Moguls in privately-held companies are used to being obeyed,
THERE HAVE BEEN too many amateur psychologists pretending to analyze President Trump's brain from afar, speculating on whether he's all there. That's a fool's errand, and Americans ought to find it offensive.
So that's not what we're doing in suggesting there may be a much simpler explanation for some of his outlier behavior, including knocking down institutional norms like bowling pins.
Donald Trump is not a career politician. He had no government experience. Even those closest to him say he's not a reader or deep-diver into process. Moreover, in the private sector he did not work at a big public company, traded on Wall Street, answering to a board of directors. He was the owner, which in the private sector is the equivalent of the emperor. His word was law.
IN SUCH ENTERPRISES the number one goal is to make money, with the bulk of it intended to expand the family fortune. Customarily, family members play an oversize role in managing the business and insulating and protecting the big dog. Subordinates are hired not only for their expertise, but also for their buy-in to the goal of expanding the family bankroll. In other words, loyalty to ownership. Deviation from that path can get somebody walked out of the building in a hurry.
So here's Trump, fresh off a winning campaign, confronted with the permanent bureaucracy in Washington. Some of it, such as Treasury or Agriculture, is more responsive than others. The military brass is accustomed to working with whomever is commander in chief. Agencies that tend to be controversial, such as EPA and Education, take orders but operate in a climate of considerable public pushback.
Congress is its usual pit of vipers, 535 members used to talking a lot and doing very little. Even with Republicans controlling both houses it's still like herding cats.
And then there are those agencies whose histories and traditions and mission hold them separate and independent from presidential overreach - Justice, the FBI, the CIA. Their professional staff swear allegiance to the Constitution, not to any president. That's where a lifetime of Trump's experience smacks headlong into a brick wall.
IN A WAY, THEN, it may not even be all that surprising that Trump has been enraged when people he thinks work for him refuse to be "loyal" and operate at cross-purposes to what he wants. Trump may not have fully comprehended that being the nation's chief executive in many ways is nothing like sitting atop a thriving privately-owned business where subordinates jumped to his will.
In government, the boss's word is not law. The law is the law. Even presidents must bend to it - or change it, with the blessing of Congress.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller will determine whether Trump's bull in a china shop tactics against those he thought crossed him rises to obstruction of justice level. If so, there can be severe consequences. See: Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.
If not, the question will be whether Trump the business mogul learns a better way to operate as Trump the president, head of a government constitutionally formed to serve the people first and the president second.