Everyone’s an Idiot, Except Donald Trump
Calculation and impulse collide to produce one of the ugliest stretches of the president’s first term.
Bret Stephens: I trust you’ve been enjoying this mild summer weather, Gail! We have some catching up to do, so let me ask: Do you think Donald Trump knew what he was doing when he tweeted that four congresswomen — Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, all minorities, should “go back” to “the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came”? And do you think it will work for or against him?
Gail Collins: Bret, I spent last weekend alternating between worrying about the rathole into which the president is plunging our country and worrying about whether the lights in New York City would go out again. Do you think the national power grid could be hacked, or just explode from the stress of … being a national power grid? If so, can we blame it on the president?
Bret: These days I blame everything on the president, Gail. So do my kids, by the way. Whenever I tell them to clean up their rooms, they reply that the state of the nation is far worse.
On the power-grid front, I did just buy a wearable, rechargeable head-fan ….
Gail: Back to the topic of whether our president is a super-evil plotter of villainy or just a raving imbecile who screws everything up: When Trump told four, young, Democratic, female, minority members of Congress to go back where they came from, was it a calculated plan to rally his base or just acting on impulse because that’s the way he thinks?
Bret: Honestly, the former.
Gail: I kinda wish I believed it was a preorganized plot. That would mean there was somebody rational, albeit evil, at the top. But I basically think he’s just impulsively spewing from his awful soul.
Bret: If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Trump since he won the presidency it’s that he’s ignorant and vile, but not stupid. The conventional wisdom is that the Democrats were in the midst of a civil war between Speaker Pelosi and the four congresswomen, the so-called squad, and that the smartest thing Trump could do was let it play out to the benefit of Republicans.
Gail: You know I get depressed when I think you’re going to tell me Trump did the smartest possible thing …
Bret: The civil war would have resolved itself, probably in Pelosi’s favor, if Trump hadn’t intervened with his racist tweets. And it was the very awfulness of the tweets that forced Democrats to rally around the four congresswomen, defend them and put them at the emotional and even moral heart of the party. Which is exactly where Trump wants them, because they are his ideal foil and he plans to run against them next year no matter who the Democrats nominate.
Of course, whether it works out in his favor is another question. Has he harmed himself, politically speaking?