December 29, 2017

WALL STREET JOURNAL: The ‘Stupidity’ of Donald Trump: He’s had far more success than Arnold Schwarzenegger or Jesse Ventura.

This time one year ago, the assumption dominating political coverage was that the only people more stupid than Donald Trump were the deplorables who elected him.

Since then, of course, President-elect Trump has become President Trump. Over his 11 months in office, he has put Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court and four times as many judges on the appellate courts as Barack Obama did his first year; recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel; withdrawn from the Paris climate accord; adopted a more resolute policy on Afghanistan than the one he’d campaigned on; rolled back the mandate forcing Catholic nuns, among others, to provide employees with contraception and abortifacients; signed legislation to open up drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; initiated a bold, deregulatory assault on the administrative state—and topped it all off with the first major overhaul of the tax code in more than 30 years.

And yet that Mr. Trump is a very stupid man remains the assumption dominating his press coverage.

Let this columnist confess: He did not see Mr. Trump’s achievements coming, at least at first.

Plus:

In Mr. Trump’s case, critics equate lowbrow tastes (e.g., well-done steaks covered in ketchup) as confirmation of a lack of brainpower. It can make for great sport. But starting out with the assumption that the president you are covering is a boob can prove debilitating to clear judgment.

Quick show of hands: How many of those in the press who continue to dismiss Mr. Trump as stupid publicly asserted he could never win the 2016 election—or would never get anyone decent to work for him in the unlikely miracle he did get elected?

The Trump presidency may still go poof for any number of reasons—if the promised economic growth doesn’t materialize, if the public concludes that his inability to ignore slights on Twitter is getting the best of his presidency, or if Democrats manage to leverage his low approval ratings and polarizing personality into a recapture of the House and Senate this coming November. And yes, it’s possible to regard Mr. Trump’s presidency as not worth the price.

But stupid? Perhaps the best advice for anti-Trumpers comes from one of their own, a Vermont Democrat named Jason Lorber. Way back in April, in an article for the Burlington Free Press, the retired state politician wrote that “while it may be good for a chuckle, calling or even thinking someone else stupid is virtually guaranteed to give them the last laugh.”

Is that not what Mr. Trump is now enjoying at the close of his first year?

And yet, you read stuff like this piece by Walter Shapiro, who should know better, saying that “The 45th president combines the temperament of an authoritarian with the competence of Elmer Fudd hunting rabbits.” But I’m not sure it’s Trump who’s playing Fudd here.

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