Today, The Economist, Time, and NBC News all published (or in the case of NBC News, aired) interviews given by Donald Trump. The interview barrage comes in the wake of the President’s sudden and bizarre decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, a move that bears more than a passing resemblance to your garden-variety obstruction of justice. In the interviews, Trump muses on a number of topics in his free-wheeling way, proudly displaying his pervasive ignorance and appalling disregard for the truth.
I’ve written before about Trump’s basic ignorance, but it’s worth dwelling on. The President of the United States does not know what he is talking about. He has shown this in a variety of settings and formats on a vast universe of subjects. This ignorance was on full display during the campaign, and being president has not tempered it.
There is too much in these interviews to discuss in detail, but here’s a non-exhaustive list of topics the President covered (and usually, lied about):
- Trump contradicted his own administration’s narrative, saying it was he who decided to fire Comey, and that he would have done it even if the Department of Justice had not recommended it. (White House press secretary Sean Spicer, on Tuesday night, claimed that he “acted on the recommendations of” the DOJ, and that “It was all [Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein]. No one from the White House. That was a DOJ decision.”
- He claimed, against all available evidence, that he “understood everything there was to know about healthcare.”
- Trump claimed that he convinced (or ordered) the Navy to scrap its digital catapulting system on aircraft carriers, and go back to “goddamned steam.” (The Navy was apparently “blindsided” by the claim.)
- Trump guessed he is getting “A’s and A+’s” on his foreign policy decisions.
- Trump asserted, somewhat implausibly, that he has a “great relationship” with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, “one of the best.” (They’ve met once, and the meeting was, by all appearances, a chilly one.)
- He pointed out emphatically that “nobody else could have” negotiated the release of now former Egyptian prisoner Aya Hijazi.
- Trump claimed that he is getting “billions, and billions, and billions and billions of dollars” from other NATO countries. (He still seems confused on the point that nobody in NATO pays money to the United States or NATO.)
- He said, again, that China stopped manipulating their currency after he raised the issue (they’ve been propping up their currency since at least 2014).
- He pointed to a supposed $15 billion trade deficit with Canada (we have a trade surplus with them).
- He claimed Ronald Reagan’s 1986 tax reform bill increased the deficit (it did not).
- He claimed to have invented the widely-known and widely-used term “priming the pump.”
- He claimed the American Health Care Act that just passed the House of Representatives would save the federal government “anywhere from $400bn to $900bn.” (The CBO estimated the bill would save about $337 billion).
- He claimed the AHCA “gets rid of state lines” (it does not).
- Trump pointed to the $8 billion added into the AHCA to fund high-risk pools as a evidence that they would ensure “absolute guaranteed coverage” (funding high-risk pools would probably cost at least $25 billion a year).
- He said the AHCA would lower deductibles and premiums (there is no provision in the bill to make these things happen).
And on and on it goes.
Trump’s knowledge-base is about what you would expect of someone who gets all their news from watching cable television. Half-formed thoughts drive his discourse; shallow insights play on repeat. Winning arguments are made by amping up the volume and giving the least ground. Trump has access to plenty of information, but he seems to lack both the patience and the humility to allow himself to be taught. He prefers talking heads on TV, the characters in his favorite drama.