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Thursday, September 06, 2018

5th graders are much more sophisticated

by digby

Trump gave an interview to the Daily Caller in the wake of the Woodward book. Here he is "explaining" that he thinks the United States is little more than a protection racket:

POTUS: “Yeah, I mean and I say to myself ‘OK, you have a country, it’s immensely wealthy, we’re guarding it. We’re spending tremendous amounts, billions of dollars to guard and they’re not reimbursing us. Why? I’ll be honest, I’ve asked countries, I’ve said, you’ve got to reimburse us. First, they don’t even understand the question. Within five minutes, they agree.”

THE DAILY CALLER: “Can you give us an example?”

POTUS: “They actually, no, but you’ll be seeing things come out. I’ll talk to you. They actually can’t believe they’ve gotten away with it for so long. I had one guy say ‘we knew you were going to be asking.’ Like they can’t believe it took so long. These are really wealthy — there are actually many of them. But these are really wealthy, really successful. They spend very little, I’ll give you an example, is NATO.

So we’re paying anywhere from 70-90 percent the cost of NATO to guard Europe. OK? Against Russia. We’re spending — you know, mostly against Russia. So, we’re spending 70-90 percent. Now a lot of people think, ‘oh it’s great for us.’ It’s great for Europe. OK? It’s not great for us. It’s great for Europe. And that’s OK. But they got to pay their share. So, I went there and I had a very successful meeting. And I was able to get them to spend big, last year, just with a low key meeting they paid $43 billion more. OK? As Stoltenberg said. This year it’s much more than that. They’ve gone way up. But you know, I don’t know if you’ve looked, NATO spending was going this way — people weren’t paying, you know why, cause no one was really asking. Our past presidents would go in, they’d make a little speech, ‘hey we’d like you to pay your bills’ and they’d leave and that would be the last thing. Ask, you may want to call him, but ask Stoltenberg what he thinks because he’s my biggest fan in a sense cause he can’t believe what’s happened. Now these countries are paying.

One of the best meetings, one of the most successful meetings I had was with President Putin. But the press, it was fake news. It was a great meeting. We had a great meeting. It’s good if we get along with Russia, not bad. And it’s good if we get along with China and now we’re in very much of a trade situation with them.

But we can’t allow them to take $500 billion out of our country every year. With Russia we had a very good meeting, but if you read the papers, it’s just all fake news. You know, we talked about Syria, we talked about Ukraine, we talked about Israel and protecting Israel. We had a great meeting and then I guess they wanted me to get into a boxing match with him on the podium. It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever seen.”

Yes, he is a simpleton. And it's the reason that Mattis said he had the mind of a 5th or 6th grader:

According to Woodward, Trump at one point asked his military leaders why the United States couldn't just withdraw from the Korean Peninsula. They explained to him that it would mean we wouldn't know about North Korean missile launches for 15 minutes rather than learning about them almost instantly, within seven seconds. This is the flap that led Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to reportedly suggest Trump was intellectually and temperamentally akin to “a fifth- or sixth-grader."

What The Washington Post's story Tuesday didn't detail, though, is that this exchange didn't happen early in Trump's presidency; it came on Jan. 19, 2018 — almost exactly one full year into it. It came months after North Korea had threatened an attack on Guam, a U.S. territory in the Pacific Ocean. It also came a couple months after North Korea said it had developed a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that could reach the continental United States.

What got Mattis's goat, according to the book, was that he felt like they'd had this exact conversation many times before, and Trump refused to either remember or process it. As Mattis explained the reasons for a U.S.-South Korean alliance, Trump repeatedly returned to the idea that the United States is running a trade deficit with South Korea — suggesting the alliance was hurting the American economy. Mattis tried to explain that having troops in South Korea was actually the most cost-effective — and effective, period — means of preventing World War III. Trump, who often seems to misunderstand what exactly a trade deficit means, wouldn't have it.

"But we're losing so much money in trade with South Korea and others,” Trump pushes back at one point, according to Woodward.

At another: “We're spending massive amounts for very rich countries who aren't burden-sharing."

And at another: “I think we could be so rich if we weren't so stupid. We're being played [as] suckers, especially NATO."

Trump would argue this was merely him “question[ing] everybody and everything,” but it didn't seem to come off that way to Mattis. According to Woodward's reporting, it seemed to be Trump asking the same dumb middle-school-esque questions for the millionth time. And it drew a curt rebuke from Mattis that took those in the room aback.

He cannot learn. Which means that Mattis was being insulting to 5th and 6th graders with his comparison.