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“No ‘Great Brain’ Here”: Donald Trump Has Never Had Any Idea What He Was Talking About. We Only Just Noticed

Usually it is fine not to have any idea what you are talking about.

But for a presidential candidate it can be a little awkward.

Asked by Bob Woodward what made Abraham Lincoln succeed, Donald Trump offered the following response:

“Well,” Trump said, “I think Lincoln succeeded for numerous reasons. He was a man who was of great intelligence, which most presidents would be. But he was a man of great intelligence, but he was also a man that did something that was a very vital thing to do at that time. Ten years before or 20 years before, what he was doing would never have even been thought possible. So he did something that was a very important thing to do, and especially at that time.” And then he started to ramble about Richard Nixon.

As Katherine Miller asked on Twitter, “Does Donald Trump know what Lincoln did as president?”

Most of us go through life pretending to know many things about which, in fact, we have no idea. Usually this is fine. This is the foundation on which all conversation is built. If you admit the contrary, everything would screech to a halt. So instead you listen and nod and say, “I don’t think that goes far enough” or “I couldn’t have said it better myself!” at intervals.

You can have a long discussion about the TPP and only discover months later that one of the people discussing it with you thought that it was some sort of innovation in toilet paper. (In retrospect, this explains some of why the discussion got so heated, though by no means all.)

Usually this is innocuous. There is just too much TV for us to have watched it all, and pretending you have can sometimes save a relationship.

There are many conversational gambits for not appearing ignorant of the thing that everyone else in the room appears to know about. One is that you wait for someone else to say something, and then you say, “I agree with Marco, but I think we need to go much further.” Another is you say one thing, and then you pretend it was a joke when everyone stares at you in horror, and then you say the opposite. Another tactic is to pretend you did not hear the question. Or you can divert the conversation from the thing you were just asked that you in fact know nothing about to something that you do know about. You can do this with varying degrees of subtlety, as Trump has the whole campaign.

But if someone asks you point-blank, “What is my fiance’s name?” you can’t say, “Look, fundamentally, it all comes down to breaking up the banks.”

When we do it, it’s fine. We could Google it any time we want. We need these little concessions.

But when a candidate does it —

The trick of turning these into gaffes is that there are some things that everyone knows, in theory. The capitals of countries. Who’s on the supreme court. How the electoral college works.

In theory, we know this. But in practice, there is genuine dramatic tension in “Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader” — because there are many things we have agreed that Everyone Knows that, in fact, maybe six people know off the top of their heads. But then there are things everyone actually does know in practice, and those are the stuff of which gaffes are made. How a grocery checkout works. That John Wayne and John Wayne Gacy are not the same. What Abraham Lincoln did.

Now Trump and Bernie Sanders, the two most consistent and exciting candidates, are being hoist by their own transcripts. Sanders kept trying to insist that the answer to every foreign policy question was a vote he had made in 2002. Which — okay? It works without a follow-up. But with follow-up, it can be devastating. (Daily News: “Where would a President Sanders imprison, interrogate? What would you do?” Sanders: “Actually I haven’t thought about it a whole lot.”)

Trump’s charisma has been hard to quell. Insinuating that all his fans were failures and bigots didn’t do it. But revealing that he is not, in fact, smarter than a fifth grader — that he lacks a “great brain” — just might.

The great sustaining myth of Trump was that behind the scenes there was a guy who knew what he was doing and that he would eventually emerge from the fray and be “so presidential” that “you will be bored to tears.”

Up until this past week, Trump had managed to coast by on charisma for the 30 seconds of answer required.

Here he is at the first debate:

BAIER: His name is General Qassem Soleimani, he’s blamed for hundreds of U.S. troops death in Iraq, and Afghanistan. His trip to Russia appears to directly violate U.N. Security Council resolutions to confine him to Iran. So, Mr. Trump, if you were president, how would you respond to this?

TRUMP: I would be so different from what you have right now. Like, the polar opposite. We have a president who doesn’t have a clue. I would say he’s incompetent, but I don’t want to do that because that’s not nice. (Applause, laughter)

What?

But remove the laughter and the applause and you have — a man who is very clearly not answering the question and is fumbling around for an answer until he finds an applause-worthy talking point. And when he has to answer a question for more than 30 seconds, that becomes painfully obvious.

“I have a great brain” is a nice, easy statement to disprove.

Read any transcript and it is just The Donald helplessly repeating the same simple third-grade-level phrases over and over again. It’s not presidential, just boring.

 

By: Alexandra Petri, ComPost Blog, Opinion Pages, The Washington Post, April 8, 2016

April 10, 2016 Posted by | Abraham Lincoln, Donald Trump | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Republican Political Sideshow”: GOP Riling Up The Base For Fundraising Purposes

President Obama hosted another White House press conference this morning, this time standing alongside Prime Minister David Cameron, and addressed the stories that seem to be dominating the political world’s attention.

On the IRS matter, for example, the president joined the bipartisan chorus, insisting that those responsible must be held “fully accountable.” Obama added, “If in fact IRS personnel engaged in the kind of practices that have been reported on and were intentionally targeting conservative groups, then that’s outrageous and there’s no place for it…. I’ve got no patience with it. I will not tolerate it and we will make sure that we find out exactly what happened on this.”

But it was the president’s comments on Benghazi that were of particular interest.

Obama appeared eager to resolve the matter once and for all. This is a little long, but it’s worth your time:

“The whole issue of talking points, frankly, throughout this process has been a sideshow….[T]he emails that you allude to were provided by us to congressional committees. They reviewed them several months ago, concluded that in fact there was nothing afoul in terms of the process that we had used. And suddenly, three days ago, this gets spun up as if there’s something new to the story. There’s no ‘there’ there.

