What Trump Doesn’t Know Can Hurt You

One of the many things about support for Donald Trump that has bemused me is the seeming belief among those supporters–and for that matter, among many Americans who don’t support him–that experience in governing, or at least expertise about governance, is irrelevant to the Presidency.

These are people who would be very unlikely to trust a doctor who had neither gone to medical school or practiced medicine. They wouldn’t call a plumber who had never “plumbed.” Yet they confidently assert that anyone who’s run a successful business of any kind can run the country. (Leave aside, for the moment, the fact that Trump quite obviously didn’t run a successful business–sound businesses don’t repeatedly refuse to pay their vendors or go bankrupt with some regularity.)

In the past two years, people who do know something about governing, about the Constitutional framework constraining executive action,  and about various aspects of policy have been appalled by Trump’s very evident ignorance of all such things.

His ignorance isn’t the biggest problem: no one who assumes the Presidency knows–or can know–the details involved in every policy decision a chief executive must make. We expect a President to surround himself (or herself) with expert advisers, to consult those experts, and learn from them.

We expect a President to know what he or she doesn’t know. The buffoon currently shaming the Oval Office not only doesn’t know what he doesn’t know, he very clearly has no interest in finding out.

Trump’s ignorance is dangerous in ways both more and less obvious.

Just one example:

I’ve recently come across several news reports about America’s dependence on elements that are collectively called “rare earth.” Rare earth metals and the alloys that contain them are critical for the manufacture of everything from fighter jets to numerous devices that people use every day– everything from computer memory, DVDs, rechargeable batteries, cell phones, catalytic converters, magnets, fluorescent lighting and many more. The use of rare earth elements in computers and cell phones has grown exponentially, as has their use in rechargeable batteries that power portable electronic devices such as cell phones, readers, portable computers, and cameras.

And most rare earth comes from China.

It is highly unlikely that our bull-in-a-China-shop (pun intended) knows anything about rare earth, America’s dependence on it, or China’s virtual monopoly on it. Not only does  Mr. Tariff Man not understand how tariffs work or who pays them, he just as obviously has no idea how dependent the U.S. might be on goods we import from any country.  (He has displayed abysmal ignorance of the complex interrelationship of American manufacturers and Mexico, or the existence of less dangerous tools for negotiating trade disputes.)

The U.S. has exactly one mine– Mountain Pass– that harvests rare-earth elements.

China dominates the global market for these materials and has been threatening to take them hostage in the deepening trade conflict. Just the suggestion that Beijing could starve American factories of essential materials has sent rare-earth prices soaring over the past month, with dysprosium oxide, used in lasers and nuclear-reactor control rods, up by one-third.

The linked article notes that China would have some problems implementing a ban on rare earth,  “including the prospect of widespread smuggling and the likelihood of hurting countries that Chinese authorities may prefer not to alienate.” But the threat is still powerful.

Officials have begun contingency planning to accelerate production in the event of a Chinese cutoff, Rosenthal said. Though Mountain Pass could not fill all domestic needs, it could boost output of substances needed for oil refining and some specialized magnets.

Yet the mine’s role at the center of the U.S.-China faceoff over 17 elements with names such as neodymium, terbium and europium is not without irony.

Mountain Pass ships its main product — a powdery substance that looks like crushed cocoa — to China for processing before it is sold to Chinese customers. A Chinese rare-earths producer, Leshan Shenghe, holds a nonvoting 10 percent stake in the U.S. mine.

The people in the U.S. and Great Britain who want to defy globalization–  who are screaming “stop the world I want to get off”–are too late. The world’s economies are interrelated and interdependent in millions of complex ways.

When policy is directed by an ignoramus who has absolutely no understanding of those complexities and dependencies, the consequences can be dire.

I don’t want my cavities filled by a plumber, and I don’t want a phony “businessman” created for reality television running my country.


  1. Sheila,

    “What Trump Doesn’t Know Can Hurt You.”

    I would say it a little differently: What Trump didn’t know is going to destroy our FUTURE. The riots this week in Memphis are just the beginning of the end. Trump, the fool, thought he was going to be able to play the Blacks and the Jews against each other. Not a bad idea, but that move went out the window over twenty-five years ago. So, all can do now is to precipitate a RACE WAR and millions of fools are willing to follow him to that end.

    What a disgraceful chain of events.

  2. I saw where Sarah is leaving the podium at the end of this month. Who could step into that career ending position?

    And we’ve set the deck for a war in Iran. Who honestly thinks that Iran would attack two tankers containing Japanese product when Japan’s president was meeting in Iran — friendly talks at that?

