Our Clueless President

But if you would have [seen] what we had to go through in the darkened plane with all window[s] closed with no light anywhere. Pitch black. I’ve been on many airplanes. All types and shapes and sizes. So, did I have a concern? Yes, I had a concern. — President Donald Trump on landing in Iraq, December 26, 2018

President Trump in Iraq

This just in, Mr. President: Iraq is a war zone, full of various groups, including terrorists, who would love nothing more than to assassinate the leader of the “Great Satan.” It ought not to surprise anyone that extraordinary security precautions must be taken whenever a dignitary — especially the leader of the Free World — travels to such a dangerous place. 

Trump’s surprise at the security surrounding his unannounced visit to Iraq is, in itself, not a big deal. Yet, it is symptomatic of how unschooled, ignorant, and divorced from reality the president is. Now, I may have an advantage over most people who follow this sort of thing because I covered the State Department for CNN in the 1990s, and several overseas trips we took accompanying the secretary of state were shrouded in secrecy and heavy security. I remember one trip, in particular, to Pakistan, where we landed in the dark at an obscure airfield and were cautioned by security never to leave our hotels except to attend official events when accompanied by men and women wearing modern-day versions of medieval armor. Still, it does not take a degree in rocket science or brain surgery to appreciate that the president of the United States requires exceptional protection when traveling to war zones. Nor does it take much familiarity with past presidential practice and the tradition of military non-involvement in politics to understand that the president should not be attacking his political opposition or signing MAGA hats when visiting the troops. 

The president’s unpreparedness for his job is frightening. As has been oft-stated, he is the first occupant of the Oval Office without any political or military experience. His inexperience is compounded by his ignorance, his unwillingness or inability to read, his reluctance to take advice from experts, and his conviction that he is the smartest person in the room on any subject. This toxic brew is a recipe for disaster.

American troops in Syria

And, disasters abound. His precipitous decision to pull U.S. forces out of Syria is the most notorious recent fiasco. He based his decision on the specious grounds that ISIS has been defeated. It has not, and the pullout only benefits our enemies and adversaries. It is doubtful that the president ever considered the costs beyond the initial action as he is ever oblivious to the consequences of his decisions. Either that, or Trump seriously is beholden to Russian President Vladimir Putin and is eager to do Putin’s bidding in Syria.

Trump’s pathological lying also is rooted in his tenuous hold on reality. Psychologists cite six reasons to explain why people lie: The issue, while trivial to most observers, is important to the liar; lies help the liar control a situation; the liar does not want to disappoint his or her audience; previous lies force the liar to lie again; the lie is not a lie to the liar; the liar wants the lie to be true. While all of these reasons probably apply to Trump — that is, he lies so much that only multiple reasons can explain his pathology — the last is most important in trying to understand Trump’s lying as a form of his unsteady grasp of reality.

Wanting a lie to be true is why the liar repeats the same lie over and over. According to The Washington Post’s Fact Checker, Trump has called last year’s tax cut the biggest in history 124 times. It is not; in fact, the 2017 tax cut is smaller than two tax cuts passed by Congress and signed by Barack Obama, a notorious tax-and-spend Democratic president. Several other post-World War II tax cuts were larger than the one Trump extols.  Similarly, Trump has 30 times claimed the Obama administration gave Iran $150 billion dollars as part of the Iranian nuclear deal. The number is grossly inflated, and the money is Iran’s, but Trump makes it sound like Obama cut the ayatollahs a check from U.S. funds. Trump’s repetition of easily disprovable lies has led the Post’s Fact Checker to create a new category: The Bottomless Pinocchio. 

Kellyanne Conway talking about “alternative facts”

Trump’s retelling of the same lies is a species of what White House adviser Kellyanne Conway called “alternative facts” and reminiscent of what Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani claimed when he said, “Truth isn’t truth.” Both absurd statements were efforts to give substance to Trump’s attempts to create a reality he wants rather than accept the one that exists.

I was reminded of Conway and Giuliani when I read Trump’s whopper to the troops in Iraq. Actually, he told two whoppers when he said he secured military personnel a 10 percent pay hike because it was their first raise in 10 years. (He has told the second lie — first pay raise in 10 years — several times.) In reality, the troops have received a pay raise every year for the last decade, and this year’s increase was 2.6 percent as passed by Congress and signed by the president. 

Now, the audience listening to these claims received the military pay. This was not some obscure statement requiring sophisticated knowledge of the internet to perform a Google search. The soldiers presumably know how often they receive a pay hike and how much. After all, they merely have to look at their pay stubs or bank balances. So, why tell such a lie? In this case, it is probably a combination of Trump’s wishing it were true (after all, he does more for the military than any other president, right?) and his desire to ingratiate himself to his listeners. Or, perhaps, Trump believes his own lies. He is, after all, so far removed from reality that anything is possible. 

So, what should be done? The United States is stuck with a leader who is clueless, unprepared, never considers the consequences of his actions, has no hold on reality, lies incessantly, and demonstrates no inclination to change his ways. If the men and women around Trump had any courage they would invoke the 25th Amendment and remove the president from office. Since that is not likely to happen, the incoming Democratic House must impeach and put the onus on the Republican-controlled Senate to remove Trump. 

Posted December 28, 2018

2 Responses to “Our Clueless President

  • Jennifer Watt:

    Truly scary times! I wonder what is the correct diagnosis is for his psychosis? Sadly, the situation will get worse, before it will be corrected. So unfortunate for all and our country’s history. Thank you Judah!