If Only the World Were Like Wollman Rink

In an effort to understand the way Donald Trump operates as a government official, all you need to do is go back into his history with New York City’s Wollman Rink.

In the 1980s, Wollman Rink was a disaster. The rink had become a very popular attraction in the park but after nearly 30 years of abuse it was no longer usable. The City then closed the rink in 1980 for what was intended to be two years of renovation. Six years later, the renovations were still not complete, and the costs had ballooned way out of control. Trump, who had just taken over The Plaza, took a personal ‘interest’ in the skating rink, which was directly across the street from his new property.

Then Trump stepped forward and offered to fix the rink on his own dime in six months, on the condition that he run Wollman thereafter. All he demanded was complete freedom from all regulations and rules. The city, at the time, embarrassed by the rink’s failure, acceded to his demands.

Trump then, to his great credit, did the job in about four months, well below the City’s estimated time and costs, and ultimately cost him a fraction of what the city had expected to have to pay. Perhaps this may be some evidence of what rules and regulations really cost?

It would be a good idea for him to work hard on the other related goal of rebuilding appropriate regimes of rules and regulations. To explain, for example: if a rule says a railing must be 30 inches high, and a mistake is made and it ends up 29 inches , does it make sense to tear it down? Of course not! So the RULE of all RULES—the rule of reason—has to kick in and  exceptions must be made and  appropriate fines paid to remind  offending folks that there is a cost in making mistakes—even little ones.

The downside of that nice little story is that his experience with Wollman taught him a very sinister and terribly dangerous lesson—that if he could get rid of ‘damnable’ rules and regulations he could get anything done cheaper. (Hello, Houdini, where does the other half of that pretty woman go when you cut her in half?)

It is a lesson we now see him trying to put into action during the first weeks of his presidency. Executive Orders, most without essential coordination with requisite other parts of ‘his’ executive branch, were thrown down from his Mt Olympus (the White House) one after another.

One about immigration was immediately stayed by the Federal Courts.

Others were mainly precatory demonstrations for PR purposes.

He is fast creating the impression that he truly does not know either the role of a President or how the Presidency actually works.

Wollman Rink appears to be still at the heart of his misinformation and misunderstanding of how to get things done in government. He seems to fail to realize that the rules are not automatically suspended for him simply because he was elected President. Perhaps rules are now constitutionally more important to protect the whole country. And, voters really are fascinated by where the other half of Houdini’s assistant ends up.

No doubt regulations and rules have gotten out of hand, BUT our world would become chaotic and unlivable without appropriate regimes of rules and regulations.

These explanations, of course, do not explain all of Trump’s zaniness. No single message could possibly do that!

But, it does set out a path for one to use to try better to understand this confused and disoriented “so-called president”.


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