President Trump’s Tyranny of Small Decisions – Dooming Us All

Apr 17, 2020 by

We have watched him through the 2016 Presidential campaign and election and now well into 3+ years of his presidency – comments and decisions that simply leave many shaking heads in disbelief.

This phenomenon has become a daily experience now as the nation watches the daily COVID—19 White House Task Force (mere taxpayer subsidized political pep rallies) briefings. The cable new shows that cover these charades should offer a split screen TV shot showing the reality of shortage of supplies, health professionals, first responders without basic protective gear, life-saving equipment and the self-congratulatory stage crafting of lies, propaganda videos and half-truths being fed to the American public.

It is beyond me to attempt to justify or even begin to document the folly that has come to define Trump’s presidency. But if you have any doubt about these observations, you are either Rip Van Winkle or a partisan/ideological/Trump apologist whose tendency is to explain away non-sensical, half-truths and downright lies. Trump’s presidential comments now being documented for posterity – lies that have now become legendary.

Noah Bierman and Chris Megerian of The Los Angeles Times highlighted the confusion and chaos of decisions and messaging coming from the Trump White House. Exasperated by the pandemic crisis communications, they opine, “The constant exposure has provided a real-time look at Trump’s decision-making process — the vacillating, the wishful thinking, the degree to which he’s influenced by whoever talked to him last or whatever he last saw on cable TV — that has long been reflected in the daily chaos of his presidency but never tested as when so many American lives were at stake.”

Explaining away Trump’s vile comments, lies and inconsistencies, finger-pointing and denying what the president has been recorded as saying, all the while coming to his partisan defense – when the evidence is CLEARLY there for all to see – should scare the hell out of any thinking person. 

The president has gotten away with nearly half of Americans rejecting their direct experience of reality. As Groucho Marx noted, “Who ‘ya gonna believe, me or your lying eyes/ears?” As pointed out in this Psychology Today article, President Donald Trump has a clear message for supporters that draws on comparisons to George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984” – about a totalitarian regime that wields ultimate power over people through psychological manipulation: “Just remember—what you are seeing and what you are reading is not what’s happening.”

The president’s nightly briefings are about as accurate as his rallies.


The presidential missteps that have allowed the coronavirus to roll over our nation takes President Trump’s lies and gaslighting to new and significantly more consequential heights. While he attempts to divert American voters’ attention from his actions by blaming China – which in truth, DOES bear some responsibility for its early lack of transparency – his clearly to blame for fumbling the early response to the virus, costing the U.S. weeks of preparation time. 

Like every other problem he faces, Trump first lies, then deflects and blames it on others, including every administration going back to George Washington. As he sees it, his initial response was “perfect,” his handling of this crisis “perfect” and in one of the more inane responses to criticism of his actions: “I don’t take responsibility at all”.

As our president continues to bungle the responses to the pandemic crisis, I can only imagine the majority in the GOP-controlled Senate who are secretly wishing they had a do-over on their impeachment vote.

First Solve The Crisis

Once this crisis abates, America needs an independent commission modeled after the 9/11 Commission recently called for by Rep. Adam B. Schiff, the Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, to “identify where we got it wrong and how we can be prepared for the next pandemic.”

Small Decisions Monumental Consequences

I fear the tyranny of small decisions is about to catch up with America under this president – this phenomenon occurs when an accumulation of minor, seemingly insignificant decisions, slowly – and often imperceptibly – derails grand strategies and the common good.

A tyranny of small decisions is a phenomenon explored in an essay of the same name published in 1966 by the American economist, Alfred E. Kahn.

Kahn writes about a situation in which a number of decisions, individually small and insignificant in size and time perspective, cumulatively result in a larger and significant outcome which is neither optimal nor desired. It is a situation where a series of small, individually, supposedly rational decisions, can negatively change the context of subsequent choices, even to the point where desired alternatives are irreversibly destroyed.

Kahn explains the problem as a common issue in market economics, which can lead to massive market failure. The concept has since been extended to areas other than economic – such as political elections and health outcomes.

When the history of coronavirus calamity is evaluated, I fear In the end, it will be the multiple small and seemingly inconsequential decisions made by President Trump with the collective cascading effect that will have sunk our destiny.

Trump’s devious decisions made with a small-time perspective (the upcoming 2020 election) and a narcissistic-driven personality has, and will produce, destructive results.

Decisions made and not made have been deadly. Not calling for a nationwide shutdown – for political reasons – will likely be tallied in the loss of human lives and the prolonging of the misery across our country. 

One does not need to be a public health expert to see what is occurring in hospitals across the nation as COVID -19 overwhelms their capacity to deal it. It is the work of mayors, governors and thoughtful citizens that are staying home which is bending the curve and helping to save lives.

It is imperative in this time of crisis that we have organizational alignment, our ducks in a row, the down spouts connected, our ship in order. We must seek truth from facts and let science prevail. We must have honest and candid communications between leaders, their associates and subordinates, and the American people whom they serve. This is not happening under President Trump.

Confusion As Leadership 

The White House Presidential briefings have taken on an aura of Trump in Wonderland, where the President – incoherent – issues conflicting statements that must be cleaned up by scientists and public health experts.  

In the Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni, noted organizational health theorist wrote, “Great teams do not hold back with one another. They are unafraid to air their dirty laundry. They admit their mistakes, their weaknesses, and their concerns without fear of reprisal.”

Does anyone think this atmosphere exists in the White House today?

History will be the ultimate judge of the multitude of missteps and outcomes of decisions made – some known and certainly many unknown – by this President.  

These series of small decisions will ultimately impact the people of America and all of humanity. It should be frightening when at least half of the citizens of this great nation don’t trust our President to make rational decisions, no matter how small or large, for the common good.

The decisions may be small, but the consequences will be be everlasting.

Tom Watkins has an eclectic background serving as Michigan’s deputy chief of staff under Governor James Blanchard, state superintendent of schools, state mental health director, president and CEO of the economic council of Palm Beach County, FL and has a lifelong interest in building cultural, educational and economic ties between the US and China. Read his China thoughts here:

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  1. Norman Taylor

    Tom is a CCP mouth piece who has lost credibility in my book. How many lies have they spewed? President Trump is far from perfect but gets results supported by a majority of Americans. Never heard of such sour rants in this rag.


      Wow. I know Tom to be a honest, ethical human being. I could also care less what political party you come from. Sometimes it is hard to admit when one is wrong, we also project our own values onto our leaders. Plus our “Media” is controlled by 6 conglomerates who are brainwashing everyone. (at least trying)

      Since you have such a strong opinion and criticism of Tom, may I ask what you are doing to help in this situation?