In February of this year, EatPrayVote published an article “Is Donald Trump Functionally Illiterate?” This article was prompted by news reports that Trump had signed an Executive Order appointing Steve Bannon to the National Security Council without, apparently, being aware he had done so.
Since that time, there has been little to no evidence to suggest that Trump functions barely more than a functionally illiterate person would. But there is additional evidence that he is also unable to comprehend what little he is able to read.
When Trump was seriously considering withdrawing the United States from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) – one of his main campaign promises – it took an intervention by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. They showed him a map of his Electoral College wins and how those states would be seriously hurt by withdrawing from NAFTA. Trump finally got the message!
He then sent out a couple of face-saving tweets saying the presidents of Mexico and Canada had essentially begged him to reconsider.
According to a report by the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday of this week “In advance of President Trump’s highly anticipated bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, intelligence officials created a list of “tweet-length sentences” summarizing key points Trump could discuss.” [emphasis added]
Any other President, from Clinton to Obama, would have received comprehensive briefing documents before meeting with the leader of Russia. Trump gets tweets.
Aides have long realized that if they wanted to keep the president’s short attention span, documents should be no longer than one page. “I like bullet points” Trump has been reported as saying. Graphs are also encouraged when presenting information to the Commander-in-Chief. His short attention span received notice during his last overseas trip when speakers at the NATO conference were asked to limit their comments to no more than four or five minutes.
For those hoping that Trump would “learn the job” as he went along, there is no way he can learn anything if he is unable to read or comprehend what he is reading. Listening to any of his non-Teleprompter ramblings should be enough to demonstrate that he is simply unable to focus on any one topic for more than five seconds.
Even when communicating through his favorite medium of Twitter, Trump sometimes has difficulty staying on point. Covfefe anyone? Most literate readers are able to easily discern between tweets written by POTUS or his staff. Staff tweets have complete sentences, use appropriate punctuation, and sometimes contain subordinate clauses.
In a recent meeting Trump demonstrated he still does not comprehend the difference between trade deficits and the national debt. He didn’t understand the difference two years ago when he began campaigning and hasn’t figured it out yet. Trump has previously talked about trade deals with Germany and earlier today he spoke of making great deals with Poland. Both countries are part of the European Union and do not make individual trade deals. Trump has yet to figure that out either.
During his speech announcing that the United States was withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord, Trump said that he was the president of Pittsburgh, not Paris. It is possible that this might have been a sound byte written for him; it is equally possible that Trump though the Climate Accord had something to do with Paris, not that it was the location where the Accord was signed.
Donald Trump is running the country the only way he remembers how to run anything – like a business. But running a business does not involve delicate, diplomatic negotiations. So Trump uses Twitter instead. Running a business does not involve dealing with the two other major branches of government – the legislative and the judiciary. So Trump uses Twitter instead. How can a man who is only capable of thinking or understanding in 140 characters (not words, characters) at a time be able to handle Vladimir Putin? Or China? Or North Korea? Or the cleaning lady at the White House?
While there was talk during the last year of Reagan’s administration that his mental facilities were fading, he was surrounded by a strong administrative team and an outstanding Cabinet. Trump has neither. Our country is being led by a man who neither understands, nor wants to understand the job required of him.
Trump’s learning disability would not be a problem if we were talking about our 71-year-old Gramps. But Gramps is the President of the United States. We expect and we need better.