During last year’s campaign, Donald Trump probably became aware of the fact that critics questioned his limited intellect. He didn’t handle it especially well, though.
During an MSNBC appearance, Trump was asked about his foreign policy advisers. “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain,” the Republican said. “And I’ve said a lot of things.”
The president said more things this morning on the South Lawn of the White House.
“Well, I think the press makes me more uncivil than I am. You know – people don’t understand – I went to an Ivy League college. I was a nice student. I did very well. I’m a very intelligent person. You know, the fact is, I think, I really believe, I think the press creates a different image of Donald Trump than the real person.”
At the risk of sounding picky, let’s go ahead and note that intelligence and civility are entirely different qualities. Trump is welcome to be proud of his degree from the University of Pennsylvania, but his attendance at the Wharton School has nothing to do with being “uncivil.”
One does not learn to be polite by studying at an Ivy League college.
During the same Q&A, Trump continued to push back against Myeshia Johnson, emphasizing how “really nice” he was to the grieving widow, and insisting that he did, in fact, mention Sgt. La David Johnson by name, despite the suggestions to the contrary.
Trump knows this for sure because, as he put it today, he has “one of the great memories of all time.” If that sounds familiar, in August 2016, Trump also said, “I have one of the great memories of all time.”
So, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson may have privately said the president is a “f***ing moron,” but Trump wants the public to know how proud he is of his intellectual prowess.
And don’t get him started on impressive he considers his I.Q. score.
New York’s Jon Chait noted how jarringly common this rhetoric is from the president:
Trump has had to issue this reminder on numerous occasions: “I went to the Wharton School of Business. I’m, like, a really smart person.” (July 2015); “I’m, like, a smart person.” (December 2016); “Trust me, I’m, like, a smart person.” (January 2017); plus, of course, this classic from July 2016:
“Look, having nuclear – my uncle was a great professor and scientist and engineer, Dr. John Trump at MIT; good genes, very good genes, okay, very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart – you know, if you’re a conservative Republican, if I were a liberal, if, like, okay, if I ran as a liberal Democrat, they would say I’m one of the smartest people anywhere in the world – it’s true! – but when you’re a conservative Republican they try – oh, do they do a number – that’s why I always start off: went to Wharton, was a good student, went there, went there, did this, built a fortune – you know I have to give my like credentials all the time, because we’re a little disadvantaged…..”
I’ve known some brilliant people, and I’ve known some Ivy League grads, but I’ve never even heard of someone who feels the need to speak like this, frequently and with great enthusiasm. It’s almost as if Trump is trying to persuade himself, not the public, that he has “a very good brain.”