An amazing mind says amazing things. Trump says many amazing things, but not because they’re brilliant or clever or funny or heart-stopping. His words are amazing for their ignorance, their cluelessness, and perhaps most of all because he thinks he is profound. His words reveal the real Trump and so they are worth listening to.
“Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.” At the bottom of that is “I didn’t know health care could be so complicated.” Political health care discussions have been going on all Trump’s life, from before the creation of Medicare in 1965. But because he didn’t know it, nobody knew it. His amazing ignorance is matched by an amazing assumption of superiority – nobody knows things that he doesn’t know.
For Trump there are no experts whose knowledge would be useful to him. Scientists, historians, intelligence operative, generals, legal scholars, and other politicians have nothing to offer him that he doesn’t already know.
He was widely quoted and widely ridiculed for this amazing statement on a June 2015 Fox News interview: “There’s nobody bigger or better at the military than I am.” He’s better because he knows more, as he said in November 2015: “I know more about ISIS than the generals do. Believe me.”
Trump knows more than scientists about most scientific subjects. He has claimed that scientists are wrong about the dangers of fracking and the lack of danger of vaccines. He finds perils in light bulbs: “Remember, new ‘environment friendly’ lightbulbs can cause cancer. Be careful-- the idiots who came up with this stuff don’t care.” Wind farms are health hazards, too.
How does Trump know what he claims to know? He has said at many times that he doesn’t read books because he is too busy. Tony Schwartz, ghostwriter of “The Art of the Deal”, said that he “never saw a book on Trump’s desk, or elsewhere in his office, or in his apartment” in the 18 months he spent with Trump.
He reads newspapers, even those he constantly labels “fake news”, like the New York Times and the Washington Post. But when he makes speeches, he only cites them to say they are making things up.
His comments about science often reveal how he knows so much: he finds internet articles by cranks and quacks, who advance outlandish ideas that he likes. He doesn’t care whether they are true or false, just that they appear to support ideas he is pushing.
Whom does Trump cite when he wants to back up what he claims? He said that the National Enquirer should win the Pulitzer Prize for reporting. The Enquirer endorsed Trump during the Republican primaries and ran stories which denigrated his opponents. He said they “have a very good record of being right.” He was probably pleased about their stories that Ted Cruz and Mario Rubio were cheating on their wives, and that the Obamas were always about to get a divorce.
He likes Infowars hosted by Alex Jones, one of America’s leading conspiracy theorists, who also supported Trump during the campaign. Jones promoted the “theories” that our government blew up the World Trade Center, that gun control advocates created the “hoax” that 20 children were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, and that the government is poisoning our water with fluoride. Jones strongly pushed the idea that Obama was born in Africa, which Trump used to vault himself to political prominence. He was an early proponent of the claim adopted by Trump that millions of illegal aliens voted for Hillary Clinton. He claimed that “Obama Surveilled Entire Trump Family For 8 Years”, including Trump’s children, even before he ran for President.
Breitbart might be Trump’s favorite source of “news”. Steve Bannon took over the site when Andrew Breitbart died suddenly in 2012. Bannon became Trump’s chief strategist three months before the 2016 election, encouraging him to see the entire mainstream media as purveyors of “fake news”.
Fact-checkers of Trump’s speeches and tweets constantly discover that he gets facts wrong and tells lies. They don’t go further to figure out where he gets his information. Trump doesn’t mostly make up the untruths he tells the world. He takes them from these professional spreaders of political lies.
Our President spreads nonsense from nonsense sites. Alex Jones has that our government is supporting “homosexuality with chemicals so that people don't have children”. But in court trying to win a custody case against his former wife, Jones’ lawyer said, “He’s playing a character. He is a performance artist.” His lawyer said Jones is as serious about his political claims as Jack Nicholson was when he played the Joker.
But Trump takes his “news” from supermarket tabloids and their internet equivalents. He said, “You can’t knock the National Enquirer. It’s brought many things to light, not all of them pleasant.”
Here’s what is unpleasant. Presidential policy is based on nonsense.
Published in the Jacksonville Journal-Courier, June 13, 2017