We know Donald Trump won’t make his taxes public. Robert Mueller may, someday, but the president won’t. Why won’t he release his IQ test results, though?
As you know, Trump boasted on Tuesday that he could beat Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — who maybe called Trump a moron, maybe because the boss was talking about a tenfold increase in our nuclear arsenal — in an IQ test competition. Mensa, the genius society, quickly offered to administer tests to both men. No word yet from the White House or Foggy Bottom.
I don’t think we care about Tillerson, who whatever his numerous faults is pretty obviously smart enough to be the secretary of state. But I do think Trump should do us the courtesy of taking one and letting us know the results. After all, he seems obsessed by it. He bragged constantly as a candidate about how brilliant he is. Went to the best schools. Had the best words, like priming the pump, which he “invented,” along with the word “fake.” Had the best mind. The best blood, too. My favorite came when Mika asked him (remember, they were cozy back then) as he was cruising to the nomination whom he consulted on foreign policy so he’d be “ready on day one”:
Then as president-elect he assured us that he was giving America the highest-IQ cabinet “of any ever assembled.” He spoke those words the day before the inauguration at a lunch he hosted for congressional Republicans at—where else?—the Trump hotel in Washington.
So, if it’s so important to him, let him prove it. Take a test, and—like the birther-in-chief liked to say for many years, show us the paper. In fact maybe he should take it on TV. Live. During Fox & Friends. It’d be a total no-lose situation. If he does great, it’ll be the biggest party they’ve ever had there. If he does poorly, they can line up a bunch of “experts” to assure their viewers that IQ tests have a well-known liberal bias.
That would be a perfect talking point for Fox to trumpet, because in the real world, the opposite is the truth. If anything IQ tests have been accused over the years of having not exactly a conservative bias but a race and class bias. Paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould launched a notable attack in his 1996 The Mismeasurement of Man, which as I recall kicked off a big debate by arguing against biological determinism, and the assigning of worth to individuals based on a measurement like an IQ test.
Gould was writing to some extent in response to Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray’s infamous 1994 book The Bell Curve. I believe you know what that argued. In any case, starting in the '90s, science began to accept widely the idea that intelligence is too complicated a concept for such tests and is a product of everything from genetics to how much lead paint a fetus/infant/child grew up around to a hundred other things.
Donald Trump probably did grow up around lead paint, even though he was a rich kid, because people weren’t yet thinking about lead in paint. As for what he inherited from Fred Trump, aside from racist views and rental policies, who knows.
I don’t doubt that he might have a high IQ. But a), why does he need to boast about it, and b), so what?
The boasting is of course right at the core of who he is emotionally—an insecure five year old. I choose five here with some experience and thus with some precision. I have a seven-year-old child who was five when Trump first started running. She was actually never as immature as Trump; never in need of constant and desperate assurance, for example, that everybody thought she was the smartest or the prettiest or whatever. But I noticed watching her and her friends interact that Trump’s manner of petulant bullying and whining is about on the level of a five year old. Not a six or seven year old; that’s when kids begin to see in various ways that they are not the center of the world. A five year old.
And on my point b), an “extremely credible source” tells me he doesn’t, but so what if it turns out he does have a high IQ? Lots of people have high IQs. Lots of great people, and lots of awful people. Even I might have one. I took one of those online tests once out of curiosity, and it was so easy and my score so insanely high that I figured something had to be wrong, but of course I was so tickled by the number that I didn’t dare take a second one.
But my IQ, high or low, has very little to do with who I am. That has to do with the lessons my parents taught me about how to act in the world and treat other people, about my desire to learn things about the world, my attempts (yes, I do make them) to consider other points of view empathetically, and so on. All that stuff adds up to something we might call moral intelligence.
I’m not saying I’m going to win any gold medals in that department. I’m probably pretty close to average. But the president of the United States is well below average. Unlike his wealth, he really may be a member of the one percent here-—in this case, the lowest.
And as farcical as all this stuff can be, that is a tragedy, and because he holds the office he holds, it is a tragedy not just for the people in his life but for all of us.