One of the oddities of Donald Trump’s personality is that he’s convinced himself he’s an expert in practically every subject. For example, the president recently assured the public, “I’m a professional at technology.” What kind of technology? He didn’t say, but we can probably assume he meant every possible kind.
That, of course, is just the starting point. Trump has also claimed to be the world’s foremost authority on everything from terrorism to campaign finance, the judicial system to infrastructure, trade to renewable energy. NowThis recently prepared a video montage on the subject, and it was amazing to see the many subjects on which the president considers himself a world-class expert.
This morning, our polymathic president let us know about yet another area of his alleged expertise.
“ ‘President Donald J. Trump is the greatest hostage negotiator that I know of in the history of the United States. 20 hostages, many in impossible circumstances, have been released in last two years. No money was paid.’ Cheif [sic] Hostage Negotiator, USA!”
Sure, you and I might think that to have great skills as a hostage negotiator, one would probably need some kind of training, but not our president. He talked to the nation’s “chief” hostage negotiator, who’s certain that Trump is “the greatest hostage negotiator,” not only alive today, but who’s ever lived “in the history of the United States.”
So, what’s this all about?
The White House told reporters this morning that the president was referring to Robert C. O’Brien, the special presidential envoy for hostage affairs at the State Department, who offered some effusive praise for Trump last month, though he’s never publicly said what the president quoted him saying.
The Washington Post added:
[D]id O’Brien really say what Trump attributed to him? Did he really call Trump the greatest hostage negotiator in U.S. history? Or did he simply refer to the broader concept of “unparalleled success,” which is more about results rather than acumen?
The State Department hasn’t responded to inquiries, but there is plenty of reason to believe Trump has hyperbolized O’Brien’s praise.
Look, Trump has made clear that he doesn’t really understand how quotation marks work, and he’s also shared the details of conversations that have happened only in his imagination. On other occasions, the president has taken parts of a quote, removed parts he doesn’t like, added words that make him feel better about himself, and then shared those quotes with the public as if they were real.
With all of this in mind, I’d recommend some skepticism before accepting as fact the idea that Trump is the greatest hostage negotiator who’s ever lived.
Postscript; In case it’s not obvious, this issue has come to the fore in light of reports that North Korea billed the United States $2 million for Otto Warmbier’s hospital care. The main U.S. envoy sent to retrieve Warmbier, shortly before his death, reportedly accepted the bill and agreed to its terms before the student’s release in 2017, but the president insisted twice today that the bill was never paid.