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For some-more than a year now, I’ve been conference from people in the middle circles of central Washington – GOP lobbyists, Republican pundits, even a few Republican members of Congress – that Donald Trump is remarkably stupid.
I figured they couldn’t be right since really foolish people don’t turn presidents of the United States. Even George W. Bush was smart adequate to sinecure smart people to run his campaign and then his White House.
Several months back when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump a “f—king moron,” we ignored it. we know firsthand how frustrating it can be to offer in a president’s Cabinet, and I’ve listened members of other presidents’ Cabinets report their bosses in identical terms.
Now comes Fire and Fury, a book by publisher Michael Wolff, who interviewed some-more than 200 people who dealt with Trump as a claimant and president, including comparison White House staff members.
In it, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster calls Trump a “dope.” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus both impute to him as an “idiot.” Rupert Murdoch says Trump is a “f—king idiot.”
Trump’s arch mercantile confidant Gary Cohn describes Trump as “dumb as sh-t,” explaining that “Trump won’t review anything — not one-page memos, not the brief policy papers; nothing. He gets up median by meetings with universe leaders since he is bored.”
When one of Trump’s campaign aides tried to teach him about the Constitution, Trump couldn’t focus. “I got as distant as the Fourth Amendment,” the help recalled, “before his finger is pulling down on his mouth and his eyes are rolling back in his head.”
Trump doesn’t consider he’s stupid. “Actually, via my life, my two biggest resources have been mental fortitude and being, like, really smart,” he tweeted last Saturday. As he earlier recounted, “I went to an Ivy League college … we did very well. I’m a very intelligent person.”
Trump wasn’t accurately an educational star. One of his professors at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business and Finance purportedly said that he was “the dumbest goddamn student I ever had.”
Trump biographer Gwenda Blair wrote in 2001 that Trump was certified to Wharton on a special favor from a “friendly” admissions officer who had famous Trump’s older brother.
But hold on. It would be dangerous to blink this man.
Even if Trump doesn’t read, can’t follow a judicious argument, and has the courtesy camber of a fruit fly, it still doesn’t follow that he’s stupid.
There’s another form of intelligence, called “emotional intelligence.”
Emotional comprehension is a judgment grown by two psychologists, John Mayer of the University of New Hampshire, and Yale’s Peter Salovey, and it was popularized by Dan Goleman in his 1996 book of the same name.
Mayer and Salovey conclude romantic comprehension as the ability to do two things – “understand and conduct the own emotions,” and “recognize and change the emotions of others.”
Granted, Trump hasn’t displayed much ability for the first. He’s thin-skinned, narcissistic, and vindictive. As dozens of Republican unfamiliar policy experts put it, “he is incompetent or reluctant to apart law from falsehood. He does not inspire opposing views. He lacks stoicism and acts impetuously. He can't endure criticism.”
Okay, but what about Mayer and Salovey’s second aspect of romantic comprehension – influencing the emotions of others?
This is where Trump shines. He knows how to manipulate people. He has an supernatural ability to learn their romantic vulnerabilities – their fears, anxieties, prejudices, and darkest desires – and use them for his own purposes.
To put it another way, Trump is an unusually gifted conman.
He’s always been a conman. He conned hundreds of immature people and their relatives into profitable to attend his nearby meaningless Trump University. He conned banks into lending him some-more income even after he regularly unsuccessful to compensate them. He conned contractors to work for them and then stiffed them.
Granted, he hasn’t always been a great conman. Had he been, his cons would have paid off. By his own account, in 1976, when Trump was starting his career, he was worth about $200 million, much of it from his father. Today he says he’s worth some $8 billion. If he’d just put the strange $200 million into an index fund and reinvested the dividends, he’d be worth $12 billion today.
But he’s been a great political conman. He conned 62,979,879 Americans to opinion for him in Nov 2016 by getting them to trust his lies about Mexicans, Muslims, African-Americans, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and all the “wonderful,” “beautiful” things he’d do for the people who’d support him.
And he’s still conning many of them.
Political conning is Trump’s genius. This talent – total with his complete irrationality in every other dimension of his being – poses a transparent and benefaction risk to America and the world.
The 25th Amendment must be invoked before it’s too late.
Robert B. Reich has served in 3 inhabitant administrations, many recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. His latest book is “Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few.” His website is www.robertreich.org.