There are some things– like, for example, what is happening literally anywhere in the world– you should “brush up on” before deciding to run for President.
A few months ago, my wife Allison remarked that if Trump were applying for a job in the same fashion in which he’s running for President, he’d never get past the first interview. He combines not knowing the basics of the job with absolute certainty that getting the job is his just reward. He’ll tell you that he can do the job better than anyone else without having the first bit of experience. There’s no humility, no desire to learn, and an overwhelming unearned braggadocio. If you were a hiring manager, you would cross his name off your list after the first five seconds (unless, I have to emphasize, you are the sort who gets charmed by bluster and thinks confidence beats competence, in which case you are, I have to emphasize, an idiot).
But there’s more to it than that. Say he applied not knowing anything, and you, as the hiring manager, said “well, let’s revisit this in 14 months.” And in all that time, he refused to crack a book on the subject, refused to learn, and kept telling you that he was going to know so much. Believe him. So much. But he never learned a single thing, and was still telling you how ready he’d be when you hire him. Would you hire him?
Christ, of course not. And yet...
LAUER: You’ve had a very different background, in business. So nobody would expect you to have taken over the last 20 years really deep dives into some of these issues. But I’m curious about what you’re doing now. What kind of research are you doing now? What kind of homework are you doing? What kind of things are you reading as you prepare for the day in two months where you might be elected the next president of the United States?
TRUMP: Sure. Well, in the front row, you have four generals. You have admirals. We have people all throughout the audience that I’m dealing with. Right here is a list that was just printed today of 88 admirals and generals that I meet with and I talk to.
LAUER: How much time are you spending on this?
TRUMP: I’m also — a lot. A lot. And I’m doing a lot of different things. Don’t forget, we’re running a big campaign. We’re doing very well. I’m also, you know, and I’m very much giving it to my children and my executives to run, I’m also partially running a business. I’m campaigning, I’m running a business. I’ve got a lot of hats right now.
But we’re doing very well. But in the meantime, I am studying. And I’m meeting constantly — you see — you see General Flynn and you see some of the folks that we have, and they’re scattered throughout the audience. So we have admirals, we have generals, we have colonels. We have a lot of people that I respect.
And I think I’ve learned a lot. But I think, also, I certainly — I really feel I have a common sense on the various issues that you’re talking about, Matt.
The entire phony forum was a demonstration of his unwillingness to understand anything beside “I’m going to make America great” and “let’s take the oil.” (Enough people are rightly ripping apart Matt Lauer for his disgraceful performance, making it about the emails. Chait has maybe the most sobering take on how this normalizes Trump). But this was the summation of it.
He clearly is not “studying”. He clearly isn’t brushing up on subjects, because he has no idea on the complexity of them. He refuses to learn, because he figures he is such a natural genius that he only needs to spend a couple of seconds on an issue before coming up with the answer. That’s the sort of fraud he is, and always has been. The kind that thinks that saying “I know this” is the same as knowing it, because there have always been enough people who believe him.
But look at this nonsense: he admits– no, he brags– about still running his business, and that distracts him from taking the time to learn about the world. He has a lot of hats on right now, including campaigning and running a business (the only two hats he mentions, really) and so he isn’t brushing up quite enough. There’s a few remarkable things here, or at this point, I guess unremarkable, but we’ll keep pushing that boulder.
- The fact that you legitimately have to ask a Presidential candidate, in September, if he’s gotten around to learning anything about foreign policy. Now, to be fair, Trump said he has always been interested in it, because why else would the news have been asking him about Iraq (the answer: the media are idiots). To quote him, “This hasn’t been over the last 14 months. I’ve found these substantiates of tremendous interest.” Moving on.
- The fact that he says he might not be able to do as much reading up on the issues as he’d like because he’s got a few other things going on. Because, you know, the President has a pretty relaxed schedule when it comes to things, so he’ll be able to catch up then. But right now he’s campaigning and running a business, so who has time to learn?
- The fact that running his business is clearly more important than learning about the world. I honestly can barely breathe when it comes to this, I’m so angry. How is this not the most important headline? “Candidate: Making More Money Is The Most Important Thing To Me”. I’m not angry at Trump (well, I mean, I always am), but that the media just kind of lets this go. Instead of learning about the complexity of the world, he decides to run his business. This is not a serious man, at all, and every day should be spent pointing that out.
You can tell everything is a lie with him. He has been running on the idea of a secret plan to defeat ISIS for almost a year now. And people actually believe them. He did reveal part of his plan for doing so in a speech yesterday, in which he said that his plan was to convene the best generals (seriously, the best) and give them a deadline of 30 days to come up with a plan to wipe out ISIS. That sounds tough, you know, because leadership. 30 days. That’s serious. The implication of course is that they have yet to think about it. How is this not laughable?
How is any of this not laughable? His plan, as Lauer pointed out in literally his only good moment, is to have other people come up with a plan. And then Trump blathered about having his own plan too, that was secret, because he’s going to make America great again. Seriously. The transcript does his idiocy more justice than watching.
TRUMP: No. But when I do come up with a plan that I like and that perhaps agrees with mine, or maybe doesn’t — I may love what the generals come back with. I will convene…
LAUER: But you have your own plan?
TRUMP: I have a plan. But I want to be — I don’t want to — look. I have a very substantial chance of winning. Make America great again. We’re going to make America great again. I have a substantial chance of winning. If I win, I don’t want to broadcast to the enemy exactly what my plan is.
This man might be President. People actually fall for this.
Throughout, he was doing his classic “a lot of people say it is a good idea”. I always just ascribed that to his ego and his desire to surround himself with yes-men. You know, he says “I have a great idea” and everyone agrees, and then he says “a lot of people say it’s the best idea they’ve ever heard”, even though he just thought of it four seconds ago, and all his sycophants and spawn nod admiringly. And that alchemizes to truth in his head.
But it is more than that, isn’t it? It’s the way he sells nonsense to idiots. You want to invest in an education at Trump U? Even though that’s objectively a dumb thing to do? Well, listen, a lot of folks say this is the best college in the world to learn how to get rich. There’s a lot of great people who say the same thing. And, desperate, you cling to that, and you convince yourself that you didn’t just hear Trump say a lot of people, but you actually heard those people say it. That’s how the mind works. We can convince ourselves of anything if it gives us a reed to which to cling amidst the storms. His gift has always been to prey on that.
And now he’s doing it to the whole country, and increasing numbers of people are believing him. All he has to do is bluster and tell us that he’s a genius, and that a lot of people say so, and that really, ok, all the best military minds in the country tell him that he knows a lot more than they do. And a shattered and angry people want to believe it, and so do. We’re all his marks. Last night should have proven without a doubt that he is completely unqualified, and what’s more, has zero interest in even doing the rudimentary homework to make himself qualified. But he knows it doesn’t matter, and so he doesn’t care. It increasingly looks possible that this narcissistic cynicism may be proven correct.