This post my Josh over at Talking Points Memo kind of say what I’ve been thinking for a long, long time:
What is endearing, terrifying and hilarious about Trump is not simply his ignorance, really his militant ignorance, but his complete lack of self-awareness about his ignorance. Trump told a reporter for The Wall Street Journal that his understanding of the problem of North Korea changed dramatically after hearing ten minutes of history from the President of China. Needless to say, Trump didn’t need to admit this. But neither was it candor.
So far the Trump Presidency has been a sort of Mr Magoo performance art in which the comically ignorant Trump learns elemental or basic things that virtually everyone in the world of politics or government already knew—things that the majority of adults probably know. Health Care: “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.” North Korea: “I felt pretty strongly that they had tremendous power. But it’s not what you think.” There are perhaps half a dozen examples equally stark.
In other words, President Trump is open about his discoveries and even eager to share them but universally projects his previous state of comical ignorance onto the general public or whomever he is talking to. In other cases, this would make sense. If Trump discovered that humans could fly if they hold their nose, close one eye and say “Shazam!” I’d want to know. Because that’s awesome. And I wouldn’t think worse of Trump for not knowing it before. Because this is new and amazing information. But learning that health care policy is complicated is a different kind of discovery.
What is key though is to understand that this is not just ignorance. Ignorance is just the first stage of Trump’s fairly advanced problem. He is not only ignorant but clearly unaware of his level of ignorance. This is compounded by a seeming inability to understand that everyone else isn’t equally ignorant to him. Those of us who are parents know the wonder of discovery experienced by small children. They find out there were things such as dinosaurs or close primate relatives called lemurs. As loving parents we indulge them, sometimes feigning ignorance of things we actually already knew to support a child’s joy in discovery.
But Donald Trump is a 70 year old man. And not a terribly nice man.
His ignorance is not endearing. We don’t need to lie to him to make him feel good about himself. Still it is good to understand his condition. Ignorance is just lack of information. But there’s something wrong with Trump’s brain—maybe cognitive, perhaps simple entitlement or just broad spectrum derp – which appears to make it genuinely impossible not to project his own ignorance onto everybody else.
In my advertising days I worked with some of the most high-tech companies in the world. I was very good at being able to understand this or that in enough detail to sit in a room with industry experts and develop both an advertising strategy and campaign. I like to joke I earned the respect of my clients because it wasn’t beneath me to admit I know what I don’t know, stop a meeting and ask for something to be explained in more detail.
I know on many topics my knowledge is a mile wide and about a foot deep. I like to think I am self-aware enough to know this and understand both the benefits and limitations. It is clear Trump is neither of these and he is the “Leader of the Free World.” That freaks me out.