Friday, November 17, 2017

What did Donald Trump do today?

He announced a policy, immediately reversed it, claimed it needed more study, and then complained that it had been studied for years.

As expected, the Trump administration published a rule today allowing Americans to bring back body-part trophies from elephants hunted in Zimbabwe and Zambia. This would normally be illegal, given African elephants' conservation status. 

Within hours, and after a torrent of bad press, Trump tweeted that he was suspending the rule: "Put big game trophy decision on hold until such time as I review all conservation facts. Under study for years."

Trump probably didn't mean to admit that he'd approved a rule without knowing the facts, but in that case it's not clear what he will have to add to the "years" of study he claims have been done. (The Fish and Wildlife Service studies conservation issues, but until Trump appointed its new political leadership, its "years" of study had resulted in the ban, not the lifting of the ban.)

It's possible that Trump intends to ask an expert on the elephant trophies he knows personally for a briefing on the subject.

Why is this bad?

  • Presidents should make policy decisions after getting all the facts, not before.
  • It's one thing to respond to political pressure, but announcing a policy and revoking it hours later is not something that happens in a competent administration.