President-Elect Trump Is as Uninformed as Candidate Trump
Donald Trump's first press conference since the election basically confirmed he's easily the least suited person to be president who ever got anywhere near to the office.
The office he will occupy in nine days.
Candidate Trump displayed vast ignorance of policy and of basic rules of how the government works. On Wednesday, President-elect Trump utterly failed to demonstrate that he's learned anything. On health care, on Russia, on anything.
For example, Trump claimed he'll be issuing a "plan" to replace Obamacare as soon as his Health and Human Services secretary is confirmed. But he didn't even hint at any broad outline of what might be in such a plan, and spent most of his answer on health care ... well, I don't even know what to call it. Babbling about Obamacare? That's about the closest I can get.
He said nothing that even hints he understands anything about it: How Congress is handling the issue, what policy questions are at stake, or even (still) what the Affordable Care Act is in the first place. He's learned one or two (not particularly accurate) talking points, and that's about it.
Candidate Trump blatantly ignored norms of financial disclosure. President-elect Trump still won't release his tax returns (blaming once more an apparently unending, and still unproven, audit which isn't a reasonable excuse even if it's real). He refused to truly divest from his businesses, trotting out a lawyer who complained about "unreasonable losses" for the president if he truly avoided conflicts. If Trump considers the costs of following the rules "unreasonable," he shouldn't have run for president.
Candidate Trump was a bully. President-elect Trump bullied reporters from CNN and Buzzfeed, and brought supporters to applaud his answers -- a weird and inappropriate staging for a press conference.
Candidate Trump spent a good deal of his time bragging about his polls and reliving his primary victories. President-elect Trump is still obsessed with those primary victories and with the general election. Normal presidents-elect do not answer questions, as Trump did Wednesday, by disparaging their defeated opponents.
Candidate Trump was quick to make outlandish statements without any concern for consequences. President-elect Trump continued his war on the U.S. intelligence community on Wednesday.
I could go on, but the truth is what we saw during the campaign was what we saw on Wednesday, and what we'll apparently get in the Oval Office in a little more than a week.
That didn't have to be true. Previous presidents worked hard at growing into the job. They cast off their overheated campaign rhetoric. They gave at least lip service to uniting the nation. If they were underinformed -- and many of them have been, although not as much as Trump appeared to be -- they started learning, and it showed.
Trump? He's still (for example) treating Lindsey Graham as a candidate he defeated for the nomination, rather than as an important senator and part of the slim margin Republicans maintain in the Senate. Annoy Graham and you could easily also annoy, at least, Graham's friend John McCain. Lose both of them and any other Republican on any vote where Democrats are united against Trump, and Graham will defeat Trump.
Do things like that even occur to Trump? There's always the chance that a politician's public performance hides strategic maneuvers or is a part of a carefully thought out communications plan. But there is very little evidence that there's more to Trump than meets the eye. The evidence as we know it so far is more consistent with the idea that he is massively unprepared, and temperamentally unsuited, for the office he's about to hold, and that he'll just be very, very bad at presidenting.
And that's very bad news for the nation, whether you like Trump's ideas or not.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.
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