The old adage (often mis-attributed to Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain–it’s actually from the Bible) holds that “Tis better to remain quiet and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt”. Someone at the White House needs to hang a poster with those words in the Oval Office as a reminder to President Trump to not only think–but verify–before he speaks.
There were a couple of incidents last week that proved the President gives absolutely no forethought to what he says. The first was his claim that he is considering a pardon for the late boxer Muhammed Ali–just like he pardoned another boxer this month–Jack Johnson. The only problem is that the 1971 Supreme Court ruling that found Ali had a Constitutional right to claim conscientious objector status to avoid the draft during Vietnam overturned his conviction. Therefore, there is nothing for the President to “pardon”.
That statement leads me to believe that the President had not discussed his pardon plans with anyone in his administration. And if he did, then someone failed miserably in the research department or they would have told him “Sir, Ali is not a convicted felon anymore.” I tend to think the President came up with that idea just minutes before his impromptu press conference.
The second statement–and certainly the scarier of the two–was the President’s claim that he was not going to take part in any preparation for the summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Instead, he would use his “experience as a negotiator” to broker a de-nuclearization deal with the rogue nation. One would think that you would want the President to be well-versed in what North Korea has in terms of nuclear technology and a weapons arsenal so that you could craft a deal that doesn’t allow them to “hide” a few things from inspectors somewhere down the line. The President would later add that he would “know in the first minute” if Un is “serious” about negotiation. This raises the possibility of the shortest world leader summit in the history of civilization.
I realize that much of President Trump’s appeal to his supporters is that he does not have a polished political persona that results in non-descript, pre-approved by consultants answers to all questions. But off-the-cuff, misinformed answers are acutally worse–as they undermine public trust in the institution and lead more and more people to wonder if the President has any idea what is going on.
Another suggestion: replace the portrait of Andrew Jackson–the racist, anti-government Democrat–that the President ordered hung in the Oval Office with one of Calvin Coolidge–the Republican known as “Silent Cal”–who knew enough to keep his mouth shut.