U.S. President Barack Obama meets with President-elect Donald Trump to discuss transition plans in the White House Oval Office in Washington, Nov. 10, 2016. 
Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

‘This is really a bigger job than I thought’

In early January, CBS News’ John Dickerson asked Donald Trump an excellent question. “When you think of the presidency – the day-to-day, not the show part – what is it going to be like?” the “Face the Nation” host asked the then-candidate. “What do you think about that, the operation?”

The Republican replied, “I don’t think about it.”

Eleven months later, Trump was the president-elect, meeting with President Obama in Oval Office, where Trump “seemed surprised by the scope” of the responsibilities that would soon be on his shoulders. He shouldn’t have been surprised – candidates for the nation’s highest office usually give these duties considerable thought before launching their campaigns – but Trump sought the presidency before learning about what the job entails.

Newt Gingrich, a close Trump ally, talked to USA Today this week about his impressions of the president-elect at this phase in the process.
When he met with Trump last week, Gingrich says, “He commented, ‘This is really a bigger job than I thought.’ Which is good. He should think that.” As president, Gingrich went on, “you have war and peace, you have enormous powers … and it all comes down to the Oval Office and it all comes down to you.”
The problem, of course, is that Trump doesn’t quite know what to do while he comes to terms with the fact that the presidency is “a bigger job” than he realized. The incoming president has no relevant experience, and he’s surrounded himself with a team whose members also have no relevant experience. Trump should’ve thought all of this through before he even kicked off his candidacy, but instead, he’s learning it all on the fly, driven by misplaced confidence shaped by nothing but his unhealthy ego.

Vox’s Libby Nelson recently explained, “Running for president is hard. You’re on the road all the time, your every utterance is scrutinized, you have to prepare for debates and manage donors and keep up a tough schedule. But being president is much, much harder. Trump used to joke on the campaign trail about how hard he was working at running for president. One theme that emerges from reports … is that he doesn’t realize how much harder it can get.”

What I’m most curious about at this stage is whether or not Trump actually cares. We learned yesterday, for example, that Trump has decided to put his transition work on hold and will instead “begin a victory lap” with a political rally in Cincinnati tomorrow.

It’s reportedly part of a “tour” Trump is launching that will take him to a variety of other states.

In theory, Trump simply doesn’t have time for a multi-state tour. The amateur politician only has two months to prepare for the presidency, and he should be maintaining a grueling official schedule in advance of his inauguration in mid-January.

But that’s not fun. Trump doesn’t like rolling up his sleeves and tackling unglamorous tasks; Trump likes cameras and applause. The president-elect’s focus isn’t on work; it’s on being a celebrity superstar. Leading the executive branch of a global superpower is hard, but leading rallies and promising to Make America Great Again with adoring followers is exciting.

And so it’s apparently time to say goodbye to policy papers and briefings, and hello to a Midwest road trip.

The New Republic’s Alex Shephard had a great piece on this yesterday, adding, “Donald Trump, a man who has a very short attention span and requires instant gratification more or less constantly, loves campaigning because he has a very short attention span and requires instant gratification more or less constantly…. And just as Trump has no intention of giving up control of his businesses, he has no intention of giving up his rallies either, maybe because he believes they are the key to his success and maybe because he is a petulant narcissist and maybe both.”