Last Friday Trump gave the Associated Press a self-damning interview. We could focus on many points, but this was the highlight:
TRUMP: “They had a quote from me that NATO’s obsolete. But they didn’t say why it was obsolete. I was on Wolf Blitzer, very fair interview, the first time I was ever asked about NATO because I wasn’t in government. People don’t go around asking about NATO if I’m building a building in Manhattan, right? So they asked me, Wolf … asked me about NATO, and I said two things. NATO’s obsolete — not knowing much about NATO, now I know a lot about NATO — NATO is obsolete, and I said, “And the reason it’s obsolete is because of the fact they don’t focus on terrorism.” You know, back when they did NATO there was no such thing as terrorism.”
In trying to defend his inconsistent statements, he finally admits it. He admits to taking a ludicrous position on an international alliance to avoid admitting he knew nothing about it. He admits to sending our allies into a panic because he didn’t want his ignorance to show.
It isn’t just about his ego, of course. Sure, he didn’t want to be seen as weak or soft on any subject. Sure, he didn’t want to appear unqualified. Sure, he wanted to take tough and decisive and controversial positions to pour some more gasoline on the roaring frenzy of his base.
But there’s the problem: he was ignorant. He was weak on this subject. He was unqualified! And what was his excuse?
“People don’t go around asking about NATO if I’m building a building in Manhattan, right?”
Right. Exactly right. They don’t ask businessmen and engineers and architects and real estate moguls and television celebrities hard questions about NATO—because those people shouldn’t be in charge of world affairs.
And yet he was running to do exactly that. To become that person who would make decisions that would have ramifications that ripple around the world.
To those of us paying even a modicum of critical attention to Trump’s presidential campaign, this ignorance was obvious from the start. It was perfectly clear he was making it up as he went along, and we in the Never Trump movement tried to point this out to people. The nuclear triad. “The cyber.” Mexico will pay for the wall. We have a secret plan to destroy ISIS and take the oil. We’ll just remove the lines around the states and it’s going to be great. All of your wildest dreams will come true, and all in the first one hundred days.
The words of a seasoned con man. This charlatan conned his way to the presidency the way a freshman would BS a college essay for a book they haven’t read. He knew nothing but felt compelled to put forth a dangerous opinion anyway. Even up until right before he was inaugurated, he was calling NATO “obsolete.” And he’s still doing it. NATO didn’t include anything about terrorism, he says? Right, except Article 5 of the treaty was invoked after September 11 to send troops from the International Security Assistance Force to Afghanistan.
Trump constantly made exaggerated promises that excited his base. Obviously, politicians are going to make promises they don’t end up keeping once in office for one reason or another. But the scope of Trump’s lies were staggering. And while those empty promises kept his base rabid and hungry for more, they did communicate at least one true thing to the rest of us: he had no idea what it would be like to be president. No idea how to actually fulfill these ridiculous promises and make his constituency’s wildest dreams come true.
“Trust me,” he repeated, giving no other basis for this faith than his own wealth. “Believe me.”
But then, of course, came this confession a month into his administration: “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.”
Nobody? Actually, the rest of us did. We knew it was extraordinarily complex (which is one of the reasons conservatives took issue with the federal government messing with it; there would be unintended consequences, and look, there are). So why, again, should we have trusted him, believed him? We knew it wouldn’t be as simple as, “We’ll take care of everybody,” as Trump said on the campaign trail. We knew it would take people who have studied it for years, who have made it their everyday concern.
But the base wanted an outsider, not the usual politician. The base wanted someone who wouldn’t be beholden to the usual forms and traditional trappings and casual corruption of Washington. They wanted someone who would cut through the nonsense, push aside the BS and make decisions. Trump said he’d be that person.
Now he’s admitting that he, as an outsider, really couldn’t have known that that kind of thing wasn’t easy.
This isn’t to say an outsider can’t be president. Carly Fiorina, businesswoman extraordinaire, would have made an excellent president. Disagree with her policy positions all you want, but she was serious, and she was principled, and she could articulate the principles of conservatism in impressive and persuasive ways. She also knew every facet of the issues she campaigned on and proved willing to study those for which she didn’t have a natural background.
In other words, she was intellectually qualified.
Trump wasn’t. And the real problem wasn’t that he wasn’t qualified—it was that he didn’t even care to try to qualify himself. He felt popularity and posturing were enough—and unfortunately, so did too many Republicans.
The world will reap the rewards.