In a scathing piece published on the Washington Post on March 3, 2017, the conservative political commentator George Will launched an attack on Donald Trump, blaming what some critics have described as the president’s “reckless thoughtlessness” on a form of intellectual disability characterized by inability to “think and speak clearly.” Will warned that Trump’s “fathomless” ignorance is a “dangerous disability” that could have grave consequences for the country and the rest of the world. He called upon Americans to contact their elected representatives to express their concerns about Trump’s lethal combination of “impulsivity and credulity” which makes him “uniquely unfit to take the nation into a military conflict.”
According to Will, it is necessary for Americans to “think and speak clearly” about the fact that they have elected a president who is unable to “think and speak clearly.” Trump’s inability to speak and think clearly is not the result of “disinclination” but the result of a “disability,” according to Will.
“It is urgent for Americans to think and speak clearly about President Trump’s inability to do either.”
— The Hill (@thehill) May 5, 2017
— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) May 4, 2017
“This seems to be not a mere disinclination but a disability,” Will wrote. “It is not merely the result of intellectual sloth but of an untrained mind bereft of information and married to stratospheric self-confidence.”
To illustrate his point, Will referred to a number of comments and remarks about historical personalities and American history attributed to Trump since he became president, such as his comments about Frederick Douglass and his remarks about Andrew Jackson and the Civil War.
In February, while offering remarks about Black History Month, Trump said that “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more, I notice.”
According to Will, Trump’s baffling comment might not have been due to a lack of knowledge of who Douglass was but to the fact that he “is syntactically challenged” and thus unable to express himself coherently.
In an interview published earlier this week, Trump raised questions about why the country fought a Civil War and suggested that Andrew Jackson, who died 16 years before the Civil War, could have prevented it if he had served as president “a little later.”
Trump baffled scholars of American history when he said that Jackson was angry about the Civil War because he thought “there was no reason for it.”
“I mean, had Andrew Jackson been a little later you wouldn’t have had the Civil War… he had a big heart,” Trump said. “He [Jackson] was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War. He said ‘There’s no reason for this.'”
“People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why? People don’t ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?”
Jackson died in 1845. The Civil War began in 1861. Scholars, including Amy S. Greenberg, Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of History at Penn State University, told CNN that there is no evidence that Jackson saw the Civil War coming as Trump suggested.
Scholars also bristled at Trump’s suggestion that “people don’t ask questions about… why there was the Civil War.” Several historians noted that better qualified experts and students of American history than Trump have been asking questions about the cause of the war since 1861.
Will criticized Trump for the intellectual conceit that made him assume that he had suddenly and offhandedly found unique answers to questions about American history that generations of scholars have pondered.
“Library shelves groan beneath the weight of books asking questions about that war’s origins,” Will wrote, “so who, one wonders, are these ‘people’ who don’t ask the questions that Trump evidently thinks have occurred to him uniquely?”
Trump’s problem, according to Will, is not that he is ignorant, or that he does not know he is ignorant but that “he does not know what it is to know something.”
“The problem isn’t that he does not know this or that, or that he does not know that he does not know this or that. Rather, the dangerous thing is that he does not know what it is to know something.”
— Jim Roberts (@nycjim) May 4, 2017
I'm in agreement with George Will? Wow. https://t.co/C6V0bgVnie
— Don Cheadle (@DonCheadle) May 4, 2017
Will also criticized Trump about his ignorance of the meaning of the nuclear triad and the significance of the “one China policy.” He argued that Americans who worry about the “strange and callow leader” who controls North Korea’s nuclear arsenal should be equally concerned bout the “callow” 70-year-old who controls America’s far more awesome nuclear arsenal. He added that just as Americans are worried about Kim Jong-un’s apparent instability, North Koreans should be worried about Trump.
He pointed out the similarities between Trump’s and Kim Jong-un’s military aggression rhetoric by referring to examples of Trump’s comments in the past about what he thought was the solution to terrorism in the Middle East.
“I would bomb the s— out of them….I’d blow up the pipes, I’d blow up the refineries, I’d blow up every single inch, there would be nothing left.”
George Will concluded that it is dangerous for Americans to place the “vast military power” of the United States “at the discretion of this mind.”
He noted that while it is possible to tutor even the most ignorant person about American history, it would be nearly impossible to cure Trump’s ignorance because it is due to a lack of interest in the facts of history.
“His [Trump’s] fathomless lack of interest in America’s path to the present and his limitless gullibility leave him susceptible to being blown about by gusts of factoids that cling like lint to a disorderly mind.”
He then urged Americans to “quarantine this presidency” by “insistently communicating to its elected representatives a steady, rational fear of this man whose combination of impulsivity and credulity render him uniquely unfit to take the nation into a military conflict.”
[Featured Image by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]