Writings and observations

Trump 86: Incurious

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The last time we had a president who was widely described as “incurious” – that is, not terribly interested in learning about new things, or simply learning more – this country experienced, let’s say, a wide variety of problems.

Presidents may run for office based on a collection of ideas or proposals, or subject areas, that are of particular interest to them. That’s normal and may be unavoidable. But what’s also unavoidable is that, once in office, any president is going to be confronted with a whole bunch of problems unforeseen before the inauguration, but which cannot simply be ignored. A president has got to stretch and grow, and a capacity to learn more, and to learn outside of one’s comfort zone, is an important qualification for the presidency.

Many of our presidents, maybe in part because politicians tend to be social animals and do need to absorb and use a good deal of information, have had this quality to some degree. The absence of it is a problem.

How often does Donald Trump indicate he’s learned something new? Since his whole persona is based on the idea that he knows it all already, he rarely does that. You could put it down to a campaigning style, but there are other indicators as well.

Maybe the best is this: How often does he read? Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, George H.W Bush and Richard Nixon, among others, read extensively, have been strongly self-educated in addition to their formal educations. Trump does not seem to be a reader – at least not of books.

He has said so himself, that he doesn’t “have the time” to read books.

He is said to have kept a book by Adolf Hitler (accounts differ on which) on his night stand for some years, but there are also indications he never read it.

Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter for Mr. Trump’s best seller “The Art of the Deal,” said in a recent interview, “I seriously doubt that Trump has ever read a book straight through in his adult life.” (Or write one: You didn’t really think he sat down at a typewriter to work on any of those books bearing his name, did you?)

Others who know him well have made similar allusions. And columnist George Will remarked in a July 30 writing, “It would be fanciful to suggest that Trump read a book.”

But then, why read if you already know everything there is to know?

Just to be clear, that last sentence was sarcasm. – rs

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