By Anthony Deyal
“Lying, Cheating, Barking, Bullying” was the Huffington Post’s description of Donald Trump’s behaviour in the first presidential debate on Tuesday night, and it forced an unusual and uncharacteristic response from his normally calm opponent, Joe Biden, who snapped, “Will you shut up man?” Trump’s antics reminded me of his behaviour in a debate against Hilary Clinton in 2016 when she launched a fiery attack on him for not releasing his income tax returns. His quick retort was, “That makes me smart.” At the time, the response made Hilary smart with ill-concealed anger and now, four years later, the only “smart” I can think of in connection with Trump is not “smart aleck”, “smarty pants”, “smartphones”, “smart money” or even “smarties candy. It is my old friend and late evening companion from the early days of television, Agent 86, Maxwell Smart.
Maxwell “Max” Smart was the bumbling secret agent in the long-running and much rerun TV series, “Get Smart”, something which a lot of the Donald’s supporters wish would happen to him before the next debate so he would not take on both the moderator and his opponent simultaneously.
From the moment Trump boasted about his being “smart”, I immediately remembered a “Get Smart” episode “Hello, Columbus – Goodbye America” in which Gino Columbus, a descendant of Christopher the “discoverer” of America, proved that he was the country’s legal owner. Max, who is supposed to be Gino’s bodyguard, introduces himself, “Columbus, I’m Smart.” Gino replies, “Ok, how much is-a two and two?” Max, after thinking for a while replies, “Four.” Gino chuckles and responds, “He’s smart all right.” To show how smart Smart was, and perhaps to compare his IQ with Trump’s, when Max and Gino were captured by KAOS enemy agents and threatened, “Tell us what we wanna know, or you die,” Max countered, “You’re wasting your time. Besides, do you know who this man is? This is Gino Columbus, the new owner of the United States.” The KAOS agent then confirmed, “That’s what we wanted to know.”
What a lot of other people want to know is “How smart is Donald Trump?” Trump’s former national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, dismissed the president as an “idiot” and a “dope” with the intelligence of a “kindergartner.” Former Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, called Trump a “moron”. William T. Kelley, who taught Trump at the University of Pennsylvania, recalled, “Donald Trump was the dumbest goddamn student I ever had.” Tony Schwartz, the ghost-writer of Trump’s book, “The Art of the Deal,” says Trump had “a stunning level of superficial knowledge and plain ignorance.”
Trump, on the other hand, described himself on Twitter as a “very stable genius” and “like, really smart.” He repeated it, “I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius … and a very stable genius at that.” The “stable genius” boast was treated like horse manure and among the jokes was this one, “Trump is like the southern end of a north-bound horse.” It is the kind of quip that guarantees he gets even more unstable. Perhaps, like Max, he should say, “I asked you not to tell me that” but according to many sources and news reports, Trump does not listen to anyone – medical and intelligence advisers or army veterans. As the New York Times warned even before Trump became president, “Donald Trump Doesn’t Listen” and “seems unwilling to take advice from anyone”. The paper predicted, “If he becomes president, that will be a big problem.”
Analyst Bruce Bartlett in an article in The Soapbox (June 8, 2020) headlined, “He Is Even Dumber Than We Thought” makes it clear that “Four years in office had only convinced more Americans that the Trump might not be a stable genius.” Responding to a Washington Post- ABC News poll in May asking, “Do you think Trump has the mental sharpness it takes to serve effectively as president?” 52 percent of respondents said “no” and only 46 percent answered “yes.” An Economist/You Gov poll in 2019 asked, “Compared to other presidents since World War II, would you say that Trump is more or less intelligent?”
Forty-seven percent felt he is less intelligent, 22 percent replied, “about the same” and only 21 percent thought he was more intelligent. The one that stands out, though, is that as far back as 2017 when asked, “What one word describes your impression of Trump? Just the one word that best describes him?” the most common term used was “incompetent” and others among the top-ten were “idiot”, “ignorant”, “unqualified” and even “moron.” In that same year, Britain’s ambassador to the US, Sir Kim Darroch, sent a cable to London saying, “As seen from here, we really don’t believe that this administration is going to become substantially more normal, less dysfunctional, less unpredictable, less faction-driven, less diplomatically clumsy and inept.”
So, will Trump get Smart? The fact is he couldn’t even get Bright. The Bright in question is Dr Richard Bright who claimed in testimony to the congress that the White House removed him from his position leading the federal Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority because he stood up to Trump’s political machinery in defence of science. According to L.A. Times Editorial Writer, Scott Martelle, “There you have it: Vintage Trump, an angry, disgruntled politician whose response to a critic of his actions is to paint him as angry and disgruntled.”
Worse, according to Steve Chapman, a member of the Editorial Board of the Chicago Tribune, in an article on “Donald Trump’s biggest flaw: He’s not that bright” claims, “Donald Trump has many serious flaws, including incorrigible dishonesty, rampant narcissism, contempt for women and a fashion sense that makes him think that hairstyle of his is flattering. But nothing compares to his most prominent, crippling and incurable defect: He’s dimmer than a 5-watt bulb.”
Interestingly, in a speech at a Republican retreat in Baltimore a few weeks ago, Trump blamed energy-saving light bulbs for his bright orange appearance.
So, on whom does the “Smart” money go? Forbes, CNN and other news sources have a growing dossier one organisation calls the “orbit” of former Trump associates and their legal entanglements, including those sent to prison or facing criminal charges. The BBC has a huge and still expanding list of “The White House revolving door: Who’s Gone?” It reminds me of one of my favourite “Get Smart” lines. Max’s boss, the Chief, asks the KAOS representative Siegfried, “How can we believe a man who would sell out his friends?” Siegfried’s answer, “Dumkopf. Who else are you supposed to sell out? You can’t betray enemies.”
*Tony Deyal was last seen remembering Max boasting to Chief Red Cloud, “I’m Maxwell Smart, secret agent 86.” and when Red Cloud responded, “Torture him! Kill him,” Max did an immediate Donald Trump, “I’m also a liar.”