Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.
Saturday, March 17, 2018

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

The only two words Donald Trump has uttered more frequently than “you’re fired” are “I’m smart.”

He did it again Saturday during his visit to CIA headquarters. Trump’s handlers staged the event so he could demonstrate his full support for the agency (despite spending the past year bashing the nation’s intelligence community), and to divert media attention away from the tens of thousands of Americans who had come to Washington, D.C. that day to protest Trump’s presidency. But Trump’s scripted remarks turned into a rambling rant that included attacks on the media and his insistence that as many as 1.5 million people attended his inauguration (photos revealed no more than 250,000).

In the middle of his tirade, Trump felt the need to tell the nation’s top spies that he is a bright guy.

“Trust me,” Trump said, “I’m, like, a smart person.”

Last month Trump repeated those same words while explaining why he’ll be the first president since Harry Truman to avoid getting daily updates from intelligence professionals about national security threats.

“I’m, like, a smart person,” he told Fox News’ Chris Wallace.

Trump has repeated that claim many times. Each time, it isn’t clear if he’s trying to convince his interviewer or himself.

In 2004, in an interview with CNN, Trump said, “I went to the Wharton School of Finance. I got very good marks. I was a good student. It’s the best business school in the world, as far as I’m concerned.”

In 2011, in an interview with ABC, Trump said: “Let me tell you, I’m a really smart guy. I was a really good student at the best school in the country,” referring once again to Wharton, the University of Pennsylvania’s business school, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1968.

“I went to the Wharton School of Finance,” he said during a speech in Phoenix in July 2015. “I’m, like, a really smart person.”

In an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press in August 2015, Trump described Wharton as “probably the hardest there is to get into.” He added, “Some of the great business minds in the world have gone to Wharton.” He also observed: “Look, if I were a liberal Democrat, people would say I’m the super genius of all time. The super genius of all time.”

During a CNN-sponsored Republican town hall in Columbia, South Carolina last February, Trump reminded the audience that he had gone to Wharton and then repeated his boast: “Look, I went to the best school, I was a good student and all of this stuff. I mean, I’m a smart person.”

Anyone who feels compelled to boast about how smart he is clearly suffers from a profound insecurity about his intelligence and accomplishments. In Trump’s case, he has good reason to have doubts.

Trump has the kind of street smarts (what he calls “gut instinct”) characteristic of con artists and hucksters, but his limited vocabulary, short attention span, ignorance of policy specifics, indifference to scientific evidence, and admitted aversion to reading raise questions about his intellectual abilities; his capacity to absorb and analyze information and ideas.

Many observers have noted that Trump has a difficult time expressing himself and speaking in complete sentences. A linguistic analysis by Politico found that Trump speaks at a fourth-grade level. A study by researchers at Carnegie-Mellon University compared last year’s Republican and Democratic presidential candidates in terms of their vocabulary and grammar. Trump scored at a fifth-grade level, the lowest of all the candidates.

Some might suspect this is not an intellectual shortcoming but instead Trump’s calculated way of communicating with a wide audience. But Tony Schwartz, who spent a great deal of time with the real estate developer while ghostwriting his book The Art of the Dealnoted that Trump has a very limited vocabulary.

It would hardly be surprising if these observations infuriated the vain and insecure Trump. Trump’s persistent insults directed toward anyone who disagrees with him also suggest his deep insecurity. Before, during and since his presidential campaign, Trump has constantly denigrated his opponents and detractors, among them actresses Rosie O’Donnell, Cher, and Meryl Streep, civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis, businessman Mark Cuban, GOP political operatives Karl Rove and Ana Navarro, NBC’s Chuck Todd, Jeb Bush, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, and conservative columnist George Will.

Trump considers all of these people “losers.” It turns out that this is one of Trump’s favorite words. An archive of Trump’s Twitter account since 2009 found that he used the word “loser” 234 times. His other favorite insults include “dumb” or “dummy” (222 tweets), “terrible” (202), “stupid” (182), “weak” (154), and “dope” (115).