    Once you’ve seen the game, all the lies in the world don’t work. It is what it is.

    Trump has proven Obama wrong about one item — America is not exceptional as Obama likes to tout. Maybe for a few scattered years in the 1930s and 50s, but that’s about it.

    The good news is we can see all our rough spots now and fix them if we choose to. But as long as the Donor Class owns our government, I don’t expect much.

  3. My mistake, please forgive me for leaving out HE in the second to last sentence, in the above comment.

    We still have time to stop this looming tragedy, but not much.

  4. The Red Hats will be loving this! When our rare earth is exhausted, they can put the women and children back on the looms spinning the South’s cotton 16 hours a day – with no break time.
    Sheila, this country has LOTS of jobs that don’t require any training and there is only one thing that can be said about it — ‘O be one Kenobi, that’s our only hope!’

  5. Regarding his skills as a businessman, consider that he owned four casinos at different times, and all four filed for bankruptcy. Owning a casino is like having a license to print money, yet all of his casinos went bankrupt.

  6. Todd,

    “The good news is we can see all our rough spots now and fix them if we choose to. But as long as the Donor Class owns our government, I don’t expect much.”

    Who’s afraid of the BIG BAD WOLF? I’m not. The Koch brothers are already trying to “weasel out” of this looming nightmare.

  7. Trump has Bolton chomping at the bit to start a war with Iran. He just may get his wish. That will certainly create even greater economic chaos than we have been experiencing, but Bolton and Trump sure will be having fun.

    I watched Mayor Pete’s IU speech last night on YouTube. He gave me such hope for the future for my children and grandchildren. If not elected President, whoever is will hopefully place him in a powerful cabinet position where he can accomplish many good things for our country and the world before he finally does become the President.

    If you are interested in hearing intelligent, knowledgeable and well thought out plans for how Pete Buttigeig would manage the world stage as the US President it will be time well spent. His depth of knowledge and intelligence beyond his years combined with his capability to communicate that knowledge is very unique.

  8. It isn’t just the lack of knowledge that Trump brings to our government that worries me; it is the lack of knowledge and ethics that his cabinet possess and pours over our institutions. Heaven help us!
    Meanwhile, I find that I no longer trust ANYTHING coming out of the federal government these days. Iran attacking oil tankers? More like a re-run of the Gulf of Tonkin scam.

  9. After two and one half years of 45, all twenty four of the Democrats seem like savants.

    We lost the technology for converting rare earth materials when the Bushies allowed the Chinese to buy Magnequench, so now we have to live with Chinese dominance of both the metals and the technologies.

    It really IS “a small world, after all.” We all need to pray that the world recognizes that, even if 45 doesn’t.

  10. The little he does know can hurt us, but the willful ignorance is weapons-grade.

    As for his business acumen, whenever one of his supporters tells me he must be a business genius because the Trump Organization is made up of 500 LLCs, I explain to them that that’s what we call the “rinse cycle.”

  11. One of the reasons China will keep exporting rare earth to us is that we are their greatest market for other goods and services. China is a state capitalist nation and with reductions in tariff-ravaged exports to us has the offsetting factor of higher prices for such dear goods as rare earth and the leverage to counter tariff (see soy beans). Irrespective of state action (tariffs and counter tariffs, demands for industrial secrets etc.), there is a certain equilibrium in interlocked economies that capitalists observe beneath the surface without regard to the showboat antics of their politicians.

    Use of the flag to cover greed for profit has its limitations, seen or unseen. Let’s not panic.

  12. BTW, Afghanistan is awash in rare earth minerals, lithium (batteries) and a host of other useable substances. Why didn’t corporate America make the Afghanis a deal they couldn’t refuse say, 20 years ago? Oh. Right. The War on Terror. I forgot. So how is that going?

    Flouting the law is now front and center in the White House. Did anyone catch the “interview” with Stephanopolos where Trump openly favored breaking the Federal election laws that disallowed gathering “information” of value from foreign countries? Did Mueller need criminal intent? Gee. All he had to do was ask the right question. The president, who cares nothing about the law, would have coughed up all the intent necessary to drag him out in handcuffs.

    We have a systemic disaster on our hands that gets worse and more dangerous with every day Donald Trump remains in the White House. Who will step up? How will we recover from the wall-to-wall damage being willfully done to this country and to our allies?

  13. Theresa, I would agree with you: “Meanwhile, I find that I no longer trust ANYTHING coming out of the federal government these days. Iran attacking oil tankers? More like a re-run of the Gulf of Tonkin scam.”

