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Once a man, twice a child:. It seems that Donald Trump has reached his second childhood based on his childish behavior. Some see him as a toddler with lots of power. Trump might very well be a Toddler in Chief. Today, this toddler is the president of the USA. A toddler has been elected US president. At his tender virtual age of two, he views the world almost exclusively based on his own needs and desires.
Donald Trump possesses the maturity of a grumpy child rather than a man in his seventies. Worse, formal and informal checks on his presidency have eroded badly in recent times. Trump assumed the office at the zenith of its power. Even though, Donald Trump is the oldest person ever to be elected President, The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah made it clear,
Trump might have the mind of a toddler, and if you think about it, it makes sense. He loves the same things that toddlers do. They like building things. They love attention…always grabbing things they’re not supposed to.
Trump’s very own sister, Maryanne, might agree. She once told the Washington Post, my brother is a simple boy from Queens. As funny as this sounds, it still can have dire consequences when, for example, organizers of a NATO meeting were preparing to deal with a child – someone with a short attention span and mood who has no knowledge of NATO, no interest in in-depth policy issues, nothing.
In 2017, Trump’s Deputy Chief of Staff Katie Walsh described trying to identify Trump’s goals as, trying to figure out what a child wants. Meanwhile, former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly viewed his job as being a babysitter. Someone else said, sometimes he wants to blow everything up. Even right-wing populists like the former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon can say, I’m sick of being a wet nurse for a 74-year-old.
Diet Coke, Greenland and Briefings
Former Speaker of the House and Republican Paul Ryan who shamelessly run a cover-up operation for Trump noted, I’m telling you he didn’t know anything about government. These are not isolated episodes. Between April 2017 and December 2019, well over one thousand instances in which an ally or subordinate of Donald Trump has described Trump as toddler have been recorded. Consider two tales,
“Many waiters know Trump’s personal preferences. As Donald Trump settles down, they bring him a Diet Coke, while the rest of us are served water with the salad course, Trump is served what appears to be Thousand Island dressing instead of the creamy vinaigrette for his guests. When the chicken arrives, he is the only one given an extra dish of sauce. At the dessert course, he gets two scoops of vanilla ice cream with his chocolate cream pie, instead of the single scoop for everyone else.””
President Trump on Tuesday abruptly called off a trip to Denmark, announcing in a tweet that he was postponing the visit because the country’s leader was not interested in selling him Greenland.”
No wonder former President George W. Bush – another Republican – described Donald Trump’s inaugural speech as, some weird shit. In other words, Donald Trump is bad at building structures but fantastic at making a complete mess of existing ones, including a speech to celebrate his inauguration. Sounds like a toddler?
He likes single-page memos and visual aids like maps, charts, graphs and photos. Anything more is beyond Donald Trump’s comprehension. A senior White House official once said, I call the president the two-minute man. He has patience for a half-page.
Trump does not read even short memos. Everything that needs to be conveyed to him must be boiled down to two or three points. Donald Trump’s short attention span impacts on nearly everything. On the rather complicated matter of a Republican health-care bill, for example, Trump got bored quickly, “sipped on a glass of Diet Coke, peered out at the Rose Garden, stared aimlessly at the walls and, finally, walked out wandering down the hall to his private dining room. Trump switched on his giant flat-screen TV. It is getting worse.”
During the middle of a speech by German chancellor Merkel, Trump broke international protocol by getting up and leaving, sending ripples of shock across the room. Behavior like this does not give America a good name. Trump dislikes anything that takes longer than a few minutes or a few sentences. Hence his liking for Twitter’s short messages – his preferred method of upsetting and insulting people.
While for us, apologizing for a wrong tweet is normal, not so Trump. Not surprisingly, 72 per cent of Americans believed Trump’s tweets are reckless and distracting. But that is not all, information has been withheld from Trump for fear that he would blurt it out on Twitter. Some might be inclined to argue, Donald Trump is a national security risk rather than a president.
Donald Trump’s Conspiracy Theories
Apart from Trump’s problematic Twitter use, people in the White House have realized that there are three ways to get Trump to do something: tell him it’s never been done before; tell him the lawyers would never allow it; and tell him the establishment would go crazy. Nearly all reasonable people also find Trump’s liking of conspiracy theories rather scary. Among the many, Trump believes, for example, that
Obama has no American birth certificate;
Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the Kennedy assassination,
the Chinese had fabricated climate change;
his actual poll numbers are 20 per cent higher than what has been published;
wind turbines cause cancer; and
regulations make highways too curvy.
