"He opens up the paper each morning and sees our nation's leaders giving a hundred billion dollars to Iran, or he opens the paper and some new school district has just eliminated the ability for its students to say the Pledge of Allegiance, or some fire department in some town is ordered by the mayor to no longer fly the American flag on the back of a fire truck," Trump told James Robison in an interview posted this week. "Or he sees the tree on the White House lawn has been renamed 'Holiday tree' instead of 'Christmas tree,'" continued Trump. "I could go on and on for hours. Those are the very things that made my father run, and those are the very things he cares about."
There's more than one reason to be concerned about Donald Trump's presidential qualifications, but one of the most troubling aspects of his campaign is what he and his team choose to believe (and not believe).
BuzzFeed highlighted an amazing exchange today in which Eric Trump, the Republican candidate's son and a leading surrogate for the GOP ticket, explained some of the motivations that led his father to run for president.
It's entirely possible Eric Trump genuinely believes everything he said, but unfortunately, reality can get in the way of sincere talking points. For example, there are no school districts in the United States that prevent kids from saying the Pledge of Allegiance. He just made that up.
Similarly, the National Christmas Tree wasn't renamed. As BuzzFeed's report explained, there was some weird, right-wing chain email a few years ago that said the word "Christmas" was replaced with "Holiday" in the official name of the tree, but in reality, that never actually happened. Some conservatives made this up, the Trumps chose to believe it.
In other words, according to Eric Trump, Donald Trump is running for president at least in part because "he cares about" developments that never occurred. I don't doubt that Eric Trump "could go on and on for hours," but that's because complaining about imaginary problems is incredibly easy.
But there's more to this than just laughing at a silly mistake. The larger issue to keep in mind is that we've seen quite a bit of evidence that suggests Team Trump exists in some strange alternate universe.
In Trump Land, Ted Cruz's father was part of the JFK assassination. And President Obama is a terrorist sympathizer who wasn't born in the United States. And Hillary Clinton is secretly dealing with unidentified health crises. And Muslim Americans held public celebrations on 9/11. And the National Enquirer, Breitbart News, and Alex Jones are perfectly credible sources for accurate news. And Donald Trump opposed the war in Iraq before the 2003 invasion. And Vince Foster's suicide is highly suspicious. And vaccines are dangerous. And the Christmas tree on the White House lawn has been renamed.
To borrow a phrase, I could go on and on for hours.
There's arguably no more important skill for a president and his or her team than an ability to absorb an enormous amount of information, and quickly understand what's important, what can be discarded, and what should be used as the basis for action. Trump and his team have demonstrated, over and over again, that they're just not good at this.