WASHINGTON — When he took office a year ago, President Trump vowed that the “hour of action” had arrived. But as momentous events whipsawed Washington and Wall Street in recent days, Mr. Trump seemed oddly offstage, more of a spectator than the star.
He stayed largely out of sight as the stock market plummeted in its most volatile week in years. He was largely uninvolved as Congress crafted a two-year budget agreement without him, ending a brief, middle-of-the-night shutdown Friday morning after just a few hours rather than allowing the full shutdown he wanted to force an immigration deal. And he angrily chastised aides for keeping him out of the loop on spousal abuse allegations against a top aide.
There are times when it serves a president’s interests to step back and let events play out around him, but it goes against the grain for Mr. Trump, who has always styled himself as the master of his universe. The passive presidency of recent days presumably will not last, but even when he tries to impose his will on the capital and the world, Mr. Trump has found that there are limits to his ability to shape events.
“The president prides himself on being a great deal maker and understanding the art of the deal,” Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware, said this week during negotiations on immigration. “Sometimes he makes the best contribution when he makes his position known and then steps back and lets us work out the details and decide what he can and can’t accept.”
Mr. Trump is not a detail person even in his more active days, but his natural instinct is to involve himself in the broad strokes. His often impulsive Twitter blasts can upend negotiations and shift the focus of events, sometimes at odds with the official position of his own White House. And so his relatively low profile in recent days has been striking.