Given everything we know about Donald Trump and his, shall we say, idiosyncrasies, it's only natural to wonder what the president is like behind the scenes, away from the cameras. With this in mind, Microsoft founder Bill Gates recently spoke to the staff at his charitable Gates Foundation about his conversations with Trump -- and MSNBC's Chris Hayes obtained a recording.
The "All In" segments are worth watching in their entirety, in part to get the full context, and in part because the audience's reactions were interesting, but a few things stood out as notable. Gates noted, for example, that after meeting Trump for the first time after the election, the president seemed to know a "scary" amount about Gates' daughter's appearance -- which Melinda Gates apparently didn't appreciate.
Just as striking was Gates' description of two meetings he had with Trump in Trump Tower, where the Microsoft founder encouraged the president to focus on science and innovation, recommending renewed energies toward finding an HIV vaccine.
"In both of those two meetings he asked me if vaccines weren't a bad thing because he was considering a commission to look into ill-effects of vaccines," Gates said. "And somebody, Robert Kennedy Jr., was advising him that vaccines were causing bad things and I said, 'No, that is a dead end, that would be a bad thing, do not do that.'"There were laughs and groans from the audience after Gates added: "Both times he wanted to know the difference between HIV and HPV and so I was able to explain that those are things that are rarely confused with each other."
As amazing as this anecdote is, the word that jumped out at me was "both."
In other words, Bill Gates met Donald Trump, and somehow, the elected president, after a year and a half on the campaign trail, never quite learned the difference between the human papillomavirus (HPV) and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). So, Gates explained it to him.
But according to Gates' story, he met the president again, and once more Trump wanted to know the difference -- suggesting the Republican didn't understand the explanation the first time around.
I have more than a few concerns about Trump's presidency, but one of the more glaring trouble areas is his capacity to learn. Gates' anecdote does not set my mind at ease.