By now it's an undeniable fact that Donald Trump's most reliable advisers are Steve Doocy, Brian Kilmeade, Lou Dobbs, and Sean Hannity. Maybe toss Laura Ingraham and Jeanine Pirro into that basket as well. For quite some time, we've all hypothesized that Trump gets his twisted ideas from two main sources: Fox News and his own cruel whimsy.
As for legitimate advice from career professionals in domestic and international policymaking, nope. Based on just the past few days alone, we can confirm the harrowing truth that the president has no interest in hearing facts presented to him by serious people. Paraphrasing one of my favorite jokes from The West Wing, it should terrify is us all that Trump’s advisers include “a Beanie Baby and a sock puppet.” Might as well, given the reality of the crisis.
In addition to statements made last week in which Trump criticized his intelligence officials for delivering fake news, insisting they need to go back to school, and in which Trump said Dan Coats and Gina Haspel were misquoted by the news media (they were quoted verbatim, and their published assessment verifies their claims to Congress), Trump told CBS News: "I have intel people, but that doesn't mean I have to agree.”
Unless he’s in possession, somehow, of hard information to contradict his “intel people,” disagreement is irrelevant. Besides, how the hell does Trump know what’s happening on the ground in Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, and elsewhere without any intelligence reports? He doesn’t, of course, which leads us back to Fox News or cruel whimsy or he’s just yanking his ideas out of his bulbous ass because fuck it, why not?
But that’s not the worst part of this insanity. The worst part is that when he’s presented with actual facts, he angrily rejects the facts in favor of the unabridged fuckery that’s pumped daily, foie-gras style, into his twisted noggin by the Department Of Fox & Friends and Secretaries Doocy and Kilmeade. Nevertheless, actual intelligence professionals have tried all sorts of gimmicks to get Trump to pay attention, including visual aids and short sentences, this according to a chilling new article in Time:
Citing multiple in-person episodes, these intelligence officials say Trump displays what one called “willful ignorance” when presented with analyses generated by America’s $81 billion-a-year intelligence services. The officials, who include analysts who prepare Trump’s briefs and the briefers themselves, describe futile attempts to keep his attention by using visual aids, confining some briefing points to two or three sentences, and repeating his name and title as frequently as possible.
And it just gets worse by the sentence.
What is most troubling...are Trump’s angry reactions when he is given information that contradicts positions he has taken or beliefs he holds. Two intelligence officers even reported that they have been warned to avoid giving the President intelligence assessments that contradict stances he has taken in public.
In other words, Trump has worn down his briefers to the point at which they’ve decided to just stop giving him necessary intelligence, leaving Trump in the dark about what’s really going on. Not only does this lead to awful decisions that impact millions, but it lends further confirmation to my analysis that the federal bureaucracy is operating independently of its chief executive. The old man has gone bye-bye, so the rest of the executive branch is left alone to try and mitigate the ensuing presidential disasters.
Here’s an example of an off-the-rails briefing from early in Trump’s presidency:
After a briefing in preparation for a meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May, for example, the subject turned to the British Indian Ocean Territory of Diego Garcia. The island is home to an important airbase and a U.S. Naval Support Facility that are central to America’s ability to project power in the region, including in the war in Afghanistan. The President, officials familiar with the briefing said, asked two questions: Are the people nice, and are the beaches good?
Um, who the hell cares whether the beaches are good? What?
From the same Time article, here’s a frustrating example of how Trump claims to know something for a fact, even though it’s not a fact.
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.
Even when briefers build him scale models to illustrate the information, Trump refuses to accept the intelligence.
To help Trump grasp the size of [a North Korean nuclear] facility, the NGIA briefers built a miniature version New York’s Statue of Liberty to scale and put it inside the model.
The only way around this disconnect between the president and reality is to hack the teleprompters at Fox News, replacing the usual spastic nincompoopery with actual intelligence information. There’s no other way around this short of the 25th Amendment or impeachment. And frankly, he’d rather resign than to be stripped of his “executive time” yelling at his television.
Donald Trump has to be stripped of his ability to make important decisions. He’s so utterly defiant in his ignorance and so completely untethered from what’s really happening in the world, it’s kind of a miracle that something catastrophic hasn’t occurred. But my ongoing fear is that it’s only a matter of time. Already, Trump’s loyalty to Russia has prompted him to withdraw from a crucial arms control treaty, relapsing the world into a renewed nuclear arms race. What’s to prevent him from conjuring a pretext to conduct above-ground tests?
Beyond that, how much future blowback will we face from Trump’s recklessness? It’s almost too nightmarish to contemplate. Even if he resigns tonight, there will still be far-reaching repercussions spanning from his incompetence and "willful ignorance." Here’s to hoping it’s minimal, though I’m not counting on it. The election of Trump was intended to scramble the world, and it appears to be working.