For example, on May 8, 2013, Trump tweeted: “Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest — and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure, it’s not your fault.”

On Sept. 26, 2014, nine months before he announced his candidacy for the White House, Trump tweeted: “I wonder if I run for PRESIDENT, will the haters and losers vote for me knowing that I will MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN? I say they will!”

Last September 17 — after CNN anchors criticized Trump for promising a “big announcement” to get the media to come to an event, only to use the moment to tout his new hotel and then invite several military figures onstage to praise him — Trump had another Twitter tantrum: “CNN just doesn’t get it, and that’s why their ratings are so low — and getting worse. Boring anti-Trump panelists, mostly losers.”

In contrast to his attacks on “losers,” Trump frequently retweets comments from others congratulating him for how “smart” he is.

Only someone who secretly doubts his own intelligence would feel compelled to make these kinds of public statements.

Trump surely knows he didn’t get into Wharton on his own merits. He transferred into Wharton’s undergraduate program after spending two years at Fordham University in New York. According to Gwenda Blair’s 2001 biography, The Trumps, Trump’s grades at Fordham were not good enough to qualify him for a transfer to Wharton. Blair wrote that Trump got into Wharton as a special favor from a “friendly” admissions officer who knew Trump’s older brother, Freddy. The college’s admissions staff surely knew that Trump’s father was a wealthy real estate developer and a potential donor.

Moreover, Trump has for years exaggerated his academic accomplishments at Wharton. On at least two occasions in the 1970s, the New York Times reported that Trump “graduated first in his class” at Wharton in 1968. That’s not true. The dean’s list for his graduation year, published in the Daily Pennsylvanian, the campus newspaper, doesn’t include Trump’s name. He has refused to release his grade transcripts from his college days.

It is likely that Trump was the original source for that falsehood, but it isn’t entirely clear, since neither Times article attributes it directly to him. But the fabrication that Trump was first in his class has been repeated in many other articles and books about Trump, so he clearly knew it was out there in the public domain and has never bothered to correct it.

“He was not in any kind of leadership. I certainly doubt he was the smartest guy in the class,” Steve Perelman, a classmate of Trump’s at Wharton, told the Daily Pennsylvanian in 2015.

Trump’s insecurity about his accomplishments is also revealed in his efforts to portray himself as a self-made entrepreneur.

“It has not been easy for me,” Trump said at a town hall meeting on October 26, 2015, acknowledging, “My father gave me a small loan of a million dollars.”

At a news conference last year, Trump repeated the same story: “I got a very, very small loan from my father many years ago. I built that into a massive empire and I paid my father back that loan.”

An investigation by the Washington Post in March demolished Trump’s claim that he made it on his own. Not only did Trump’s multi-millionaire father Fred provide Donald with a huge inheritance, and set up big-bucks trust accounts to provide his son with a steady income, Fred was also a silent partner in Trump’s first real estate projects. According to the Post:

“Trump’s father — whose name had been besmirched in New York real estate circles after investigations into windfall profits and other abuses in his real estate projects — was an essential silent partner in Trump’s initiative. In effect, the son was the front man, relying on his father’s connections and wealth, while his father stood silently in the background to avoid drawing attention to himself.”

Fred Trump’s real estate fortune was hardly due to his faith in the free market, but instead stemmed from his reliance on government subsidies. He made his money building middle-class apartments financed by the Federal Housing Administration.

In 1954, when Donald was 8 years old, his father was subpoenaed to testify before the Senate Banking Committee on allegations that he had ripped off the government to reap windfall profits through his FHA-insured housing developments. At the hearings, the elder Trump was called on the carpet for profiteering off public contracts, including overestimating the construction costs of his projects in order to get larger mortgages from FHA. Under oath, he reluctantly admitted that he had wildly overstated the development costs.

Donald has followed in his father’s corrupt footsteps. Trump’s career is littered with bogus businesses, like Trump University; repeated ripoffs of suppliers, contractors, and employees whom he failed to pay for services rendered; and the misuse of the Trump Foundation to feather his own nest while trying to look like a philanthropist. Six of Trump’s businesses have gone bankrupt. Despite this, on April 18, 2015, Trump tweeted this falsehood: ”For all of the haters and losers out there sorry, I never went Bankrupt.”

