A President Who Is Unmindful of Common Things

Color me “not surprised” that Trump said something idiotic during his interview with Sean Hannity last night.

“The country – we took it over and owed over $20 trillion. As you know the last eight years, they borrowed more than it did in the whole history of our country. So they borrowed more than $10 trillion, right? And yet, we picked up $5.2 trillion just in the stock market,” Trump told Sean Hannity. “So you could say, in one sense, we’re really increasing values. And maybe in a sense, we’re reducing debt. But we’re very honored by it.”

On the content, Steve Benen reacts with this:

This is gibberish. They’re the remarks of someone who doesn’t know what the national debt is. Or how the nation’s finances work. Or even how money works.

As is so often the case with this president, the line between what he doesn’t know and what he lies about is difficult to discern. I’ll simply remind you that this is the guy who brags about being the “king of debt,” and leave it at that.

Within that statement is something we often see from Trump. When he talks about the past in this country, he uses pronouns like “they” and “it.” When he refers to his administration, he uses “we.” Keep an eye out for that because he does it all the time. It is not simply in reference to the Obama presidency. As you can see in the quote above, he uses “it” to refer to this country when talking about our entire history of debt.

I put that pattern right alongside his statement during the campaign about how “I alone can fix it.” When he refers to this country as “they” or “it,” he is expressing the division he wants to exploit between our country’s past and his presidency. Doesn’t sound very patriotic, does it? But ultimately he centering himself as the only thing that matters.

To dig a little deeper into this, let’s take a look at something Jeff Greenfield wrote on the question of the significance of presidential intelligence. He’s responding to Trump’s suggestion that he and Sec. of State Tillerson compare IQ scores. Greenfield does a brief review of a few theories on the topic, but then ends with what might be the best statement on Trump’s unfitness for office that I have read so far.

There is, of course, one aspect of intelligence that no president should be without. If we ever had a president who evidenced a deep ignorance of, say, American history, or how the Constitution works, or the interplay of international relations, a president who filtered everything through his or her sense of self-esteem, that president would deserve the epithet the Ancient Greeks used to describe one who took no interest in public matters.

As the educator Walter Parker explained the origins of the term several years ago, in an essay arguing for greater civic literacy: “When a person’s behavior became idiotic — concerned myopically with private things and unmindful of common things — then the person was believed to be like a rudderless ship, without consequence save for the danger it posed to others.”

We should not call such president a moron — we should call him an idiot.

Do you see how Trump’s myopic concern with private things and his unmindfulness of common things is expressed when he calls this country “they” or “it” prior to the time he was elected president?

As Greenfield suggests, filtering “everything through his or her sense of self-esteem” indicates that Tillerson was wrong. This president is not a moron. That word might be appropriate for someone who simply doesn’t “know what the national debt is. Or how the nation’s finances work. Or even how money works.”

This president is an idiot, in the sense of how the Ancient Greeks understood the word to refer to someone “who took no interest in public matters.” That is why he poses a danger and is therefore, unfit for office.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.