In one bizarre case, Trump met with the leaders of various veterans’ groups in the White House. While talking about their issues, one vet brought up the need for VA access for those suffering from Agent Orange poisoning. At that point, Trump asked, if Agent Orange was that stuff from that movie. After realizing that Trump meant Apocalypse Now, they explained to Trump that was confusing Agent Orange with napalm. Trump refused to accept that he was mistaken and kept insisting that he was right. This occupied so much of the meeting that Trump was unable to get to all the attendees in the room, annoying and confusing many of the participants.
Trump is the president with the least experience in government in American history and also the one most hostile to expert advice. During a briefing to meet the UK prime minister for discussions on the controversial ocean territory of Diego Garcia, which houses an important US airbase, Trump asked two questions, are the people nice, and are the beaches good?
In another incident, former chief of staff John F. Kelly was watching television with Trump. Kelly was asking Trump how much the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff earns. Trump guessed $5 million. Kelly told Donald Trump he made less than $200,000. Donald Trump does not seem to live in the real world.
Donald Trump and his Super TiVo
What he knows, he gets from TV, particularly Fox TV. As a consequence, advisers have tried to curtail Trump’s idle hours, hoping to prevent him from watching cable news or calling old friends and then tweeting about it. But that is not all, Trump has handed over his agenda-setting powers to the producers at Fox News. PR calls this agenda-setting.
Here is how Trump works. Trump fired border patrol boss, Mark Morgan. But after Morgan appeared on Fox News and voiced vociferous support for Trump’s hardline policies, Trump rehired him at the Department of Homeland Security. Trump also temporatily hired Scaramucci as communications advisor because Trump liked him on TV. Many of the people named so far have been fired by Trump. And Trump has had more turnover of cabinet-level positions than any president at this point in their tenure in the last 100 years. Particularly if a staff member does not look good on TV.
White House staff dread rainy Sundays because that means the Toddler in Chief would be watching television and tweeting rather than playing golf. During meetings, the 60-inch screen mounted in the dining room may be muted, but Mr Trump keeps an eye on scrolling headlines. What he misses he checks out later on what he calls his “Super TiVo”.
Perhaps the TV use of Donald Trump, next to his former activities as a reality show host, may add to the fact that so many observers have labeled the Trump administration a reality show presidency. Like a real TV addict, Donald Trump’s four major food groups are McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, pizza, and Diet Coke plus one might add his other favorite meal, well-done steak and ketchup.
More serious than Trump’s culinary specialties is the fact that he appears to be hung up on the former Chair of the Federal Reserve Janet Yellen’s height. Trump believes that the 5-foot-3-inch economist was not tall enough to lead the Central Bank. To Trump, she was just another casualty in an otherwise high degree of turnover across the upper ranks of his administration.
The word is spreading in Washington even among Republicans. To keep their future career prospects in mind, Republicans are turning down opportunities to work in the Trump administration. Beyond that, the White House is a miserable place to work, according to John Kelly.
Not surprisingly, the boss’ work ethics aren’t that great. Trump does not arrive at the Oval Office until 11:00am. His day would end at 6pm – earlier than for most of his predecessors. Approximately 60% of Trump’s schedule was devoted to so-called executive time – most likely TV-time, Twitter, and other pleasures. Once in the Oval Office, things get worse, as Trump starts another “working” day. White House staff knows, whatever he saw on Fox and Friends, he schedules meetings based on that. What a better way to run a country could there possibly be?
As a final note on Donald Trump work ethic, Trump’s senior staff no longer revert to an earlier appeasement strategy – it is largely pointless. For two years, they tried to tutor and confine him. They taught him history, explained nuances and gamed out reverberations. They urged careful deliberation, counseled restraint and prepared talking points to try to sell mainstream actions to a restive conservative base hungry for disruption. But in the end, they failed bitterly.
Toddler in Chief
Many people believe callingTrump Toddler in Chief, implies a level of innocence and curiosity that’s altogether absent from this president. It implies a work in progress. It’s insulting to toddlers. Perhaps Donald Trump’s older sister Maryanne wasn’t off the mark when saying, Trump was a brat from the start – nothing has changed. Still, the most important toddler trait of all is that toddlers grow up. Trump clearly will not.
More serious, however, is the fact that the toddler perspective seriously underestimates that the Toddler in Chief’s damages to the United States. Despite all this, a survey revealed that 78% of Fox News viewers believed that Trump has been the most successful President in American history. But this might not go on forever.
Daniel W. Drezner’s Toddler in Chief is published by Chicago University Press.
German-born Thomas Klikauer was educated at UAW in Detroit and Boston University.
American born Nadine Campbell was educated at Berkeley. Both live in Sydney and teach at Western Sydney University’s Sydney Graduate School of Management.