Vicious feral instinct and nothing else
As you watch the new presidency unfold, remember this interview from last summer:
He said in a series of interviews that he does not need to read extensively because he reaches the right decisions “with very little knowledge other than the knowledge I [already] had, plus the words ‘common sense,’ because I have a lot of common sense and I have a lot of business ability.”
Trump said he is skeptical of experts because “they can’t see the forest for the trees.” He believes that when he makes decisions, people see that he instinctively knows the right thing to do: “A lot of people said, ‘Man, he was more accurate than guys who have studied it all the time.’ ”
Trump’s approach to understanding complex issues and reaching decisions is not unique in the annals of the presidency. Historians who have studied presidential styles depict a divide between men such as President Obama or presidents Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon, who were given to reading extensively ahead of important decisions, and presidents Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, who preferred to have issues presented to them in short memos or orally.
“We’ve had good presidents of both styles,” said David Greenberg, a presidency historian at Rutgers University. “There’s a kind of danger when intellectuals and journalists see these presidents who don’t read much and scorn them as being not so swift. There’s some political prejudice there on the part of liberals against these business types who have a different executive style.”
Trump’s approach goes beyond the chief executive manner of Reagan or the younger Bush. “We’ve had presidents who have reveled in their lack of erudition,” said Allan Lichtman, a political historian at American University, citing Warren Harding and Lyndon Johnson as leaders who scoffed at academics and other experts. “But Trump is really something of an outlier with this idea that knowing things is almost a distraction. He doesn’t have a historical anchor, so you see his gut changing on issues from moment to moment.”
One day last month, Trump had a visit from a delegation of prominent executives in the oil, steel and retail industries, and one of the executives told Trump that the Chinese were taking advantage of the United States. “He said, ‘I’d like to send you a report,’ ” Trump recalled. “He said, ‘I’d love to be able to send you’ — oh boy, he’s got a lengthy report, hundreds of pages. . . . I said, ‘Do me a favor: Don’t send me a report. Send me, like, three pages.’ ”
Trump said reading long documents is a waste of time because he absorbs the gist of an issue very quickly. “I’m a very efficient guy,” he said. “Now, I could also do it verbally, which is fine. I’d always rather have — I want it short. There’s no reason to do hundreds of pages because I know exactly what it is.”
Trump is certainly an instinctive guy. he's very good at some things, no doubt about it. He didn't inherit the presidency like he inherited his fortune. He earned it by getting something about the American people that nobody else did.
But being president isn't the same thing at all. Eisenhower, Reagan and Junior Bush all had trusted advisers who knew how the government worked. Trump is hiring people with no experience, radical (and sometimes competing) agendas and questionable motives. And he is a megalomaniac who will have to be coddled into thinking everything is his idea which, considering who he's surrounding himself with, is terrifying.
The man is an imbecile when it comes to knowledge. But he's a highly skilled instinctive demagogue. I can't conceive of a worse combination.
But we knew that didn't we?