky investment in IndyMac – at a time when the government was desperately looking for a buyer. He turned the Pasadena-based lender around and sold it as OneWest to CIT. I worked in Pasadena during this period and I watched that drama unfold firsthand. Would you not expect men and women like this – highly successful and independent – who have absolutely no financial need for their respective new positions – who are actually giving up significant sums of money for these new posts – to maintain their own values and opinions – to be unwilling to compromise their personal integrity and values?
I believe we are witnessing the building of one of the strongest, most capable cabinets ever assembled. And the reason it is happening is simple. The single greatest opportunity has just presented itself with the election of Donald Trump – the chance to fundamentally re-shape our country. To truly and fundamentally make a difference. And this is why Trump is being inundated with people who want to be a part of this administration. They want the chance to truly matter. You cannot hire these types of people. You cannot pay them enough. They have to want to be there. They have to be motivated to be there. They have to be driven. And they are.
Purpose. Meaning. Impact. Growth.
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