What did they hear?

Photographer: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Trump Shows Contempt for the Military and Everyone Else

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.
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It would have been nice to have been able to compare the candidates for president of the United States, and their plans for the military, veterans and national affairs.

It would have helped to describe how Matt Lauer and NBC could have done a better job in orchestrating their so-called Commander in Chief forum on Wednesday night. It might have been useful to discuss how Hillary Clinton could have avoided giving up a third of her half-hour to questions about her e-mails. (Answer: It might have helped if she had held regular press conferences over the last year to deal with that issue.)

But none of these subjects seems even as remotely relevant as the plain fact that the Republican nominee demonstrated yet again how he is entirely unprepared to be president. 

Donald Trump's answers on Wednesday night rarely reached the level of "wrong." Mostly what he said was incoherent gibberish. 

For example, consider his "answers" when asked about the seeming contradictions in his "position" on ISIS. He could not explain his new idea for demanding a plan from "the generals" to defeat Islamic State. Nor would he explain how his old secret plan was going to work. Or why he says he knows more about Islamic State than U.S. generals.

He simply babbled about firing all the current generals. Or about listening to them if they had a better plan. He said nothing at all to show he knew anything about what generals do, or what presidents do, or anything else. 

For example: He's still saying "take the oil" as a supposed solution for what to do about Iraq. When challenged (and I don't remember his being challenged on this before), he explained that, well, Iraq has a lot of oil. He didn't supply guidance for how much it would cost in dollars and lives to guard "the oil" indefinitely, or how other nations in the region and allies elsewhere would react if the U.S. acted as an imperial power, extracting resources from conquered provinces. Trump has a line, and he's sticking to it:

Josh Rogin @joshrogin
"Take the oil" is the stupidest answer to the question "How can we stabilize the Middle East?" that I've ever heard.
Twitter: Josh Rogin on Twitter

When asked about sexual assault in the military, Trump just said it was a big problem, and defended his earlier claim that it stemmed from having men and women in the military together. He mentioned something about creating courts in the military to handle assault cases -- these, of course, already exist. Oh, and these assaults are a big problem.

His answer to a question about veterans was basically to say that veterans love him. And, by the way, Vladimir Putin loves him, too. 

This doesn't even include that Trump is still lying about opposing the war in Iraq (he didn't until it started going bad) and the intervention in Libya. He introduced a new whopper, claiming that he knew from the "body language" of Barack Obama's national security officials that they oppose everything the president has done. Needless to say, whatever the officials believe, they certainly weren't going to act so unprofessionally. Trump is slamming them by making the claim.

When asked what he has done to prepare for the presidency, about the best he could offer was that he has (supposedly) met with the retired generals and admirals who have endorsed him.

As appalling as all this is, there is something that tops the list: As far as anyone can tell, Trump really thinks he's prepared for the presidency. 

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Katy Roberts at kroberts29@bloomberg.net