Trump has also lied about the size of his wealth, as various business publications have pointed out. Many observers suggest one reason Trump has refused to release his tax returns is that they will show he has repeatedly and wildly exaggerated his wealth and thus his success.

Many observers have noted Trump’s sociopathic, thin-skinned, demagogic, authoritarian, impulsive, and vindictive personality. Although Trump has the self-awareness of an adolescent, it is obvious to many others that his compulsion to constantly boast “I’m smart” and to deride others as “losers” is rooted in his profound sense of insecurity.

Presidents don’t have to be geniuses. But a successful president must recognize his own limitations and be willing to rely on others’ expertise. He has to take constant criticism — from the media, political opponents, and his own advisers — without taking it too personally. Surrounding oneself with yes-men and yes-women who are afraid to tell the president he’s wrong is a recipe for disaster. Most important, an effective president needs good judgement, to be able to hear different viewpoints, weigh evidence, think several steps in advance rather than act impulsively, and be calm under intense pressure. Trump fails each of these tests.

Beneath Trump’s public bravado is a deeply insecure, troubled man who is unfit to be president. This makes him a danger to the country and the world.

Peter Dreier is professor of politics and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College.

IMAGE: DonkeyHotey / Flickr


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Copyright 2017 The National Memo

33 Responses to Another Trump Lie: ‘I’m Smart’

  1. I’d have thought, “Believe me.” would have beaten either of the other two in the most used category.

    Can we go back and copy verbatim those RWMO demands that President Obama release his grades and hinting there is something nefarious in his not doing so?

  2. Trump the liar did NOT attend Wharton Business School. Period. He was a student at the University of Pennsylvania, as an undergraduate, which happens to house the Wharton School of Business. He majored in business as an undergraduate, but did not attend graduate school at Wharton or anywhere else. He has no Masters or PhD.

    I was an undergraduate at Columbia — that doesn’t mean I studied at Columbia Law School!

    Trump is, simply, once again, as always, lying.

  3. Has anyone ever heard a truly accomplished intellectual say those words? Don’t think so. Let’s call him what he is…pathetic.

    • “I’m, like, a smart person.” Too funny. Remember the “valley girls” of the 1990s? That line could have come from the movie “Clueless.”

    • I wonder if Trump’s father called him stupid or ineffective.
      If a child doesn’t ‘add’ up to others, then most often they will lie to make up the differences, at least in their minds..
      Trump seemingly has a way of labeling others (transference) his own faults.
      So when Trump called others liers and crooks, he was talking about himself.
      When he says he is smart, he is in a way trying to answer his own self doubts.
      Many people who voted for Trump seems to think that money means a person is smart.
      I have the view that while it is OK to have money, how you got it or earned it more important.
      Trump got his by cheating others.
      According to this article, his father cheated the government.
      So when Trump boasted of ‘being smart’ to use the governmeent’s own rules against them as in that $50 million tax break for 20 years, he considers that being smart.
      A lessor monied person would be thrown in prison.
      Also I wonder was Trump was liked or popular while in school or college.
      I wonder why in his desire to satisfy his base, no matter how stupid many of their rants are, is he trying to make them ‘his friends’.
      This guy is so insecure it’s mind boggling.
      And another thing I’ve noticed, he’s very jealous of ex President Obama.
      However, Trump wanted the be on the world stage.
      All of his deficits will now be in view for all the world to see.
      I think Putin already knows who he is and what he is not.
      What better way to bring down the USA than to show the world what an idiot this country picked as it’s leader..

