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.

One person who spotted this is Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives. Returning from a televised White House meeting with the president and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer last December, Pelosi informed her Democratic colleagues of Trump's near-hallucinogenic insistence on funding for a wall along the border between the United States and Mexico to keep out illegal immigrants. "It's like a manhood thing for him." Pelosi said, "As if manhood could ever be associated with him."