Thursday, Hugh Hewitt interviewed Donald Trump.
Among other things, Hewitt asked Trump a handful of foreign policy questions. “Are you familiar with General Soleimani?” asked Hewitt. “Yessss. Go ahead, give me a little. Go ahead, tell me,” responded Trump.
Hewitt explained that Soleimani runs the Quds forces, which Trump confused with the Kurds, though Trump eventually remembered who Soleimani was. Hewitt was then complementary and reminisced of the time Trump “schooled the Senate” on real-estate, and then went on to explain that he’s looking for a Commander in Chief that knows who the players in the vast battlefield of Islamic terrorism.
“Do you know who the players are without a score card, Donald Trump?” Hewitt asked.
“I think by the time we get to office they’ll all be changed, they’ll be all gone, I knew you were gonna asks me things like this and there’s no reason because number one, I will hopefully find General Douglas McArthur in the PAC, I will find whoever it is that I’ll find, but they’re all changing, those are like history questions, do you know this one, do you know that one.”
“I don’t believe in gotcha questions, I’m not trying to quiz you,” retorted Hewitt.
“Well that is a gotcha question,” Trump accused. And then a media controversy was birthed.
A gotcha question? An unprepared candidate? A throwback to the time the media played “Can you name this international player” with Bush 43?
Trump supporters say he was duped, others see The Donald as being unprepared. Here’s what we think.
As to Hewitt’s questions? I found them fair and well within the Foreign Policy 101 class. Which is part of why Trump’s ignorance on the matter is a bit concerning to me.
When Hewitt asked if Trump knew the players without a scorecard, Trump had an opportunity to say that though he wasn’t fully up to speed, he was doing his best to educate himself or something that would indicate he’s interested in familiarizing himself with America’s foreign threats. Unfortunately that’s not what happened. Instead, Trump took the opportunity to discuss the “good looking wall” he’d build along our southern border.
He then went on to claim he’d, “be so good at the military it will make your head spin.” Not exactly reassuring words from someone who is daily auditioning to lead our country. He’d hire experts, fine. That’s the smart thing to do. But to discern whether the counsel your advisors provide is wise or foolish, you must first have, at the very least, a rudimentary understanding of the landscape.
By the time the next president is sworn in, our country will be in a much graver, significantly weakened global position. We need someone who will take seriously what our current president has not.
At his very core Trump is a businessman. If the presidency is the job he’s seeking, he ought to be prepared for the interview.
First of all, the Kurds/Quds mixup was just that—a mixup. This was a phone-in interview, and during phone-in interviews, these things happen. They pulled themselves together and moved on, and so will I.
Trump should have known immediately who Soleimani is. Soleimani is a key player, and someone who should be showing up in foreign policy briefing papers on a regular basis. That being said, the light came on 30 seconds later, so I’ll give him this one too.
I don’t believe that Hewitt’s questions about various world leaders and groups were “gotcha” questions; as I said, these are all things that could be compiled into short-form briefing papers, the use of which during campaigns is not uncommon. Still, it’s Trump’s attitude toward knowing who the major players are that I find worrisome:
“By the time we get to office, they’ll all be changed…they’ll be all gone. I knew you were going to ask me things like this and there’s no reason.”
The disingenuousness of this statement is almost unparalleled within the Annals of Trump. He goes on to claim that he’s going to find “absolutely great people” who can better answer questions like the ones Hewitt posed—but Trump’s gamble here becomes twofold.
Trump may be right. We may be dealing with different leaders and despots by the time January 2017 rolls around; but suggesting that current ignorance is justified by the prospect of future developments is beyond the pale. When Neville Chamberlain signed the Munich Pact in 1938, Winston Churchill wasn’t sitting back with a pipe waiting on the Poles and the Czechs to sort themselves out; instead, he campaigned for rearmament because he’d been watching the power struggle within Germany and understood what “Chancellor Hitler” meant.
Fast forward to today. It’s impossible to understand the evolution and effects of the Arab Spring unless you understand the men and women behind the shuffle; or to understand Dmitry Medvedev’s strange tenure as Russia’s president without understanding the rise and influence of Vladimir Putin.
And on and on it goes.
Trump insists he will know the details. He will know the plan. The trouble is that the plan is already in motion. There’s no way for a presidential candidate to know everything a president needs to know—this is way above the entire field’s pay grade at this point—but Trump’s approach suggests that the foreign policy slate will be wiped clean on day one, which any student of history knows is the farthest thing from reality.
My first reaction when I heard the conservative media’s snide reaction was Yes, Trump should know more.
But it also it reminded me too much of how the media peppered G.W. Bush with questions about the names of leaders around the world and then mocked him for not knowing.
I don’t think it’s as important as many are making it to be. If anti-Trump folks want to ensure Trump’s success, keep trying to prove how much more book smarts you have than he does.
Being president isn’t an AP exam, it’s leadership and having the best people around you. And being willing to acknowledge what you don’t know. Trump strikes me as a quick study.
We already have “the smartest president ever” in the White House, and it’s a disaster because he thinks he knows better than everyone else. And he’s not half as smart as he thinks he is, which is a really dangerous combination.
I don’t know what to make of Trump. I understand fully all the criticisms, both ideologically and of the man. I share a sentiment I heard — I think on radio or TV — from Laura Ingraham, that you can’t not watch him, and he is by far the most entertaining politician we’ve had in memory.
It’s the Greatest Show On Earth. And for the first time in my adult life, I feel it’s bigger than me at the moment.
That’s why I’ve been mostly an observer to the show. About 10 rows back from the center ring, just enjoying. I figure the folks will figure it out at the voting booth. I trust the people on this more than I trust the media.
I’m not for Trump, but I am Trump-curious.
This interview, though, didn’t make me any more or less curious.DONATE
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