In my three decades plus in business I have experienced three types of people – and the pearl clutching disingenuous talk coming from the media and Democrat pundits about transparency, coupled with Trump mouthing off on guns/due process (or lack thereof) and tariffs brought these thoughts back to the surface.
I’ve worked with, worked for and employed these people. I have been seated across a negotiating table from all three types and I’m very confident of these three basic types. There are opaque, transparent and translucent people. Opaque people never let you see what they are all about, they don’t let light in or out. Transparent people are those who are so lacking in guile that the telegraph who they are, what they are about and what their intentions are from a mile away – and then there are the translucent people, people who sort of let you see fuzzy images of their existence and agendas but you are never quite sure what they are about. It’s like looking at a picture through a sheet of waxed paper.
Every president claims to run a “transparent” administration, that they and their cronies truly believe that sunlight is the best disinfectant – but they never do. President Obama, while claiming to run “the most transparent administration in history” (a direct quote, by the way) practiced the most deceptive, corrupt and opaque presidency since the Nixon administration was embroiled in the Watergate scandal. Enabled by the mainstream media, Obama prosecuted leakers with reckless abandon and sought to clamp down on any media member who dared to cross him (James Rosen), investigate him (Sharyl Attkisson) or any outlet that deigned to ask him difficult questions (Fox News).
Trump has been lauded by some as the most transparent president. I’m not sure that is completely true, but when the media reports every incidence of flatulence of every official and then assigns nefarious intent to the gaseous emissions – and this administration has more leaks than a $100 sailboat, his transparency isn’t as much intentional as it is consequential. This transparency follows as a result of every progressive media scalp hunter wanting to win the Pulitzer for bringing Trump down like Woodward and Bernstein did Nixon.
But Trump himself, as conservatives have recently experienced (and something we warned about during the GOP primaries) is not transparent. Trump is one of the Translucents, people who seem to generally go in a certain direction but you (and most of the time, they) are never sure about the specifics until the eleventh hour. Translucents tend to be big – yet undisciplined) thinkers, they see the destination first – they go from A to Z at lightspeed without really thinking (or caring) about any of the letters in between – those are details to be filled in later. A perfect example of this was the President’s Underpants Gnome comment (gratuitous South Park reference) about guns, the mentally ill and due process. Translucents are also often very effective negotiators, the gauzy perception they promote makes them especially efficient at camouflaging and preserving any number of possible strategies while keeping their eyes on the prize.
Dealing with them can be maddening for friend and foe alike.
It’s almost impossible to judge a Translucent on what is said or done at any given time in the middle of a battle, but it has been my experience that they usually achieve the goals they set, just sometimes not in the way most people expect – and sometimes not even in the way they intend. These are people you must evaluate at the end of a process, not in the middle.
I’m not saying that we can’t or shouldn’t judge President Trump on his words – but I have run across folks like him in my life and learned that it is a mistake to jump to conclusions too early in the process.
What is fairly common in the business world is not something we have seen in the Oval office – most presidents struggle to be transparently opaque – Trump doesn’t know how to do that.
That is not who he is. He is the King of the Underpants Gnomes.