trump at nato Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

The Shrinking of the Presidency

US President Lyndon B. Johnson once said, “The presidency has made every man who occupied it, no matter how small, bigger than he was.” But Donald Trump is testing that maxim: by somehow managing to reduce the position to his size, the US presidency may have met its match.

MADRID – US President Lyndon B. Johnson once said, “The presidency has made every man who occupied it, no matter how small, bigger than he was.” But Donald Trump is testing that maxim. In Trump, who is somehow managing to reduce the position to his size, America’s presidency may have met its match.

The president of the United States – the position, not the person occupying it – is a pillar of the international order. The US presidency gives direction and guidance to the entire system, a kind of rudder that guides the world toward calm waters or, when necessary, through periods of creative disruption.

With Trump in charge, that rudder is broken, and the entire system could be left stranded in dangerous waters from which it will be very difficult to escape, even after he is out of power. Indeed, the true risk of Trump’s presidency lies not in the dangerous conditions of the next four years, but in the emergence, in the long term, of a directionless – and thus highly unstable – world order.

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