Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump visits McLanahan Corporation headquarters, Aug. 12, 2016, in Hollidaysburg, Pa. 
Photo by Eric Thayer/Reuters

Trump struggles badly to pass a test of presidential maturity

Updated
As Donald Trump settles into his new presidential duties, people close to him are offering insights into how he’s making the transition into one of the world’s most difficult jobs. Politico, for example, had this unnerving report.
One person who frequently talks to Trump said aides have to push back privately against his worst impulses in the White House, like the news conference idea, and have to control information that may infuriate him. He gets bored and likes to watch TV, this person said, so it is important to minimize that.

This person said that a number of people close to him don’t like saying no – but that it has to be done.

“You can’t do it in front of everyone,” this person said. “He’s never going to admit he’s wrong in front of everyone. You have to pull him aside and tell him why he’s wrong, and then you can get him to go along with you. These people don’t know how to get him to do what they need him to do.”
This is, by the way, a Trump ally, describing the new president as if he hasn’t quite reached preadolescence. As the story goes, he’s surrounded by aides who effectively serve as babysitters, distracting Trump to help him steer clear of trouble.

An Axios report added this morning, “[T]he notion he will surrender the remote, or Twitter, or his grievances with reporters is pure fantasy. Aides talk of giving him ‘better choices’ or jamming his schedule with meetings to keep him away from reading about or watching himself on TV. “

But like some preadolescents, Trump also has intemperate tendencies and mood swings. The New York Times reported over the weekend that the new president “grew increasingly angry on Inauguration Day after reading a series of Twitter messages pointing out that the size of his inaugural crowd did not rival that of Mr. Obama’s in 2009. But he spent his Friday night in a whirlwind of celebration and affirmation. When he awoke on Saturday morning, after his first night in the Executive Mansion, the glow was gone, several people close to him said, and the new president was filled anew with a sense of injury.”

And, of course, some children are spoiled and grow resentful when they don’t receive the attention they believe they deserve. The Washington Post reported today, “Trump has been resentful, even furious, at what he views as the media’s failure to reflect the magnitude of his achievements, and he feels demoralized that the public’s perception of his presidency so far does not necessarily align with his own sense of accomplishment.”

Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian, said yesterday Trump is “off to the worst start of a presidency in a very long time,” and it’s worth appreciating why. The Republican, unaccustomed to public service, running a large organization, or weighty responsibilities, simply lacks the maturity he now needs.

Much has been made in recent months about the dangers of putting an amateur in the Oval Office, but those concerns tend to focus on problems associated with Trump’s ignorance of public policy and public institutions. There’s a related angle that goes overlooked: political amateurs are also unaccustomed to scrutiny, criticisms, and the pressures of the international spotlight.

When the amateur lacks a mature temperament, the problem is that much more acute.

New York’s Jon Chait concluded yesterday, “Oliver Wendell Holmes famously summed up Franklin Roosevelt as a second-class intellect but a first-class temperament. Trump has a third-class intellect and a third-class temperament. The frightening surreality of what has happened to the United States has only begun to sink in.”