CEO Trump simply can’t see the difference. He has spent his career viewing his business operations as a zero-sum, us-versus-them proposition. He appears incapable of seeing the world in a more expansive, more nuanced way. So when he issues some edict to benefit one of his constituencies on Monday and then discovers on Tuesday that the edict will damage another group, he flails. Information overload.
Before Trump, only two presidents touted their business experience when they ran for office: Herbert Hoover and George W. Bush. Hoover was a self-made millionaire engineer and Bush, though his own business career was largely one of failure, campaigned as the first president with an MBA. Remember that they presided over the two most devastating economic collapses of the modern era.
But even those two had spent time in public service. Hoover was Secretary of Commerce. Bush was governor of Texas. Not so Trump, who had never spent a day serving the public interest before his inauguration. He has always been about his father’s real estate business, and as a consequence he can’t conceive of what the common good even looks like, much less how to achieve it. He’s never had the experience.
The even more fundamental problem with having a CEO as president is that they are used to operating in a system which is not democratic and where they sit atop the pyramid of power. Presidents don’t, and by Constitutional design. The presidency is only one-third of the three co-equal branches of government. Those holding the office don’t get what they want when they want it, again by design.
The checks-and-balances system clearly infuriates CEO Trump. He has no working relationship with Congress, despite the fact that it is controlled by his own party. He has repeatedly disparaged the integrity of the federal judiciary. He can’t even work with his own officials when they are loyal to the law rather than to him.
Trump doesn’t reverse policy because he’s undecided. He does so because he can only think like a businessman and not a president.
Steven Conn, a history professor at Miami University, is a regular contributor.