The Trump Presidency and the Culture of Non-Compliance
So you know I’m a recovering lawyer, right? I’m going to go all lawyer on you for just a minute, then I’ll turn, once again, to my sojourn toward humanity. One of the things that I learned as a lawyer for a mondo corporation is that a corporation, like any other entity, institution or government, has its own culture. And that culture is almost always defined from the top down and permeates every aspect of the environment. Back around the turn of the century (boy does that make me sound ancient) when stories of corporate fraud hit the news on a daily basis, from Tyco to Enron to WorldCom to Arthur Andersen, billions of dollars were lost and lives were ruined by scandal – except the lives of the CEOs of said corporate wrongdoers, since while the corporations could be charged with crimes, the CEOs typically could not. Congress passed a series of laws trying to change that fact, and those laws gave rise to an entire industry relating to making sure that the laws were complied with – the corporate compliance industry. People who developed expertise in this compliance discipline have studied the phenomenon of why certain corporations seem to be breeding grounds of fraud and cesspools of corruption, while others seem to foster the belief that as an institution they are trying to do the right thing – even if they sometimes stumble in that attempt. They call this environment the culture of compliance – or its evil twin – the culture of non-compliance. One of the laws passed in response to corporate wrongdoing required that whistleblowers have a structure within their corporations to raise their concerns, the ability to take their concerns outside the corporation, and that they be protected from retaliation when they do. And what these experts also found, and what history has proven, is that when people do not believe that their legitimate concerns will be honorably received and reasonably examined they go outside of the sanctioned channels of communication and blow the whistle on wrongdoing to the press or the courts or the police. When people believe that their leadership is corrupt, they do not trust the mechanisms in place to receive their complaints, since they are convinced that no matter how righteous their claims, they will be ignored or vilified in favor of the self-interest of their masters. Okay, enough of the lawyer thing. I’m back to my journey toward humanity. Trump endlessly whines about leaks in the government, stooping to call James Comey a “leaker” and a “coward” for having the gall to contradict his version of events, the brains to write a memo about it and the huevos to send it to the press. D.C. is a city built on leaks. It is like that old faucet in your basement that drips a little every day and gushes when the tap is turned. There have always been leaks and as long as we are not all locked up in gulags there always will be. Get over it. Trump is acting like a three-year old brat, throwing tantrums in tweets and becoming so overwrought that he devolves into illiteracy. Convfefe. He veers between teasing the world about the existence of tapes to support his tale of the Comey discussions, and calling the various investigations into his numerous gaffs “witch hunts” and press critics as panderers of “fake news.” He has the distinction of being the only U.S. president in history to have repeatedly been
called a liar by a former F.B.I. director – under oath. He is so busy trying to be liked by world leaders he neither knows nor understands that he is giving away state secrets on one day, and meddling in Middle Eastern affairs far more nuanced than he’s apparently capable of comprehending the next. He has declared war on leakers – like that practice will ever end in D.C. But what he might want to focus on is that he stands at the head of an institution that has clearly lost its moral compass. He is the leader of a government that has come to operate more through back-channel leaks to the press than through the cooperative legislative process. He is one of the main engines of divisiveness driving a deeply divided nation. And he is the president of a government that epitomizes the culture of non-compliance.