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Whoever explained to then-President-elect Donald Trump what it meant to be president — if anyone did — neglected to tell him that on occasion a president loses a policy fight. That person also forgot to explain to the U.S. president-in-waiting that making a big promise he might be unable to keep required him to figure out how to prevent his most ardent followers from turning against him when he failed to fulfill it.

Sloppy job preparation, together with Trump’s distorted personality, led to the near-paralysis of much of the federal government for 35 days, the longest such period in U.S. history, hurting around 800,000 innocent employees and ultimately humiliating a president who sets great store by being seen as strong. But, like most bullies, Trump occasionally reveals his inner weakness.

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