    Actually, I have been suspicious of the Federal Government, ever since the Gulf of Tonkin and the growth of the Imperial Presidency. We have given the Presidents far more power than they should have, President Agent Orange, Pastor Pence, along with others: Neo-Cons, and other scam artists have revealed the true weakness in our Government. This weakness is the abdication of Congressional Power and Responsibility to the Executive Branch.

    The House Democrats must IMHO, continue to push back on President Agent Orange and Pastor Pence, tie them up in legal knots. Now is not the time for Action not Timidity.

  14. A line from that old song, “The Snake” by Johnny Rivers came to mind with the title of the blog today. “You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in.” The entire GOP knew was Trump was…and more importantly…they knew what he wasn’t when they made him their nominee. We knew they knew, they knew we knew they knew; what we don’t know is WHY? The answer to that question might explain their aiding and abetting what are destructive, frequently illegal and always against the Constitution, actions, blatant lies, denials and accusations by Trump. They knew he was a snake before they took him in; IS that why? They could have, might have, stopped him before now had his mental instability and ignorance of all logic and common sense had come as a surprise. And I must add that Kentuckian Mitch McConnell is an old time snake handler from the hills and hollers of Kentucky.

    “Trump’s ignorance is dangerous in ways both more and less obvious.” McConnell knows all!

  15. Did Trump conquer the Republicans or vice versa? In doesn’t really matter much because whoever led and whoever followed understood it was about power, nothing else. Can both in less than the two years remaining consolidate that power to make it permanent? Clearly that and money are the always goals of power.

    Trump only skill, name brand management, has him shouldering the blame for all that’s going wrong because to him personally blame is a name brand asset. He’s doing fine personally, he sees no threat of jail that his lawyers can’t handle, and Republicans are too with the going price of favoritism in the donor market. Everybody is making lots of money and looking forward to long careers making it.

    We have one chance to end it now that we got scammed in the one chance we had to prevent it.

  16. Again…
    I spoke to an interesting couple yesterday. He was an accountant and she was a professor of sociology, but they could have been Edith and Archie Bunker. They lamented that America had lost the “cataclysmic” cultural war.. They were referring to the social upheaval of the 1960s over civil rights and institutional injustice. By “lost”, they both meant that the pencil-neck elitist peacenik ethno-apologist deadbeats had won a big, big fight, a huge war, and America’s common ordinary everyday citizens had lost. He referred my memory back to Germany’s Wiemar Republic and how — because it lost the war — it was a victim of reparations — large payments of money Germany had to pay to the winners of World War I, which were intended to help rebuild countries that had been bombed to rubble.
    “Does that strike a bell?” He asked.
    “Reparations: that’s what ordinary Americans have been paying to the libtards now for over fifty years,” he explained.
    “And those reparations,” she added, “what’s called equal rights, women’s rights, welfare safety nets, health regulations, education programs, all those things Johnson pushed through, have broken this country financially, morally, and spiritually. We’re just like Germany before Hitler put a stop to reparations.”
    He nodded and tapped the table, “And common ordinary folk, who don’t know anything about reparations in Germany, do know that they are carrying too much of a burden. They know it isn’t right…”
    She summarized the thesis of their argument, “And they know Trump is doing something about it. That’s why ordinary Americans will not let Trump be removed from office.”
    “We aren’t about to let this opportunity to save America get away,” he declared.

  17. “We expect a President to know what he or she doesn’t know. The buffoon currently shaming the Oval Office not only doesn’t know what he doesn’t know, he very clearly has no interest in finding out.”

    This dangerously glaring deficiency in this man’s cognitive capabilities quite frankly scares the living daylights out of me. He doesn’t read nor does he listen which has to be called studied ignorance and this man is the President of the United States of America. My concerns about him tend to focus on foreign policy and national security policy because that’s what interests me the most however this studied ignorance extends all across a wide spectrum of concerns any Chief Executive is both required to address and to do so in a coherent and forthright way. Donald Trump is clearly not capable of doing this.

    So we have this fool just meandering on with his daily dose of offensive tweets and incomprehensible statements and actions, a glaring example of which were his statements regarding excepting opposition research material from hostile foreign powers, and nothing is really being done about it. We may be staring down a direct confrontation with Iran over what is happening in the Strait of Hormuz regarding oil tanker traffic and the freedom of navigation that goes with it and we will likely, once again, have the President saying one thing and his advisors saying something else ending with contradictory messages continuing to come from the White House, of all places, regarding a potential national security crisis.
    Any semblance of actual leadership is totally absent.

