On the eve of Trump’s State of the Union paean to himself, it may help to be reminded of all the ways in which the Guy Who Knows Everything doesn’t know much, and doesn’t care. Jennifer Rubin, in her latest (well, latest as of yesterday) swipe at the Pr*sident Sh!t-for-Brains gives some examples, arguing that Democrats should make an issue of Trump’s gobsmacking ignorance. She starts with a tweet from WaPo’s Aaron Blake, based on a list by George Conway.
- Trump thought the Kansas City Chiefs were from Kansas
- He said he was building a border wall in Colorado
- Said Belgium is a “beautiful city”
- Thinks Nambia is a country
- Blamed the Baltics for the war in Yugoslavia
And that’s not even mentioning sharpie-ing a NOAA map to pretend that Hurricane Dorian was headed for Alabama.
The UK Independent adds a few more, citing the same tweet:
- Thinks there are countries called “Nipple” and “Button”
- Doesn’t understand time zones, so he thought it was the same time in Tokyo as in Washington
- Said the US had bombed Iraq, when it was Iran
- Told the prime minister of India not to worry about China, because they don’t have a common border
- Confused “England” and “UK” (also didn’t know the difference between UK and Great Britain)
Some more Conway notes:
- Thinks Paris is a city in Germany
- Got a call from the president of South Korea and told journalists it was from North Korea
- Corrected himself on “Nipple” and “Button” — they were states in India
- Had to be reminded — twice — that Ireland is not part of the UK
- Did not know that Kyiv is in Ukraine
And some odds and ends:
- Confused Nashville with New Orleans
- One of his TV ads in 2016 confused Morocco with Mexico
- Thought the president of Iraqi Kurdistan was a Syrian Kurd
This is not some student trying to pass a fourth grade geography test. This is the President of the United States, the person in charge of dealing with these countries on our behalf. Like most of us, I kept hearing about these blunders one at a time, but seeing them all at once in a list like this drives home just how dangerous his willful ignorance is. (And it is willful, as he refuses to admit he could be wrong.) Two examples:
- His confusing the Baltics with the Balkans made it clear to the presidents of the Baltic countries that they couldn’t count on him to even understand the threat Russia poses to them, much less help them ward it off.
- Prime Minister Modi of India left his meeting with Trump convinced that Trump was useless to him, and started shifting his policy from the US toward China.
These are major foreign policy consequences, and not the only ones. (You can add your own examples in the comments.)
But Trump doesn’t care about the impact of his ignorance on the world stage, since his base is equally ignorant of world geography and equally doesn’t care. Back to Jennifer Rubin:
I raise this not merely to deride him or to damn his enablers, who think they can manipulate an empty-headed president, or to shame his base that revels in anti-intellectualism. I raise this to ask Democrats: Why aren’t you making a much bigger deal of this? [emphasis in original]
Rubin’s list goes way beyond geography. But one thing at a time.
She suggests that Democrats “should start making the case that Trump is just too gullible and ignorant to be president” because
Trump, who calls himself a “very stable genius” with a “good brain” and “all the best words,” will not take this line of attack well, to put it mildly. The key group of college-educated voters will be reminded why they have such contempt for him and long for a president who does not embarrass them.
This has to be done carefully, to insult Trump without alienating his base. I say this even though much of his base thinks Trump was sent by God and the Democrats are the devil. But not all of them. This is in some ways a game of inches. We don’t need to pull away much of his base to be effective.
There is a difference between having contempt for the great swath of Americans who support Trump (Hillary’s “basket of deplorables” was a big mistake) and persuading them that they should have contempt for Trump. Rubin makes this point in her closer:
Democrats should not be insulting Trump’s voters, obviously. Rather, they can explain that he does not care enough to know anything about their lives (or even where their cities are). He plays them for fools with his made-up economic statistics, reckless foreign policy and indifference to our men and women in the military (e.g. suggesting brain injuries are inconsequential). Don’t they deserve a president who knows things?