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Paul Krugman puts the matter directly: Donald Trump is an ignoramus. His ignorance is hopeless because he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. He likes to tell people that he is smart. Anyone who says that he is smart is insecure, not smart. His ignorance is dangerous to the economy and to our national security. When he was asked in an interview who influences him on foreign policy and defense, he said he watches television. That’s scary.
“Truly, Donald Trump knows nothing. He is more ignorant about policy than you can possibly imagine, even when you take into account the fact that he is more ignorant than you can possibly imagine. But his ignorance isn’t as unique as it may seem: In many ways, he’s just doing a clumsy job of channeling nonsense widely popular in his party, and to some extent in the chattering classes more generally.
“Last week the presumptive Republican presidential nominee — hard to believe, but there it is — finally revealed his plan to make America great again. Basically, it involves running the country like a failing casino: he could, he asserted, “make a deal” with creditors that would reduce the debt burden if his outlandish promises of economic growth don’t work out.
“The reaction from everyone who knows anything about finance or economics was a mix of amazed horror and horrified amazement. One does not casually suggest throwing away America’s carefully cultivated reputation as the world’s most scrupulous debtor — a reputation that dates all the way back to Alexander Hamilton.”
Let’s bring the discussion to education. Trump has said very little about education. I watched the debates and some of his many speeches. This is all I heard. He says he will get rid of the Common Core, but the fact is that there is not much the federal government can do to roll it back. It is out there, propped up by the SAT, the ACT, Pearson, and Gates. He says he loves charters. He says he believes in local control.
I don’t believe he knows what Common Core is. I don’t believe he knows what charters are. I don’t think anyone has explained to him what public education is. I don’t think he has said anything about higher education or how to relieve the crushing student debt. I don’t think he has spent ten minutes thinking about education. Nothing he has said would lead you to think he is informed about the issues that concern readers of this blog or me.
Most of what he says seems to be off the cuff, drawn from his personal experience or observations. I don’t believe he knows anyone who went to public school or anyone who had to borrow to pay for college. I can’t be sure but his total silence on these subjects makes me think he has no views because he has never met anyone who talked about these matters. Certainly they are not part of his own privileged upbringing.
I ask myself why so many people voted in the primaries for a man who is boastful, a man who makes our-in-the-sky promises, a man who ridicules his opponents, a man who accused Ted Cruz’s father of involvement in the JFK assassination because he read it in the National Enquirer, a man who wants to make the 2016 election a referendum on Bill Clinton’s infidelities.
Trump is vulgar, crude, and childish. I recall when Anderson Cooper asked in a forum why he posted an unflattering picture of Cruz’s wife on Twitter. Trump’s response? “He did it first!” Cooper, to his credit, said, “With all due respect, sir, that’s the kind of answer I would expect to hear from a five-year-old on the playground.”
Trump lacks dignity and gravitas. He is like a carnival barker, imploring voters to buy a ticket and go inside to see impossible, unbelievable, wonderful, horrible sights. And people vote for him.
I wonder if they vote for a charlatan for the same reason they rush to sign up for charter schools. I wonder why legislators continue to pour hundreds of millions into an industry that does not produce the results that were promised. The public, the media, and the legislators are easily hoodwinked. They want to believe. They swallow empty promises. Even when presented with evidence that charters are no better and often worse than public schools, even when they learn of scandals and frauds, they believe.
Why the gullibility? Why the willingness to play three-card monte with a card shark? Why are so many so willing to be duped by a con man? Is there something in our national character that sets us up to be duped by a snake oil salesman?
Gullibility. That is why a businessman who has declared bankruptcy four times, a man who insults and ridicules anyone who challenges him, a man who will descend into the gutter whenever he wishes, is soon to be the Republican nominee for President of the United States.