    It’s also fairly obvious that neither party in the Congress is capable of dealing with this situation with the Republicans being hell bent on covering his backside to prevent them from being primaried next year and those of the other side of the aisle acting as if they’re are afraid of their own shadows for the same reason. No one in this mix other than a few brave souls scattered throughout the Congress is actually thinking about the welfare of this nation. The world is not going to wait on us while we try to get our act together, whatever that turns out to really be. We are right now about as flatfooted as we could be and those that should be leading us don’t even know how to do so. Meanwhile, this outrageously stupid “status quo” continues to roll forward with all of us and the rest of the world at its mercy.

  18. Larry Kaiser @ 11:20:
    This is one of the most disturbing anecdotes I’ve heard lately.
    I’ve been saying that we are in the middle of a slow-moving cold coup. I don’t think that we can assume that Trump will leave office if he is voted out by any margin, and with support like this, we can expect big trouble ahead and need to prepare for it.

  19. Also consider what he “does know”…that he can say or do just about anything and no one will stop him. He “does know” now that the rule of law doesn’t apply to him or his loyalists.

    As he said today about firing Kelly Ann…”that’s not fair” and ignores a very specific law. He is likely to say the same thing about any Supreme Court ruling against him….

    2020 and the future of our democracy wait…

  20. The DNA of our “body politic” here in the U.S. has been corrupted by a combination of FAR RIGHT AND RELIGIOUS RIGHT “KINGPINS” located in Dallas. It was the work of two families: MCLENDON AND HUNT 50 YEARS AGO.

    I had been the General Counsel for the McLendon Corporation in 1969 and a few years earlier had been a member of a three-person team of government attorneys who sued H.L. Hunt, then the richest man in the world, in the U.S. Tax Court.

    That’s the HARD TRUTH whether we like or not. TRUTH is the only antidote available at this time. Whether it can be successfully administered is problematic.

    Nevertheless, do we have anything to lose by trying?

  21. “We expect a President to know what he or she doesn’t know. The buffoon currently shaming the Oval Office not only doesn’t know what he doesn’t know, he very clearly has no interest in finding out.

    Trump’s ignorance is dangerous in ways both more and less obvious.”

    It’s in the area of national security policy that Trump’s mind bottling shortcomings, at least to this observer, are the most obvious and dangerous. Right now, given the situation that is evolving in the Arabian Gulf and the steady drumbeat for war being advanced by his principle advisers, Trump is incapable of any semblance of forthright leadership that this country would obviously need under such circumstances.

    One only has to look back 56 years to the Cuban Missile Crisis where another American president, a fellow by the name of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, was faced with a situation that dwarfs what Trump may or may not be dealing with right now. Unlike Trump, Kennedy was an avid reader and also a pretty good listener as well. He had just finished reading Barbara Tuchman’s “The Guns of August”, a classic work of history regarding the origins of the First World War which had a profound impact on him as he dealt with the wide variety of opinions and military options the was hearing in regard to what to do about the Soviet missiles that had been employed in Cuba, just 90 miles south of Florida.

    Very much unlike Trump, Kennedy had a very good grasp of history and also had something that Trump also lacks-the courage of his own convictions. Kennedy was also a good communicator and addressed the nation on what was happening and took a direct role as a president should in managing the crisis that was unfolding. I have very vivid memories of late October 1962 and remember just how frightened everyone really was including yours truly as a freshly minted nine year old. Kennedy led, and I emphasize, let this country through that Crisis and avoided what could have very easily become a general nuclear war between this country and the Soviet Union.

    I have absolutely no confidence in this current president’s ability to do anything approaching what Kennedy did so long ago. Obviously there are other areas where Trump falls dramatically short of the normal behaviors of a president of this country but national security is at the top of any list of presidential responsibilities and he acts like a freaking yo-yo, bouncing back and forth between his so-called advisors, nearly all of whom are war hawks in regard to Iran and who are itching for a workable scenario where this country would go to war with Iran.

    JFK faced a similar situation where most of his advisors also advocated strenuously for a war with the Soviet Union over their intrusion into the Americas, violating the Monroe Doctrine and putting our national security at very grave risk but he found a way out of it where those proverbial “cooler heads”, including his own, prevailed. Kennedy was the glue that held it together and we owe him a great debt as a result.

    In my humble opinion, in Donald J. Trump had been president at that crucial time we might not be here right now. This is something we all need to think about the even though thinking about the unthinkable is a hard thing to do.

  22. Trump, upon losing the election, will hasten like a carpetbagger to fly away by night to a country with which the USA has no extradition treaty, escape prosecution, build a golf course, sign up for Burger King shipments, and live out the remainder of his miserable life waiting for arriving flights carrying Kim and Putin for high times and misdeeds.

    Pence, with kneeler’s carbunkles will forever sit to preach.

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