Just How Dumb Is He?
Regular readers will know I consider Trump to be jaw-droppingly ignorant — and willfully so. But even I struggle to believe he’s as stupid as this tweet would suggest:
He appears to think the stock market is just another way of keeping score, putting it in the same basket as TV ratings, crowd size, and popularity polls (but only the “good” ones, obviously). Surely this self-proclaimed successful businessman understands that markets overshoot and then correct, that sometimes expected good news is already baked into share prices, that eventually good jobs numbers raise fears of inflation, that computerized trading exaggerates the swings in both directions, etc. etc. etc.
With Trump you never can tell. The man hates complexity. He has a very short attention span. Once he reaches an opinion on something — which is usually a very quick process — he closes the door on additional input. So it’s certainly possible he’s in the dark about how markets work.
However it seems more likely this is just another example of Trump lashing out when he feels threatened. The booming stock market has increasingly been held up as proof he’s a great president. Therefore the only explanation for a drop is that the numbers must be wrong.
He does this a lot. Remember when he claimed the drop in unemployment under Obama was a lie, and that the real number “might be as high as 42%”? His distrust in government stats suddenly disappeared once he took office, and HE could claim credit for the low and improving figures.
Same thing with poll numbers. The only one he cites these days is Rasmussen, which is consistently 10+ points more positive than all the other results. All other polls are fake news.
It’s a difficult balancing act, telling people to believe the numbers when they’re good for him, but not when they’re bad. Only a president with no sense of shame would even attempt it. Yet it’s hard to escape the feeling he mouths this nonsense because he actually believes it.
He could well be suffering from a historic case of confirmation bias. He seeks out data that supports his high opinion of himself, and ignores anything that suggests the opposite.
But I see something more ominous at play. He wants to be the sole source of news — or at least the lone arbiter — for his base. That way he’s not tied down by facts or data. Reality is whatever he says it is. And when that reality involves him, the news is always good. After all, he’s a Winner.
It’s an incredibly difficult trick to pull off. But look what happened with the Nunes memo: It was widely discredited, with even a surprising number of GOP Congresspeople refusing to back it. Yet Trump’s approval rating went up, finally cracking 40%. 71% of Republicans — traditionally the party of law and order — suddenly distrust the FBI. That’s a slam dunk performed with a deflated basketball.
The conclusion is therefore inescapable: when it comes to conning people, Donald Trump is very smart indeed.