Trump’s Incurable Incompetence
Reprinted with permission from Creators.
In May 2017, Donald Trump met in the Oval Office with the Russian ambassador and the Russian foreign minister and did something appalling: He tossed out highly classified details about an Islamic State plot provided by Israeli intelligence, which could have revealed the source of the information and how it was obtained.
It was a major blunder, the product of a new president’s bravado and unfamiliarity with the need to protect secrets. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker said, “There’s some alignments that need to take place over there, and I think they’re fully aware of that.” The Israelis downplayed the leak. It was easy to see this as a rookie mistake that Trump would learn from.
But after visiting American troops in Baghdad on Wednesday, he tweeted a video of him with Navy SEALs, showing their faces — in disregard of the military’s policy of carefully protecting the identities of special operations forces. Again Trump exposed people on our side to possibly lethal consequences without a second thought, or a first one.
It was another rookie mistake, by someone who no longer has the excuse of being new to the job. Having no experience in politics, government or the military, Trump apparently faced a steep learning curve. But it turns out that he has no learning curve, because he is incapable of learning.
His brain is shielded by a concrete border wall that repels any unwelcome facts or obligations. At the same time, it locks in the motley collection of myths, prejudices, grudges, habits and addled opinions that he has accumulated over the years.
In the past, the White House has been staffed with savvy aides who could keep the president from making a fool of himself. But if they exist in this administration, they are out of the loop. Nearly halfway through his term, Trump is still revealing new ways in which he is simply awful at his job — the important stuff, the trivial stuff and everything in between.
He failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, despite Republican control of Congress, partly because he didn’t know enough to be able to negotiate. He got Congress to approve only a tiny fraction of the $1.5 trillion he promised for infrastructure.
The turnover rate among his Cabinet officers and other high-level appointees has greatly exceeded the norm. That’s not counting the many jobs that couldn’t turn over because they were never filled. Eighteen countries lack U.S. ambassadors because Trump hasn’t nominated anyone.
His tenure has been a catalog of unforced errors. What other president would insist on shutting down part of the federal government because Congress refused to fund something that he said Mexico would pay for?
What other president would appoint a Federal Reserve chairman and, a year later, roil markets by talking privately about firing him? What other president would visit troops in Iraq and claim to have conferred their first pay raise in a decade, one amounting to 10 percent — neither of which is true?
Only Trump could botch a Christmas Eve phone conversation with a 7-year-old by casting doubt on the existence of Santa Claus. Or use the White House Easter Egg Roll to tell children about the $700 billion he’s spending on the military. Or address a Boy Scout jamboree in such a boorish way that the organization apologized for his words.
The president has a dark obsession with the investigation being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller. But it came about only because he fired FBI Director James Comey — a decision that Trump’s own former adviser Steve Bannon has described as possibly the worst mistake in modern political history.
It was just another product of Trump’s sloppy, reckless style. Cocooned in ignorance and enslaved by impulse, he spurns the guidance of people who have expertise and experience. He doesn’t know much, doesn’t know what he doesn’t know, doesn’t learn and doesn’t care.
As a result, we have a president who, after meeting with a murderous North Korean despot who has nuclear weapons that could be delivered to the United States, effused, “We fell in love.” The same president attended the Army-Navy football game to perform the coin toss — and demonstrated that he literally doesn’t know how to flip a coin.
Each day is a chance for Trump to expose his incompetence at every element of his job, no matter how big or small. Each day, he seizes the opportunity.
Steve Chapman blogs at http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chapman. Follow him on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.