Height Of Arrogance: Trump Only Casting Tall Economists On ‘Presidential Apprentice’

It pays to read to the end. In the penultimate paragraphs of this Washington Post interview, we learn that reality show star-turned-alleged president Donald J. Trump is casting the role of Federal Reserve chair according to height.

Trump considered reappointing [Janet] Yellen to the post, and she impressed him greatly during an interview, according to people briefed on their encounter. But advisers steered him away from renominating her, telling him that he should have his own person in the job.

The president also appeared hung up on Yellen’s height. He told aides on the National Economic Council on several occasions that the 5-foot-3-inch economist was not tall enough to lead the central bank, quizzing them on whether they agreed, current and former officials said.

I am not an economist, nor am I qualified to say which ones are better at Fed policy, but there are plenty of diminutive (vertically-challenged? is that the PC term?) economists out there. Excluding short people from key administration positions seems a misguided HR practice, to say nothing of good policy-making, yet it does make perfect sense as reality television showrunning.

Robert Reich, for instance, is an elf standing 4’11”, while Paul Krugman is a relative giant at a puny 5’7″. So while I don’t mean to suggest that shortness and facility at economics are somehow related, genetically or otherwise, I note for the record that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is 6’0″ tall, while Gary Cohn — White House economic chief until March of 2018 — is 6’3″. (Officially, anyway. I have my doubts.)

My point here is that the Trump administration operates according to Trump’s televisual tastes. His administration is a reality show in which he is the star. When making an appointment, he wants a camera-friendly player who looks the part as he imagines it. When he talks about creating a government news channel, he means a Trump administration reality TV channel, with the biggest show being “Presidential Apprentice.”

Many of Trump’s picks have wavered on looks, though of course not all. He loved the look of H.R. McMaster in his spiffy uniform, so he made the general his National Security Advisor, but then he disliked McMaster’s boring national security advice. In appointing McMaster, Trump passed on John Bolton for the job, reportedly due to his dislike for Bolton’s mustache. One could dwell on further examples all day.

For our purposes, however, it’s important to note how Trump’s reality show administration resembles the format at its worst: the creative editing, the producer-created interpersonal dramas, the soapdish shenanigans, the fictional “reality” that can be created with cameras. Trump did not select Sarah Huckabee Sanders for her looks; he liked her willingness to stand in front of cameras and help viewers suspend their disbelief, if only for a moment, until he can change the subject with another tweet.

All of this has been clear to Wall Street for a long time now. While the Washington Post’s write-up leaves the impression that Trump’s remaining (presumably tall) economic team are trying to restrain him from making bad decisions, they are clearly failing: General Motors is killing jobs in places where he campaign pinky-promised to bring the jobs back; midwestern farmers are going out of business at a record rate, and soybeans are rotting for lack of Chinese demand, all thanks to Trump’s trade wars. An overheated economy may be ripe for recession.

Meanwhile, Trump cannot seem to understand why the markets in Manhattan seem iffy about his beautiful economy. Ingrates! He gave them tax cuts and interest rates, why won’t they love him?

The answer, of course, is that they see what he’s doing, and they read his actual words in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post instead of watching Fox News spin them. But that explanation would never occur to Donald, for whom all politics are personal — and presentational.

Featured image via Gage Skidmore Flickr