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Why Do Good People Sometimes Do Bad Things?

Has Trump Been a Good CEO?

The Moral of His Story

Imagine that you are the CEO of a Fortune 500 company and a large number of advisors and top officials were either fired or resigned during your four-year tenure. Does that indicate a problem with those top officials or you as the CEO?

During Donald J. Trump’s administration, over 100 top officials, cabinet members, directors, advisors, and staff have either resigned or were fired during the four years. If he had been the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, the board of directors would have fired him long ago.

Attorney General, William Barr, is the latest to go. President Trump stated in the announcement that he left to spend more time with his family over Christmas. Yeah. Right.

In truth, the president was upset with Barr. Last week, he railed against the Justice Department’s handling of investigations into Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son. Trump was also reportedly not happy when Barr told The Associated Press that the Department of Justice had not uncovered evidence of fraud that would affect the election results.  

Why have so many officials left? Here is my top five list of Trump’s behavioral characteristics that make it difficult to remain in his administration.

  1. You have to be able to put up with a narcissist.
  2. You have to agree with Trump all of the time to stay in his good graces.
  3. You have to be willing to endure lies and deception to keep your position.
  4. You have to pay homage to our Supreme Leader.
  5. You have to live with the philosophy that the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many, rather than the other way [Thank you Dr. Spock].

I could go on but you get the point.

Looking back on the Trump administration, he has accomplished quite a few things ranging from keeping the economy humming, pre-Covid-19, to improving the efficiency of the VA, to brokering new deals for Israel to normalize relations with Arab counties, and more. A recent article in the NY Times elaborates on his accomplishments.

Trump has failed on many levels, not the least of which is creating a culture of doing what is in one's own interest without due regard for how one's actions might affect others, the essence of ethical behavior. The top five failings in of his administration can be summed up as follows.

  • Failed to set an ethical tone at the top.
  • Didn’t build bridges with our foreign friends; created divisions and mistrust instead.
  • Misled the American people about the severity of the coronavirus and ways to combat it.
  • Pitted one group against the other causing social unrest.
  • As a result of these failures, Trump has created a more divided nation than ever before. It’s an ‘us against them’ mentality these days.

The Brookings Institute discusses the failings in a new blog about the Trump administration.

Trump fails on every level  to be a moral leader. He sets the wrong tone for our country. Most recently, he has been unwilling to concede the election to Joe Biden even though Biden has been certified as the next President. His last ditch effort, after losing court battles, is to pressure Republican officials at every level of government to declare their support for his cause.

It is important that we have moral leadership in the country. Our youngsters are growing up without any (ethical) leaders to serve as role models.

I fear we have fallen down the ethical slippery slope in the U.S. and are close to reaching rock bottom. Ethical-legalI don’t blame it all on Trump. The decline has been occurring for many years whether we look at financial and other instances of fraud, systemic discrimination, or other forms of anti-social behavior. A lack of civility is the root cause of our ethics decline. We no longer speak to each other when differences of opinion exist. Instead, we speak over each other and are unwilling to accept divergent viewpoints.

As columnist Walter Williams points out, it is important to understand that laws and regulations alone cannot produce a civilized society. Morality is society’s first line of defense against uncivilized behavior. We no longer hold people accountable for their actions.

I sometimes discuss with my students the following questions: What do good people sometimes do bad things? and “Why do bad things happen to good people. These are subjects for future blogs.

Let us all dedicate our lives in 2021 to becoming better people: more sensitive to the needs of others; respectful of those of different nationalities, races, religions, genders, and sexual orientations. Let’s make 2021 a year we seek to act with greater kindness and empathy for all.

In the spirit of the holiday season, I am giving away signed copies of my book to the first ten people who contact me at: [email protected] and provide a mailing address. May your 2021 be better than 2020. Let's face it, it can't be worse!

Posted by Dr. Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on December 15, 2020. You can sign up for his newsletter and learn more about his activities at: Follow him on Facebook at: and on Twitter at: