Honestly. Donald Trump is “growing”? That’s what they’re saying on my teevee. The truth is more brutal.
Everyone, including The Daily Beast, took note of the president’s six flip-flop Wednesday. And it’s true that every one of those huge reversals was in the direction of sanity. He embraced NATO, kind of. He recognized that the North Korea-China thing is complex. He acknowledged that Janet Yellen is a serious policy person. And so on.
I guess this is growth. But let’s be real here: This is “growth” in the most remedial sense possible.
Every other presidential candidate of 2016 knew this stuff already. Forget the smart people like Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz (yes, liberals, he’s smart). I mean even Martin O’Malley, the also-ran Democrat who lasted about three hours, and Jim Gilmore, the former Republican governor of Virginia who finished 17th among the 17 GOP candidates. They all knew this stuff. They knew it because it’s their job to know these very basic things. They all, people with views as different as Marco Rubio and Bernie Sanders, have some understanding of the history of NATO, some grasp of monetary policy. They have reached wildly different conclusions about what we ought to do, but they possess the basic knowledge.
Trump doesn’t. He knows nothing. He has read nothing. Does anyone think he’s read… forget an actual book. That would be asking a lot. Does anyone think he’s read even one full New York Times article on North Korea, say 1,300 words, from start to finish?
Here’s a metaphor for you. Having Donald Trump as president is like the Dallas Cowboys hiring as their head coach a guy who’d never even coached a Pop Warner team. Who knew nothing about different defensive coverages. Nothing about stunts. Nothing about offensive formations. And then somebody sat him down after he was coach and told him these things, and he said ‘Gee, nobody knew that all this was so complicated.’”
That’s the tell, that “nobody knew.” When Trump says “nobody knew” that health care, for example, could be so complicated, what he of course means is that he didn’t know, because in Trump’s beautiful mind, he equals everybody. If he didn’t read it, nobody read it. If he didn’t know it, nobody knew it. It has apparently never occurred to him that other people read things, because reading, to him, is like learning Mandarin or quantum physics. Nobody learns Mandarin or quantum physics. Although of course people do, but those people are so far outside Trump’s realm of comprehension that they don’t even exist to him.
This is the truth of what we’re dealing with. If you watch some cable news, you’ll hear people suggesting in effect that well, during the campaign, Trump had X position as a candidate, and now that he’s president, he’s seeing that things are more complicated than he thought and he’s adopting Y position. He’s growing.
This is propaganda, either witting or unwitting, depending on who’s talking.
The truth is that candidate Trump just said stuff. He had no idea what he was talking about. He said it because people applauded. So he kept saying it. And now that he’s the president and is being told things, complicated things, about the real world as it exists, things that every one of the other 21 candidates for president from the two major parties knew, he’s saying other stuff.
Candidate Trump said, “We’ll have the greatest defense, it will be so easy, no one will gain a yard against the great Cowboy defense.” And now Head Coach Trump is saying, “Gee, maybe they can gain yards. Nobody knew that offenses were so sophisticated these days.”
That’s the head coach we have. All we can hope is that he’s a quick study; that he accepts actual evidence and responds to same; and that he doesn’t do anything humiliating or catastrophic while he’s riding the learning curve.
This seems now to be the central question of the Trump presidency. Can he admit to himself that he didn’t know what he was talking about when he was a candidate and be a president who makes responsible decisions, or will he continue to take pride in his ignorance?
Let’s put the question another way. Can a man in his seventh decade of life, a man for whom everything has turned up roses, by hook or by crook, grow? It would be one thing if the fate of our vacations to Florida hung on the answer. But alas, a lot more does.