There’s no good way to put this, so let’s just get the question out there: does America deserve to have a smarter president than Donald Trump?
The current chief executive often touts his own intelligence, challenging others whom he deems as below his abilities to take a competitive IQ test to prove his point — though he never actually schedules, much less fulfills, such a contest, to the disappointment of millions of Americans who want demonstrative proof, one way or another, about the president’s “smarts.”
On the topic of how smart Trump is, there’s some doubt. Some defenders of Trump point out that his success as a businessman is enough proof to showcase that he is a smart individual. There’s a case to be made here, and I would concede Trump is indeed very strategic in his actions.
On the other hand, there’s evidence that suggests Trump isn’t all that smart at all. Disregarding his sentence structure in social media posts he has made (whom among us haven’t flubbed a post here or there?), linguists have examined Trump’s speeches and speaking style, determining that he talks at a 4th-grade level, the lowest rating of the past 15 administrations, Newsweek reported last year.
More examples abound, detailing how Trump’s interactions with experts on the history of the very office he holds demonstrates our current president’s low intelligence and lacking knowledge of basic facts.
It was revealed this week that, back in April 2018, during a guided tour of Mount Vernon (the storied home of our nation’s first president), Trump questioned why George Washington didn’t name the estate after himself, according to reporting from Politico. Trump, whose name adorns plazas, towers, golf courses, and more, was on the tour alongside French President Emmanuel Macron.
Someone should read this article to our poor dumb president https://t.co/bQygWa6ens
— Molly Jong-Fast (@MollyJongFast) April 10, 2019
During the tour of the grounds, the U.S. president seemed disinterested. So the CEO of the Mount Vernon property — Doug Bradburn, a former professor with a history Ph.D. — tried to pique Trump’s interest by pointing out Washington, like the current president, was the equivalent of a real estate investor of his time.
Bradburn’s efforts did indeed get Trump to become more interested — but according to three sources that were on the tour or had knowledge of the interactions, the president began asking some odd questions about the property.
Trump wondered, for example, whether Washington was a wealthy president. Bradburn pointed out that Washington was one of the wealthiest individuals of his time. Trump also questioned why the nation’s first president built a home that had such narrow staircases and small rooms.
He even suggested he could have built the property with a better design than Washington could have — at a lower cost, as well.
According to sources, Bradburn recounted to his associates that Macron seemed more knowledgeable about Washington than did Trump, and that his interactions with the U.S. president were “truly bizarre.” Indeed they are — but they also showcase a president who has no interest in growing his own knowledge when it comes to presidential history.
Most Americans lack a deep understanding of who Washington was, of course, but Trump isn’t supposed to be like most Americans — he’s the president, after all, and we are beholden to his decision-making processes based off of his capacity to know as much of the facts that he possibly can.
Knowing the historical context of the 18th-century conditions Washington lived within is probably something a sitting president won’t have to understand deeply in order to have a functioning White House or be a good president. But what about modern issues? It’s been demonstrated before that Trump is lacking a basic knowledge-base on those as well, including on topics related to nuclear technologies.
Trump, for example, was asked in 2015 during a debate of Republican candidates for president what his opinions were on the nuclear triad, the land- sea- and air-based nuclear arms strategy that “provide 24/7 deterrence to prevent catastrophic actions from our adversaries” according to the Department of Defense. Most Americans probably aren’t aware of what the triad is, or haven’t even heard of it, but for the commander-in-chief of the U.S. armed forces, it should be common knowledge.
President Trump "doesn't think he needs to" prep much for the North Korea summit https://t.co/5hvBNOVIcd The problem that has eluded seasoned diplomats for decades does not require much preparation by the resident stable genius who could not define the nuclear triad 2 yrs ago.
— HawaiiDelilah™ (@HawaiiDelilah) May 16, 2018
Trump faced a question on what kinds of upgrades or improvements could be made to the triad. He flubbed his answer completely, providing no insight that he even understood the question being asked to him.
“Well, first of all, I think we need somebody absolutely that we can trust, who is totally responsible, who really knows what he or she is doing. That is so powerful and so important,” Trump said at the time, per reporting from Rolling Stone.
That’s not an answer that should give anyone confidence in Trump’s ability to grasp nuclear politics.
Later on in the campaign, it was revealed that Trump, speaking with military advisers helping him prep on the topic of nuclear armaments, failed three times in the same conversation to grasp basic concepts. MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough explained the situation in the fall of 2016:
“Several months ago, a foreign policy expert on the international level went to advise Donald Trump. And three times [Trump] asked about the use of nuclear weapons. Three times he asked at one point if we had them why can’t we use them.”
Has he improved since then? There’s no reason to believe he has. From his withdrawing from a nuclear treaty with Iran, to his failed denuclearization talks with Norh Korea, the president has failed to live up to the famed negotiator he touted himself as being.
All-in-all, Trump’s inability to understand nuclear politics, and his over-hyped ability to negotiate, has left us in a worse-off position, with regards to the threat of nuclear war, than we were in before he took office.
Having a president who isn’t highly intelligent on certain issues like the history of George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate isn’t that big of a deal. But having an intelligent president on other issues clearly is.
Americans deserve to know that their president is a smart person. Whether that means future presidents should submit IQ test results or not, is hard to say. But what we have currently in the White House, in terms of intelligence, is a shameful embarrassment, with the potential to become a dangerous situation as well.
Featured image credit: The White House/Flickr