Is Trump Barely Able to Read?

My thanks to Joanna, one of the long-time commenters on this blog, for posting this in one of her comments.

In this piece from the David Pakman Show, Pakman and one of his producers, Pat, discuss the considerable evidence that Trump is functionally barely literate. There are clips of Mark Fisher, an American journalist, discussing how he asked Trump if he was preparing for the presidency by reading the biographies of the great American presidents. Trump said something about reading one about Nixon, and another, but Fisher himself doubted he had ever read a book from cover to cover. Trump also said that he had never read a biography, but regretted this. Visitors to Trump have remarked that there weren’t any books on his desk, or on the shelves at his home or indeed anywhere else. Jeffrey Schwartz, who ghost-wrote Trump’s book, The Art of the Deal, stated that he didn’t believe Trump had ever read a book since he was in school. Washington insiders have said that The Donald actually has difficulty reading the documents and executive orders placed in front of him. He usually just scans the first page. Further evidence for this comes from clips from a court case, in which the opposition lawyer asks Drumpf to read a lease. Trump’s own lawyer objects to it, and Trump looks it over, remarks on its length, and then proceeds to give a summary of what’s on the page. Apparently, he doesn’t even send his tweets himself. He dictates them to a secretary in the next room, and she sends them for him. There’s also a clip with the writers from the comedy show, Saturday Night Live, in which they talk about how Trump had difficulty reading the scripts when he was guest host. And it’s also been said that the reason why Trump watches so much television, and gets so much of his information from it, is because he can’t or doesn’t read books and papers. There’s also a clip, which shows Trump very obviously not using a teleprompter at one of his rallies. Pakman argues that this isn’t because he’s particularly keen to speak ad lib. It’s because he has difficulty reading what’s on there.

Pakman’s producer, Pat, finally makes the point here that what’s shocking isn’t Trump’s inability to read, but his lack of intellectual curiosity. He doesn’t even send away for talking books, so he can hear things read to him.

This is truly astonishing. And frightening. People have been making jokes since forever and a day about the stupidity of politicians, but many have been people of real intellectual distinction. Churchill wrote his History of the English-Speaking Peoples. JFK apparently could write a sentence of Latin with one hand while writing a sentence in Greek with the other. Even Nixon was no intellectual slouch. He was crooked and a monstrous imperialist thug, whose regime was responsible for the deaths of untold millions in the Vietnam War and Fascist coups across the world, and he really wasn’t intellectually capable of being president. But he wasn’t thick either. Bill Clinton was far from stupid, though he was also responsible for some of the worst policies passed by an American president, such as gutting further what remained of the American welfare system after Reagan, quite apart from highly questionable foreign policy decisions.

On the other hand, there are a long line of chiefly Republican presidents, who have been suspected of being thick and incompetent. Like Ronald Reagan, even before the poor fellow was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Not The Nine O’clock News sang songs about his epic stupidity. There was a long-running sketch on Spitting Image, in which his aides go in search of his missing brain. Then in the early part of this century, he was followed into the Oval Office by George Dubya, who had been an illiterate drunk smashed out of his skull on recreational chemicals. Dubya at least gave up the booze and drugs, and was credited as reading. He still struck everyone as being so stupid, that when one person made up the rumour that he only had an IQ of 85, it was widely believed. And at one point it looked like America would get a female vice-president in the shape of Sarah Palin, who has a reputation for monumental stupidity. One American commenter described his candidacy for the presidency or vice-presidency to a ‘post turtle’. What’s a post turtle? He explained that if you go to the Deep South, ever so often on the roads you see a turtle stuck on a fence post. The turtle’s got no right to be there, doesn’t know how it got there, and you don’t know what moron put it there. And that summed up Palin’s bid for supreme power.

And now we have Donald Trump, a sexist, misogynist, islamophobic Fascist, a narcissistic megalomaniac, who seems unable to read or comprehend the documents put in front of him.

