Ignorance As a Political Virtue
Surprise, surprise: Donald Trump made a fool of himself in his foreign policy interview with Hugh Hewitt:
Donald J. Trump revealed gaps in his mastery of international affairs during a radio interview on Thursday, appearing to mistake the Quds Force, an Iranian military group, for the Kurds, a Middle Eastern people, and growing testy over questions about foreign leaders.
From the HH transcript:
HH: You know, I’d buy that, because you’re a builder. But on the front of Islamist terrorism, I’m looking for the next commander-in-chief, to know who Hassan Nasrallah is, and Zawahiri, and al-Julani, and al-Baghdadi. Do you know the players without a scorecard, yet, Donald Trump?
DT: No, you know, I’ll tell you honestly, I think 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, because number one, I’ll find, I will hopefully find General Douglas MacArthur in the pack. I will find whoever it is that I’ll find, and we’ll, but they’re all changing, Hugh. You know, those are like history questions. Do you know this one, do you know that one. I will tell you, I thought you used the word Kurd before. I will tell you that I think the Kurds are the most under-utilized and are being totally mistreated by us. And nobody understands why. But as far as the individual players, of course I don’t know them. I’ve never met them. I haven’t been, you know, in a position to meet them. If, if they’re still there, which is unlikely in many cases, but if they’re still there, I will know them better than I know you.
HH: That’s what I’m getting at, because the Islamist extremism is metastasizing. Nasrallah’s been there a long time, and al-Baghdadi’s running ISIS. And so I wonder if you’re going to throw yourself into the details of this during the campaign the way you did into the U.N. deal, because you knew that stuff cold.
DT: Well, you know, and unfortunately, I said I’d build it for $500 million. They were at $3 billion. And it ended up costing $6 billion, and I told them that would happen. And it was a disgrace. Frankly, that whole U.N. situation was a disgrace. They ended up spending $5-6 billion dollars to renovate a building that I would have done for $500 million, and I told them I would have done it, and it would have been better. Now as far as what you’re talking about now, I will know every detail, and I will have the right plan, not a plan like this where we’re probably going backwards based on everything that I’m hearing, but we’re probably going backwards, zero respect. We have, we are not a respected country, and certainly as it relates to ISIS and what’s going on, and Iran.
HH: Now I don’t believe in gotcha questions. And I’m not trying to quiz you on who the worst guy in the world is.
DT: Well, that is a gotcha question, though. I mean, you know, when you’re asking me about who’s running this, this this, that’s not, that is not, I will be so good at the military, your head will spin. But obviously, I’m not meeting these people. I’m not seeing these people. Now it probably will be a lot of changes, Hugh, as you go along. They’ll be, by the time we get there, which is still a pretty long period of time, you know, you start, let’s say you figure out nominations, and who is going to represent the Republicans in, let’s say, February, March, April, you’ll start to get pretty good ideas, maybe sooner than that, actually. But that will be a whole new group of people. I think what is really important is to pick out, and this is something I’m so good at, to pick out who is going to be the best person to represent us militarily, because we have some great people, militarily. I don’t know that we’re using them.
HH: All right, well, let me expand it, because you know, it’s not gotcha. I’m trying not to do that. But I wanted to see if you…
DT: Well, it sounded like gotcha. You’re asking me names that, I think it’s somewhat ridiculous, but that’s okay. Go ahead, let’s go.
Me, I am not surprised by Trump’s ignorance, nor will I be surprised to learn that this not only won’t hurt him with his constituency in the GOP electorate, but might even help him. After all, Sarah Palin’s foreign policy ignorance, embarrassingly exposed in her early interviews, only solidified her support among what would become her hard core populist base. Many people attracted to populists resent elites and spite them for knowing things that they, the common people, do not. “So what that Trump doesn’t know who the players are in the Middle East? He’s just like us, Our Donald!”
This is how ignorance becomes a political virtue, and we allow tribal loyalties to exterminate an expectation of competence. This is how conservative government produces something like a low-level party hack running FEMA when an unprecedented natural disaster strikes:
Of course, it must be acknowledged that all the brilliant people in the Bush administration who did know something about foreign policy led us into the Iraq morass. Still, the stupidity of the smart does not vindicate ignorance.