For a powerful leader, there are few adjectives more deadening than “outgoing”. Not in the sense of being extrovert or party-loving, but meaning “soon to depart”, heading for the door — over, but not yet out.

Donald Trump, outgoing US president, is feeling the chill already. Defeated or departing presidents have to endure an extended spell in purgatory — nearly 80 days in Trump’s case — from election day to the inauguration of their successors. That is a long time to carry the label of “outgoing”, or, worse, “lame duck” president, which partly explains his desire to use the tools of government to nail himself to the Oval Office desk...

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