“I have an organization but it’s largely myself,” Donald Trump confided to the New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd in early 2016, acknowledging that his bare-bones presidential campaign was essentially a one-man show.
Trump has always described his eponymous business as an “organization” too, even though it was a disorganized, bankruptcy-prone Tilt-a-Whirl ride catering to the whims and needs of him alone. And the Trump who ran a business and a campaign built on ego and intuition rather than teamwork and strategy wasn’t going to be transformed by the responsibilities and powers that enveloped him once he landed in the Oval Office.
In a word, President Trump was never going to become “presidential.” It was inevitable instead that he would find himself most interested in frequenting the corridors of power that allowed him to operate independently. That’s not an uncommon phenomenon for presidents, but in Trump’s case it’s uniquely perilous because no president in the modern era has been as ill-informed, unhinged and undisciplined as the current one. None has been as needy, nor as willing to playact without remorse while making the most consequential of decisions.
To help demonstrate the point, Trump has given the world a trifecta of sorts in recent weeks involving trade with Mexico, a military strike in Iran, and government raids on the homes of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. Trump launched all three episodes with public threats and bravado showcased on Twitter, embroidered them with promises of imminent and decisive action, and tethered them to the notion that complex challenges can be solved with blunt force wielded by a single man. He then abruptly abandoned all three provocations just before they were to take effect.
In early June, Trump threatened, via Twitter, to impose onerous tariffs on Mexico if it failed to help solve the immigration and humanitarian crisis spilling over from Central America and into the U.S. His own political party and the business community brought him to heel within a week and he abandoned the tariff threat on the eve of imposing it. Mexico didn’t agree to substantially change any new policing activities along the border. But in the few days that his threat stood, Trump managed to destabilize financial markets and nearly upended a global trade and supply chain that supported legions of businesses and millions of people on both sides of the border.
By Timothy O’Bien for BLOOMBERG OPINION
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