We don’t want to alarm you or anything, but it’s beginning to look like Donald Trump does not know how this whole presidenting thing works. And since he has the curiosity level of a pet rock, chances don’t seem great he’ll be learning anytime soon. His week was a combination of gaffes, bizarre confessions and weirdly tone-deaf phone calls that appear to be setting off international incidents. He seems to miss campaigning, and held a rally in Ohio to crow again about all the other people he vanquished when he beat Hillary. He tweeted how he’s just going to unconstitutionally toss flag burners out of the country. (Whee, this presidenting thing is fun!) And he also took the time to oh-so-presidentially tweet his detail-free “big announcement” about how he’s going to step back from running his companies, so no more “conflicts of interest!” Poof, they’ll just magically disappear.
Here are five of Trump’s head-scratchingly stupid moments during the week that was.
1. He had a succession of bizarre phone convos with foreign leaders.
Though he is an avowed teetotaler, the president-elect appears to be doing the equivalent of drinking and dialing world leaders, or at least drinking and picking up the phone, if it’s true that the Taiwanese president called him, not the other way around. By all appearances, he did not have the foggiest notion that speaking with Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen might cause a teeny problem with China, or that it broke four decades of diplomatic protocol.
Protocol schmotocol, he might say. He’s a rulebreaker, a rebel, which is so much easier when you don’t bother to inform yourself about the rules. Freedom from knowledge is just so darn liberating.
Earlier in the day, he had spoken with the murderous Philippines leader Rodrigo Duterte, who is rapidly becoming an international pariah. But Trumpie described the conversation as “engaging and animated.” Frighteningly, the two aspiring authoritarians share a view about the violence with which the drug war must be waged. Duterte just pretty much has people murdered, about 4,800 of them so far.
A brief chat with the Pakistani prime minister was all Trump needed to make a complete about-face on that nation. The country he once described as “not our friend,” he suddenly claimed was “fantastic.”
See? Easy peasy, this presidenting thing.
2. He appointed a fellow conspiracy theorist to helm the Health and Human Services Department.
It’s bad enough that Donald Trump is a sucker for a good conspiracy theory (birtherism, massive voter fraud, etc.), but now he seems to be surrounding himself with conspiracy theorists as well (well, conspiracy theorists and billionaires).
Georgia Rep. Tom Price is just about the most disastrous pick to head the Department of Health and Human Services that can be imagined. He is not only a sworn foe of Obamacare, he opposes Medicare and will seek to dismantle it given half the chance. He is a doctor, a so-called upholder of the Hippocratic Oath, but opposes all forms of government involvement in medicine, which he, of course, calls socialism.
But Price does not just have vile plans to dismantle the nation’s safety net, he has nutty ideas as well. Granted, being a medical doctor is no inoculation against being a wacko (look at Ben Carson), but Price has been touted as a member of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. This horrifyingly right-wing group of ideologues have vowed “to fight socialized medicine and to fight the government takeover of medicine.” Its members are urged to refuse to treat Medicare patients and the group rejects required vaccination programs in schools. That’s not just evil, it’s colossally stupid for anyone with a passing acquaintance with public health.
It’s hard to know which cabinet appointment is most horrifying this week, but Price might have beat out predatory banker Steven Mnuchin at Treasury, or bottom feeder Wilbur Ross at Commerce. Unlike those two blatant profiteers, Price has been put in charge of a henhouse he seems intent on destroying.
3. He held a bizarre campaign rally in Ohio, appearing to be stuck in a time machine from three weeks ago.
The Donald called the event in Cincinnati Thursday a “thank you” rally, but it was eerily similar to a campaign rally, and he kind of forgot the whole thank-you part. The crowd chanted “Lock her up,” when Hillary Clinton’s name came up, which it did because the Trumpster bragged about the great fun he had “fighting” and beating her. He pranced and preened about the stage, basking in the glow of adoration, revisiting old grudges and spouting nationalism. “There is no global anthem, no global currency, no certificate of global citizenship,” Trump said apropos of nothing. “We pledge allegiance to one flag. And that flag is the American flag.” That spurred the crowd’s other favorite chant, “U-S-A, U-S-A.”
No one seemed the least bit convinced when he read off the teleprompter to call for some sort of unity now that he will be president, because he said so. “It is time and the people are angry,” he rambled. “They are angry. And they are going to get together.” They are going to get together because he said so. The hall was so silent you could hear a pin drop.
But before pursuing all that unity stuff, he just wanted to make fun of a weeping woman, and spent some time mocking ABC’s Martha Raddatz for her choked-up performance on election night. “How about when a major anchor who hosted a debate started crying when she realized that we won? How about that?” he grinned. Then, like a teenage bully, he imitated her sobs, saying “No, tell me this isn’t true.”
4. He told a truly baffling story about the Carrier deal, apparently unaware that it makes him look more awful than usual.
In Indiana to gloat about his supposed genius deal to save maybe 1,000 jobs at the Carrier air conditioning plant, which he accomplished through huge tax breaks and corporate giveaways, Trump addressed a roomful of factory workers. He decided this might be a good time to mention he really hadn’t intended to keep those Carrier jobs from going to Mexico in the first place. Huh?
The president-elect recounted how he had been watching the nightly news—“I won’t say which one because I don’t want to give them credit”—when a “gentleman worker, a great guy, handsome guy” invoked a promise Trump had supposedly made on the campaign trail. The man, a Carrier employee, said Trump had vowed to keep the Indianapolis factory open. “I never thought I made that promise—not with Carrier.… I made it for everybody else,” Trump confessed. But why?
Seems like a little bit of diarrhea of the mouth.
5. One of his surrogates just flat-out confirmed that facts don’t matter anymore.
The Trump era helped usher in the “post-truth” world we now find ourselves living in. The tweeter-in-chief spreads unfounded conspiracy theories, spins minor victories into major coups, and as we have seen, sometimes in an unguarded moment spews some accidental truth about how he can’t believe how many people actually believe anything he says. But still, you’re not supposed to just come out and say that truth and facts don’t matter.
But damned if CNN Trump surrogate Scottie Nell Hughes didn’t manage to confirm all of our worst fears this week when she said, “There’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore as facts,” on the Diane Rehm Show on WAMU, an NPR affiliate.
She was explaining the truth according to Trump to her fellow aghast panelists when it comes to the tweeter-in-chief’s claim of, “millions of fraudulent voters,” a claim which is both false and stupid, particularly when you’re fighting a recount effort.
Here is what she purported to be her logic: “Mr. Trump’s tweet amongst a certain crowd, a large — a large part of the population, are truth. When he says that millions of people illegally voted, he has some — in his — amongst him and his supporters, and people believe they have facts to back that up. Those that do not like Mr. Trump, they say that those are lies, and there’s no facts to back it up.”
If your brain now hurts from all the stupid, you are not alone.