Just months after Donald Trump’s repeated campaign boasts about how smart he is, his White House and defenders now seem to be arguing exactly the opposite: that he shouldn’t be held accountable for his lapses because he doesn’t really understand what he is doing.
When Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, defended the president’s sharing of sensitive intelligence information with Russian diplomats during an Oval Office visit last week, McMaster’s eventual explanation was that Trump could not have known the possible consequences of what he had done.
“The president wasn’t even aware, you know, where this information came from,” McMaster said.
The White House had to scramble after the Russians departed to let the CIA and the National Security Agency know what Trump had just said, presumably to inform Israel. The information in question reportedly came from Israeli intelligence ― and Russia is allied with Syria and Iran in the Syrian civil war, possibly risking the life of the Israeli agent who obtained the material.
“He doesn’t have a lot of experience with classified information,” said Republican consultant Matt Mackowiak. “There’s a little bit of a learning curve there.”
The White House did not respond to a HuffPost query for this article, but that “learning curve” argument has become common among Trump defenders, who argue that an “outsider” businessman should not be expected to understand the intricacies of government policy.
Trump critics, particularly those who are Republicans, say they find that rationale offensive, and see the latest episodes as proof that their warnings were correct all along.
“His erratic and dangerous behavior is just not sustainable,” said John Weaver, who managed Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s campaign for the GOP presidential nomination last year. “Six months ago, people were beating the hell out of us. … Not so much anymore.”