Pity the poor intelligence officials tasked with briefing our special-needs president with the information he requires to make crucial decisions concerning America’s national security.
They go out of their way to dumb things down to a level where they think President Trump might be able to comprehend the information that they are trying to get across. They employ pretty pictures and diagrams as visual aids so he might be able to absorb information in a manner that doesn’t require big words. They call him Mr. President repeatedly to attract his attention like a cat’s caretaker might use a laser pointer to get a feline’s full concentration.
Still, those intelligence briefers can’t seem to get beyond what one of them referred to as Trump’s “willful ignorance,” which, according to an article in Time magazine, they say “is endangering American security with what they say is a stubborn disregard for their assessments.”
It’s a reasonable fear given that — despite all the hard work that our nation’s $81 billion-a-year intelligence services put into gathering and analyzing raw data and interpreting its significance — President Trump explodes in anger when he is presented with valid information that disproves political stances he has arbitrarily taken without any facts or research or that contradicts his deeply held beliefs no matter how wrongheaded they may be.
This dynamic came to a head earlier this week after the heads of all of America’s national security agencies testified before Congress and gave their unbiased assessments of the threats currently facing our country.
When their honest delivery of the facts as they interpret them flew in the face of Trump’s positions on issues such as the dangers we face from North Korea, Russia, the Islamic State, and Iran, the president called his own senior intelligence appointees “passive and naïve” and told them that they “should go back to school.”
Trump’s confidence in his own intellect as superior to anyone else in the world’s, much less his highly experienced national security team’s, is belied by his demonstrations of severe ignorance cited by Time as being relayed by intelligence officials who wisely demanded anonymity before telling the stories that should horrify any American who still maintains even an iota of trust in the president’s ability to govern our complex nation effectively.
In one instance, Trump was being briefed in preparation for a meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May of the United Kingdom about the U.S. military facilities in the British-controlled island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, a base crucial to America’s forces fighting in Afghanistan.
“The President, officials familiar with the briefing said, asked two questions: Are the people nice, and are the beaches good? “Some of us wondered if he was thinking about our alliance with the Brits and the security issues in an important area where the Chinese have been increasingly active, or whether he was thinking like a real estate developer,” one of the officials said wryly,” according to Time.
Another briefing clearly demonstrated the President’s complete lack of knowledge and credentials for the job he has found himself in yet refuses to acknowledge that he lacks the adequate skills to perform.
“In another briefing on South Asia, Trump’s advisors brought a map of the region from Afghanistan to Bangladesh, according to intelligence officers with knowledge of the meeting and congressional officials who were briefed on it. Trump, they said, pointed at the map and said he knew that Nepal was part of India, only to be told that it is an independent nation. When said he was familiar with Bhutan and knew it, too, was part of India, his briefers told him that Bhutan was an independent kingdom. Last August, Politico reported on president’s mispronunciation of the names of the two countries during the same briefing.”
While America’s underfunded and increasingly poorly performing educational system, coupled with the average American’s lack of exposure to the world beyond our borders, ensures that Trump is not alone in his ignorance of small foreign countries, one would still expect that anyone tasked with being the putative leader of the free world would possess the requisite knowledge that an underpaid elementary school geography teacher would already have mastered.
With President Trump too proud or too stupid to recognize what he doesn’t know and accept the help he needs from people who are the true experts in their fields, our national security truly is in as much risk as his intelligence officials are now trying to belatedly warn us.
We can only hope that it will not be too late to undo the damage he has caused when he is finally removed from office by whatever means ultimately becomes his inevitable undoing.
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Original reporting by John Walcott at Time.