Asked by an interviewer if there was anything that she might like to say to Donald Trump, former first lady Michelle Obama exclaimed, What is wrong with you?
One thing wrong with Trump is that he is illiterate, unable to read beyond an elementary school level. Apparently, most of us find it quite difficult to believe that we could elect as president a man who is illiterate, so this fact is overlooked, rather like the emperor who had no clothes. Being unable to read means that Trump cannot manage his business interests. It also mean that he cannot fulfill his duties as President. Most of his responsibilities he turns over to family members and the people whom he employees.
That we elected a President who cannot read seems impossible. As a nation, we are in collective denial. We connect illiteracy with poverty, but here is a wealthy man who never fumbles for his reading glasses (usually necessary at his age). Trump is photographed frequently. However, there are no photographs of him reading a book, a newspaper, or a magazine, nor are there any photographs of him using a computer.
Trump's inability to read forces him to depend upon other people. Some read for him, but reportedly, he has no patience for listening to them. For news, he watches TV and tweets, reportedly by shouting at an employee who's job is to post to his Twitter account.
Literate people cannot easily imagine the difficulties of being illiterate. Inability to read means that you are profoundly ignorant. Imagine being without the vast fund of general knowledge which you take for granted as you draw upon it each day. (Start with the fact that you could not be reading this). Trump has no background information, no conceptual frameworks from books. He is attempting to act as president with no knowledge of history or geography. He is ignorant about politics, for that matter.
Lacking information about a subject, you might google it, go to the library, or buy a book. Trump can do none of those things. He cannot do simple research. He has attended two universities, but there is little evidence of his scholarship or intellectual achievement. The language of his public speaking has been described as at a fourth grade level and he shows signs of a speech disorder, according to retired Speech Therapist. A French language translator said of Trump's speech patterns that they are chaotic, making accurate translation impossible.
Although he admits that he does not read ("I'm too busy"), Trump does not care to admit that he cannot. A lifetime of concealing his inability to read, as well as concealing the mistakes that have resulted, have made him skilled at deception. His ignorance results in astonishing errors, but like a skilled magician, he manipulates his audience by distracting them. He creates compelling, irrelevant distractions that divert attention. Every mess is followed by a shotgun blast of damage control: denial, alibi, counterattacks, reinterpretations, and accusations. If none of this works, he doubles down and continues to insist that he is right, even when factual proof makes it obvious that he is wrong.
Trumps inability to read and his consequent ignorance forced him to compensate by learning street skills, such as bluffing and bullying. Because his goal in every relationship is domination, he is relentlessly aggressive and he seems to have an extreme sense of entitlement. Whenever provoked or obstructed or frustrated, he behaves like an angry Water Buffalo. Perhaps he cannot read, but he can fight, and he does.
Probably because he is defensive about his inability to read, he compensates in ways that are painfully obvious, such as bragging about his accomplishments and repeatedly claiming that he is a smart man. Asked for his opinion of Donald Trump, former President Obama said simply, "He's a bullshitter".
Photo: Stephen Crowley, New York Times