He is massively unfit for office, and the fact that he’s in it points to a deeply troubling strand of anti-intellectualism in the Republican Party. The late comedian Bill Hicks used to joke that there was a streak of anti-intellectualism in America, and that it began the same year Reagan was elected. He had a point. Reagan got into power by presenting the image of a down-home ordinary bloke, offering his folksy wisdom in place of the complicated and simply wrong ideas offered by those affecting to be cleverer than the rest of us. And this is a powerfully attractive approach. No-one likes the feeling that they’re being condescended to by someone impressed with their own intelligence, or being treated with contempt. And the right, both in America and in Britain, try to capitalise on this anti-intellectualism. You think of all the times the Tories have tried to persuade the public that you don’t need to know about fancy economic theories to understand the economy, just commonsense household management. Left-wing economists have tried to point out that, in fact, you do need to understand economics as it is definitely not like balancing a household budget. But still they carry on, using the metaphor of household budgeting to justifying cutting services and privatising the NHS.

And now Trump, who appears to be barely literate, is in the White House. Pakman points out that it seems that Trump spoke at the level of a fourth grade schoolboy, not because he was trying to talk to ordinary Americans at their level, but because his reading level is that of a fourth grade schoolboy. It’s been said that politician is the one job that doesn’t require qualifications. Well, intelligence doesn’t guarantee that someone will make the right decisions. But in a complex world, in which power relationships between countries are so delicate that a misstep could start an international incident or even another war, we do need intellectual ability in our leaders and their advisers. We need politicos, who have the ability to obtain the knowledge of world affairs they need, not just from the broadcast news, but from foreign policy documents, even simply from reading the papers.

Trump seems incapable of this, and it puts us all in danger. He really does need to go.

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12 Responses to “Is Trump Barely Able to Read?”

  1. vondreassen Says:

    maybe he is dyslexic – would explain a lot !

    • Beastrabban Says:

      I wondered about that. If he has, I’ve a certain amount of sympathy. I know people who are dyslexic, who are really bright, intelligent people. And this is a genuine handicap that’s held them back. With Trump, on the other hand, there’s no evidence that he is in any way intelligent, and plenty of evidence to show that he owes his position to the right’s hatred of any kind of intellectual ability.

  2. joanna Says:

    Did you know Agatha Christie was dyslexic

    as is Whoopi Goldberg, Henry Winkler (Fonzie), Jay Leno, Cher, Alyssa Milano (Charmed) and Ingvar Kamprad (founder of Ikea).

    They at least worked to overcome it, Trump strikes me as a child who chafes at the thought of learning, He is just Lucky!!! That and the power makes him a Very dangerous “person”.

    Did you also see the bit where trump says he forgot his glasses, when no-one has ever seen him wearing them before?

    • Beastrabban Says:

      I didn’t realise they were all dyslexic. They all obviously worked really hard to overcome it. After all, actors have to read scripts and memorise their lines. And I think you’re right about Trump. He’s been rich enough not to have to work to overcome his disability. He’s had his father’s money to fall back on, and be guided by his advisors.

      Yeah, I noticed the section where Trump claimed he couldn’t read without his glasses, but no-one’s ever seen him wearing any. Definitely made a slip there. He should have said contact lenses instead.

  3. joanna Says:

    Oh I forgot Keira Knightley and Edward Heath were also dyslexic, they also overcame it.
    Ozzy osbourne was also, but his brain is damaged from too many drugs.

    • Beastrabban Says:

      Heath was supposed to be a good organist. As for Ozzy Osbourne, yeah, he fried his brain with drugs, but some of them were for genuine medical reasons. Apparently he was put on medication after he had a nervous breakdown. The poor fellow saw one of his bandmates die when he (the other guy) lost control of the plane he was flying when they were in America.

  4. joanna Says:

    Albert Einstein was also severely Dyslexic!

    • Beastrabban Says:

      He also apparently didn’t talk until he 12. He said once that his success in discovering things like Relativity came from the fact that he had carried on in adulthood thinking about things everyone else did as a child, but then grows out of.

  5. joanna Says:

    I just hope trump slips up somehow, in a way that no-one can help him. As a human being I don’t wish him death, just a little humility.

    As for literacy I always feel lucky that I have been able to read from a young age (4yrs) during my childhood, books saved me in many ways.

  6. Michelle Says:

    Thanks to you and Joanna for the info, would explain some of his inability to understand the serious consequences of his rash statements!

    • joanna Says:

      Thank you Michelle! have you seen the piece on Vox, John Bercow has said No to trump making a speech in Westminster! The Tories are Not happy!!! At least tonight I will sleep a little happier, you have to grab good moments when you can get them.

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