Trump thinks he may have 'a natural ability' to address viral outbreaks

It's unreasonable to expect a president to be an expert in everything. It's quite reasonable to expect him to realize that he's not an expert in everything
Image: President Donald Trump and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, walk on the South Lawn on March 3, 2020.
President Donald Trump and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, walk on the South Lawn on March 3, 2020.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

During Donald Trump's visit to the CDC in Atlanta on Friday, a reporter asked the president how American hospitals can properly prepare for a viral outbreak if they have no idea how many patients to expect. Trump's answer rambled a bit, before the Republican assured everyone, "I like this stuff."

"You know, my uncle was a great person. He was at MIT. He taught at MIT for, I think, like a record number of years. He was a great super genius. Dr. John Trump. I like this stuff. I really get it. People are surprised that I understand it. Every one of these doctors said, 'How do you know so much about this? ' Maybe I have a natural ability. Maybe I should have done that instead of running for president."

For weeks, many have marveled at Trump's willingness to ignore, reject, and contradict assessments from experts on the coronavirus outbreak, but these comments help make clear why the president is comfortable doing so: he's convinced himself that he's an expert.

If this sounds at all familiar, it may be because it's happened several times before. About a year ago, for example, Trump was reflecting on technology measures that have been deployed along the U.S./Mexico border, and he 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.

As we discussed at the time, 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 prepared a video montage on the subject a while back, and it was amazing to see the many subjects on which the president considers himself a world-class expert.

Soon after, Trump billed himself as "the greatest hostage negotiator" in American history. Now, our polymathic leader has "a natural ability" to understand epidemiology, too, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

It's not reasonable to expect a president to be an expert in everything, but it's quite reasonable to expect him to realize that he's not an expert in everything.