“Keep in mind, by the way, these so-called talking points that were prepared for Susan Rice five, six days after the event occurred, pretty much matched the assessments that I was receiving at that time in my presidential daily briefing. And keep in mind that two to three days after Susan Rice appeared on the Sunday shows using these talking points, which have been the source of all this controversy, I sent up the head of our National Counterterrorism Center, Matt Olsen, up to Capitol Hill, and specifically said it was an act of terrorism and that extremist elements inside of Libya had been involved in it.

“So if this was some effort on our part to try to downplay what had happened or tamp it down, that would be a pretty odd thing that three days later we end up putting out all the information that in fact has now served as the basis for everybody recognizing that this was a terrorist attack and that it may have included elements that were planned by extremists inside of Libya.

“Who executes some sort of cover-up or effort to tamp things down for three days? So the whole thing defies logic. And the fact that this keeps on getting churned out, frankly, has a lot to do with political motivations…. They’ve used it for fund-raising.”

These arguments have the added benefit of being true.

If you go through every lingering argument from the right on Benghazi, what we’re left with is one thing: the multiple drafts of the talking points. That’s it. That’s the “scandal.”

And what do the talking points tell us? That there was bureaucratic infighting between State and the CIA. Why is that scandalous? It’s not.

What’s more, I talked to a senior administration official this morning who confirmed with me that there was a March 19 briefing in which all of these materials were shared with House lawmakers. The meeting , led by the General Counsel of the DNI, Robert Litt, included aides to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), and all of the members of the House Intelligence Committee and their staffs. After the briefing, no one, in either party, considered the email drafts controversial.

Two months later, however, we’re supposed to perceive this as Watergate?

There’s no great mystery here — congressional Republicans are manufacturing an outrage, in part to undermine the White House, in part because they hope to tarnish Hillary Clinton, and in part because the GOP sees value in riling up its base for fundraising purposes.

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 13, 2013

May 15, 2013 Posted by | Benghazi, GOP | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Whoops, No One Told The Right That Their Libya Talking Point Doesn’t Work Anymore

It’s obviously premature to celebrate “victory” in Libya when no one knows what will happen next, or how difficult and bloody the process of state-building will be. (And Gadhafi is not yet actually gone.) But the news is good, and Obama’s strategic approach to the conflict — allowing France and NATO to take the lead to minimize the chance that America was seen as leading another Iraq-style war of aggression — seems to have been the right one. (Strategically. Not necessarily legally.) As Steve Kornacki wrote this morning, this should be the end of the “Obama is too weak to lead” talking point from the right. It should be, but … it isn’t.

Today’s Wall Street Journal editorial page takes a break from excusing the criminality of the executives in charge of its parent company to deliver an official house reaction to the developments in Tripoli that starts off cautious and then just descends right back into the exact same lame arguments it’s been using for the last six months:

Having helped to midwife the rebel advances with air power, intelligence and weapons, NATO will have some influence with the rebels in the days ahead. The shame is how much faster Gadhafi might have been defeated, how many fewer people might have been killed, and how much more influence the U.S. might now have, if America had led more forcefully from the beginning.

Planning for this moment is precisely why we and many others had urged the State Department to engage with the rebels from the earliest days of the revolt, but the U.S. was slow to do so and only formally recognized the opposition Transitional National Council in mid-July. The hesitation gave Gadhafi hope that he could hold out and force a stalemate.

Libyans will determine their own future, but the U.S. has a stake in showing the world that NATO’s intervention, however belated and ill-executed, succeeded in its goals of removing a dictator, saving lives, and promoting a new Libyan government that respects its people and doesn’t sponsor global terrorism.

I’m not sure how long the editors of the Wall Street Journal think your average revolution lasts, but assuming Gadhafi’s hold on power is as weak as it appears today, I would argue — as a layman, of course — that NATO’s intervention seems neither “belated” nor “ill-executed.” (I mean, it seems well-executed, in the sense that it seems to have accomplished its goal?)

But it’s the line about America leading “more forcefully from the beginning” that the neocons and GOP hawks will continue to cling to no matter what actually happens in Libya. It’s the same argument BFF Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham used in their joint response to this weekend’s developments: “Americans can be proud of the role our country has played in helping to defeat Qaddafi, but we regret that this success was so long in coming due to the failure of the United States to employ the full weight of our airpower.”

All-out war! From day one! With the full force of American airpower! One definite way to make a civil war faster and less bloody is for a foreign country to enter it fully, right? (It tends to unite the populace, for one thing!) And conflicts are always less bloody when America drops more American bombs. That’s how we won Vietnam!

There’s no point in countering McCain and the Journal’s arguments with reason, of course, because these are not actually fact-based responses to news, they’re just rote recitations of Republican dogma: Obama weak! (Except domestically, where he is an autocrat.)

And this is the “respectable” Republican talking point. The line from the real nuts — I’m guessing something along the lines of “radical Obama allows Muslim Brotherhood to seize control in Libya” — will begin bubbling up from the sewers to talk radio and Fox News and Michele Bachmann’s campaign soon enough.

 

By: Alex Pareene, Salon War Room, August 22, 2011

August 23, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Democrats, Foreign Policy, Gadhafi, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Libya, National Security, Neo-Cons, No Fly Zones, Politics, President Obama, Republicans, Revolution, Right Wing | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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