Republican nominee Donald Trump is seen during the first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York on Sept. 26, 2016.
Photo by Joe Raedle/AFP/Getty

Trump slowly realizes he can’t run the government like a business

Just two days after winning the presidential election, Donald Trump had a private meeting with President Obama in the White House, where the Democrat started walking the Republican through some of his duties. Trump, according to the Wall Street Journal’s sources, “seemed surprised by the scope” of the presidency.

It relates to an important detail that went largely overlooked during the 2016 race: Donald Trump, the only president in American history with literally no background in public service, not only has little understanding of current events and government institutions, but he’s also never really understood the presidency itself. As ridiculous as it may sound, Trump applied for a job – by some measures, one of the most difficult jobs on the planet – he knew precious little about.

If his posturing and rhetoric are any indication, the New York Republican seemed to believe he already had the necessary skill set because of his private-sector background, and he may have assumed he could run the executive branch like he ran his business. Politico reports today that Trump is slowly realizing that doesn’t work, and he’s “growing increasingly frustrated.”
In interviews, nearly two dozen people who’ve spent time with Trump in the three weeks since his inauguration said that his mood has careened between surprise and anger as he’s faced the predictable realities of governing, from congressional delays over his cabinet nominations and legal fights holding up his aggressive initiatives to staff in-fighting and leaks. […]

Trump often asks simple questions about policies, proposals and personnel. And, when discussions get bogged down in details, the president has been known to quickly change the subject – to “seem in control at all times,” one senior government official said – or direct questions about details to his chief strategist Steve Bannon, his son-in-law Jared Kushner or House Speaker Paul Ryan. Trump has privately expressed disbelief over the ability of judges, bureaucrats or lawmakers to delay – or even stop – him from filling positions and implementing policies.
Everyone who’s ever held the presidency has grown frustrated with the institutional limits and constraints, but it’s Trump’s “disbelief” that’s notable. It’s as if, in his mind, the power of the presidency is vast enough that he should be able to do as he pleases, simply by making a decision.

One of the most common and underappreciated phrases he used during the campaign was “very quickly” – he used to describe how he’d resolve a wide variety of challenges – because as Trump imagined the presidency, he’d simply bark orders and implement his vision, without excessive thought or study.

Little did he know there are whole other branches of government that play a role – made more complicated by federal agencies with their own ideas.

The Washington Post’s Catherine Rampell recently joked, “If this is what ‘running government like a business’ looks like, it’s no wonder President Trump’s companies kept going bankrupt.”

It’s actually an important detail. Trump’s success in the private sector was quite limited, relied heavily on leveraging family connections and his “brand,” and led to repeated failures. No large corporations ever sought out Trump to help run their operations, and the Trump Organization itself has always been quite small.

What we’re left with, in other words, is a president who’s never led a large operation, overseeing the executive branch of a global superpower without any real understanding of what it does or how it functions.

No wonder Trump isn’t enjoying himself.


Donald Trump and White House

Trump slowly realizes he can't run the government like a business