The Inuit are supposed to have dozens of words to describe snow. The Brits have endless ways to talk about rain. Now it’s time for Americans to delineate all the many ways that Donald Trump is dumb.
If Bob Woodward’s new blockbuster teaches us anything new about the character of the 45th president, it’s that we don’t yet have the words to describe the multiple variants of the vacuum inside his head.
There’s the stupidity of arrogance, the stupidity of ignorance and his old friend: the stupidity of blatant duplicity. There’s his homicidal stupidity, his traitorous stupidity, his criminally corrupt stupidity and his plain old infantile stupidity.
Let’s start with the top of this taxonomy: the domain of Donald’s dumbness. At his core, the former reality TV star is a particularly stupid man who thinks he is very smart. Or as he prefers to call his own character, “a very stable genius”.
Perhaps, just maybe, this lies at the root of his monumentally dumb decision to grant Woodward 18 interviews, on the record and on tape.
Maintaining a modicum of self-restraint would be an overwhelming challenge for this president for the duration of just one response to one question. Over the course of many hours of conversation, after business hours in the executive mansion, even the ultra-disciplined Barack Obama would struggle to keep his guard up.
Instead, our very stupid genius vomited up all manner of secrets that collectively prove beyond all reasonable doubt that he represents the greatest single danger to the fate of both the American people and to himself.
How do we classify the stupidity of blabbing the greatest secret of them all: that he knew all along how Covid-19 was deadly and easily transmissible? We now know that in late January, his national security adviser told him the coronavirus was the “biggest national security threat” of his presidency. A week later, he told Woodward that the disease was “more deadly even than your strenuous flus”.
Did he bother to share this with the American people so they could protect their own lives? Not quite. For the rest of February and March, he told the world it would disappear like a miracle, that it was no worse than the flu. “I wanted to always play it down,” he told Woodward. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”
This from a president whose entire re-election campaign rests on injecting panic in white voters like bleach.
For some time we have misclassified Trump’s botched pandemic response as the stupidity of ignorance. But it turns out to be a hybrid specimen of the stupidities of arrogance and duplicity. Certainly within the homicidal genus. The scientific world should take note.
Our proof was on display on Wednesday as it emerged from – where else? – the blabbing hole of the presidential mouth at his own press conference. “So the fact is, I’m a cheerleader for this country. I love our country. And I don’t want people to be frightened,” he told reporters. “We want to show confidence. We want to show strength.”
Nothing says confidence or strength quite like 190,000 dead citizens. And nothing blows up your pushback against Woodward (“another political hit job”) like admitting to your arrogance and duplicity at a press conference.
Sometimes there are actual reasons for people to be frightened. Sometimes your citizens need to take appropriate measures to protect themselves and their country. One of those times is when they have a colossally cretinous commander-in-chief.
The stupidity of arrogance is the only way to classify Trump’s blithe declassification of the existence of a secret nuclear program, in one of his many happy-go-lucky chit-chats with the man who destroyed the Nixon presidency.
“I have built a nuclear – a weapons system that nobody’s ever had in this country before. We have stuff that you haven’t even seen or heard about. We have stuff that Putin and Xi have never heard about before,” said the leader of the free world, making sure that the Russian and Chinese leaders have now heard about his super-duper-secret new weapons system. Woodward reports that his sources were surprised that Trump had revealed its existence.
It’s hard to be in stealth mode when your leader’s loose lips are busy sinking ships.
This possibly sits within the traitorous genus of stupidity, although there are multiple specimens of this. So many, in fact, that the wise old men who sullied their reputations by serving him decided that Something Must Be Done.
Woodward recounts that Jim Mattis, Trump’s defense secretary, went to the national cathedral to pray for the nation, and emerged to tell Dan Coats, Trump’s intelligence chief, that “there may come a time when we have to take collective action”. This appears to be a reference to the cabinet invoking the 25th amendment to remove an incapacitated president from office.
In reality, despite all that praying, it was Mattis and Coats who were incapacitated: they knew Trump was a danger to the republic but couldn’t bring themselves to say such things to the world in real time. Coats himself came to believe that “Putin had something on Trump” but couldn’t figure out what it was. What’s the point of being smart if you’re constantly outplayed by someone so stupid?
Because of their failures to act, we now have an intelligence community that suppresses warnings about Russian election interference and white supremacist terrorists, while hyping conspiracies about antifa. You could say this was an impeachable state of affairs, but Republican senators have developed a new stupidity of cowardice.
Like all truly stupid people, Trump thinks he’s rather brilliant at identifying the intelligence of those around him. He thinks that George W Bush is “a stupid moron” and that Barack Obama isn’t smart but instead “highly overrated” – and a poor speaker to boot. A broken clock may be right twice a day, but it still can’t tell the time.
Of course it takes a village of idiots to create this Olympic-sized village idiot. So it is comforting to learn that Jared Kushner has identified the problem in this White House. The president’s son-in-law likes to think of himself as the best and brightest of Trump’s bozos, but we can all see him as a classic cross-breed of corrupt and infantile stupidity.
“The most dangerous people around the president are overconfident idiots,” Kushner told Woodward, apparently referring to people like Mattis.
The irony gods have truly bequeathed us a feast of overconfident idiots. We shall celebrate it each year in November, once we think of the right word to define their dangerous mix of overconfidence and idiocy. Because snowflake seems such an innocent way to describe such stupid men.