The Israeli newspaper Haaretz published a scathing op-ed piece on Thursday asking whether President Donald Trump is -- as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson allegedly said -- a "f*cking moron" or whether he's "just racist and obnoxious."
Columnist Chemi Shalev noted -- like MSNBC's Hallie Jackson -- that in his Wednesday press conference, Tillerson declined to deny that he'd ever uttered the epithet to describe the president.
"Stupidity is one of the more easily accessible and widespread explanations for Trump’s behavior," Shalev said. "It’s true that Trump has claimed in the past that his IQ is much higher than that of Obama or of comedian John Stewart, but in that case, he’s doing an excellent job of concealing his intelligence, as his visit this week to Puerto Rico showed."
"(R)ather than trying to cheer up Puerto Ricans, as he did in Texas, or console them, as he would later do in Las Vegas," wrote Shalev, "Trump insulted the island’s residents on their own home turf. He told them they should be grateful they weren’t hit with a 'real catastrophe' like Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005. He didn’t stop complaining about the drain of Puerto Rican recovery on the federal budget, which he didn’t even mention in Texas or Florida. And to cap it all off, Trump was filmed tossing out paper towels to his audience in a scene deemed by one broadcaster as 'the least presidential ever.'”
Shalev pointed out that many Trump critics argue that stupidity shouldn't necessarily be blamed when "obnoxious racism" is more likely the culprit.
"Prejudice and racial stereotypes are such a prominent feature of his personality, they maintain, that he just can’t keep them under lock," he wrote, then noted that the president has provided plenty of evidence to bolster those critics' assessment.
"He has described himself as ‘the least racist person ever,' but since he launched his presidential run by describing Mexican immigrants as rapists and murderers," he wrote, "Trump has described Puerto Ricans as lazy, Muslims as wannabe terrorists, African-Americans as thugs, Jews as proficient with money and women as inferior sexual objects. It’s only among neo-Nazis, apparently, that Trump has found 'some fine people.'”
Some Trump supporters argue that the reality TV game show host turned president is "crazy like a fox," and using chaos and confusion to always have the upper hand. The problem with that assertion, said Shalev, is that Trump's loose cannon nature all too often ends up undermining his administration.
"The U.S. president has shot himself in the foot so regularly that it is only natural to assume he may not be the sharpest pencil in the box," he said. From the Comey firing to the bevy of loud, indiscreet attorneys hired by the White House to Trump's "ham-handed" attempt to explain away his eldest son's meeting with Russian operatives, the president can't -- as one conservative pundit said -- stop tripping over his own "you-know-what."
Shalev discussed Josh Marshall's theory of "Trump's razor" -- a satirical take on "Occam's razor," the theory that the simplest explanation is almost always correct. "Trump's razor" states that when faced with multiple explanations for a Trump phenomenon, "the stupidest is always the right one."
"But even if we assume that Trump is far from stupid, and definitely not a 'moron,'” Shalev concluded, "most people would agree that both his election and his presidency are an insult to America’s intelligence, as well as the world’s."