Second, sycophancy in the White House makes it more difficult to correct errors. Governing is not a science. It is necessary to make policy adjustments all the time, large and small. If a president does not understand and acknowledge mistakes, he can’t learn from them and correct them. The flatterer is thus an impediment to effective governing.

Third, obsequiousness creates an anti-empirical culture. Aides are tempted to select and pass along the most positive, pleasing information. They distort reality to stay in favor rather than presenting reality in order to help confront it. This appears to be happening right now with members of Trump’s legal team. They seem to be assuring him that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation is nearing an end and that Trump’s legal exposure is limited. They should be preparing him for the onslaught of a skilled prosecutor, armed with highly damaging information on collusion, obstruction of justice and (if Stephen K. Bannon is to be believed) money laundering.