President Donald Trump plays a round of golf in 2018...

President Donald Trump plays a round of golf in 2018 at Trump Turnberry resort in Scotland. Credit: Getty Images/Leon Neal

Everyone can see how President Donald Trump makes a point of flaunting his special privileges.

Trump as of last week had spent 252 of his days in office at one of his own golf resorts, CNN reported. Hours before the new year, with the American Embassy in Baghdad still under siege, the president stayed as expected in his cosseted surroundings. After tweeting from Mar-a-Lago about Iraq and Iran, ⁦he arrived on the golf course late Tuesday morning.

After the U.S. military killed Iran Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he was briefed about it while visiting Mar-a-Lago. Democratic leaders were kept in the dark. Information was treated as a privilege to be conferred as Trump saw fit.

Put aside all the recent chatter about executive privilege. For Trump, the deluxe entitlements of office and wealth go beyond claiming to be impeachment-proof or immune to congressional subpoenas.

Privilege as a concept is so ingrained in Trump's reality that it extends to matters you might not ordinarily consider.

His recent intervention on behalf of Edward Gallagher, a retired Navy SEAL cleared in an atrocity case, represented one of Trump's favorite uses of presidential privilege — which is to stage a positive story about himself.

As if acting in an executive "reality" show, Trump portrayed himself as rescuing a worthy American warrior's career from the indifferent grip of military bureaucrats.

The basic facts suggest a different narrative.

By this month Gallagher no longer faced punishment for charges on which he'd been prosecuted. The military court system had functioned to his benefit. Gallagher was acquitted of all but the relatively minor charge of posing with the corpse of a captive who several fellow SEALs said he stabbed to death.

Gallagher was sentenced in July to four months in jail but was released for time served because of pretrial confinement.

From the start, Trump was lobbied on Gallagher's behalf by, among others, the much-forgiven convicted felon Bernard Kerik, the former New York police commissioner. Gallagher's cause became celebrated on the Fox News network.

So to cap his involvement, Trump ordered the Pentagon to preserve the chief petty officer's status as a member of the elite SEALs and his prestigious "trident" pin.

Of course Trump's privileges as president outranked those of Navy Secretary Richard Spencer — who'd resisted restoring Gallagher's status, questioned Trump's intervention, and fought the matter with the White House. Defense Secretary Mark Esper fired Spencer.

The Navy SEALs who reported offenses by Gallagher, their platoon chief, were no so privileged.

Seven members of the 22-person platoon testified at trial that they saw Gallagher commit war crimes. Some who knew him openly called him "toxic" and "evil." 

Cyber experts who once traced hackers to Russia, and scientists who knew Hurricane Dorian wasn't going to hit Alabama, also saw how their clearest judgments can be obscured by presidential whim.

Perhaps that's just how privilege works. But President Dwight D. Eisenhower once warned: "A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both."