        • I’ve read this one and others like it.
          Had a boss who employed some of the same traitis as Trump.
          The kicker is that my boss was/is a very intelligent man.
          He just had some of the most ugliest ways about him unimaginable.
          He was a backstabber to no end.
          Then he’d smile about it.
          In some conversations with him, I came to the conclusion that he was estranged from his family, and he allowed no one to get close to him, even though he would have liked it to happen..
          I felt that he was hurting internally, so I went out of way to be somewhat cordial to him and when he did something stupid, I’d just look at him an shake my head.
          But folks like that are like a wounded dog.
          Trump one the other hand, is so insecure and lives so deep in his little world and is so deep into the con, I don’t know if there is help for him.
          As the article pointed out, he can’t be helped.
          As I mentioned in a previous post, I think that Putin knows what kind of man Trump is, or in Trump’s case isn’t.
          Putin will use him and is using him.
          Putin doesn’t want the US.
          But he would like to prove that the US isn’t what it would like the world to think it is in no uncertain terms..
          I listened to that NIkki person, the new UN head said..
          If you don’t do what we want you to do, I will be taking names, she seemed to imply.
          Taking names???, seriously??
          Trump say he wants to make America great again.
          Trump is going to be our country’s fall from grace or destinction.
          Trump will make us the laughing stock of the world.
          And on top of that, the American people might end up losing jobs and prices might go up higher because of him.
          Then on the other hand, maybe in some ways that might be a good thing.
          Then maybe his supporters will get it.

          Either way the GOP will either sign off on his policies or not..They created this monster, and now that they hold the majority of all three branches or will at any rate, they can’t blame the DEMS.
          As a matter of fact, they are trying to convince the DEMS to support them so that they can use that against them.
          I just hope that the DEMS just sit back with their arms folded and say it’s your game, play it.

          • the only thing I question is “then his followers will get it”. I seriously doubt that his “followers” would ever in ten thousand years admit that Trump was the cause of their misery – just as they continue to vote Republican even though the rethugs would rather see them dead that to care for them or help them. But you are so right….whatever happens going forward is all on the rethugs.

          • I think some of them is starting to see the light.
            They wanted all of the cake, and now that they have it, they seemingly recognize that ‘having it all’ is not so good after all.
            I mean where is the opposition.
            A fight among themsleves.
            Maybe the way things turned out is ‘heaven sent’.

          • I was horrified by the statement Nikki Haley made at the UN. In addition to being the epitome of arrogance and bullying, the Trump team does not even bother to hide their contempt for every one else, forgetting that we are not the only game in town. Watch China made inroads on the economic front in response to Trump’s obtuse policies, insults, and threats…not to mention better deals by the savvy Chinese who, unlike Trump, look at the end game long term, rather than what they want to accomplish during the next 100 days or 4 years.

          • My son is sitting back, saying, OK, he want to ge ready for the changing trades deals.
            He says it might take a couple years, but in the end that deal will cause companies to lose money, lay of workers or even close altogether because prices will be too expensive for most folks to buy the product..
            He thinks that for many companies , the stock will go down so low, that he will then be able to go and buy shares in stock because of the low prices.
            But I don’t know where these ideas are coming from in our present administration..
            i know many people take pride in our country and some of its history.
            But the USA of yesterday isn’t the USA of today.
            We can’t live in the past on the larels of those people of yesterdays history.
            Some of the history was good, but for many it was bad and deadly.
            When I look and listen to many of Trump’s supporter, it’s obvious to me that they have not been paying attention to history and the things and ways thing that were once prevelent in our country even 10 years ago is now gone or are going away.
            I understand their worry, but the thing I have noticed in my old age and getting there (here) is that about every twenty years or so, things change.
            That’s about every generation.
            If one is looking to make it into the future, one has to be aware of what might or will be prevelent in about 10 or 20 years from where they are now standing and work toward that ideals.
            You don’t wait until the idea becomes a reality now.
            That way a person can go to school with that idea in mind, get work experience and be ready for it when it gets here.
            The Chinese knows this.
            They have been working on this since probably the early 50’s.
            I’ve read that they haven’t been involved in a war or conflict to a big affect since the late 1800’s.
            But what have we been doing?.., fighting or picking fights with every country and nationality that we can think of, and like a fool in the the rings calling ourselves the greatest.
            Well even the greatest get old and a new champ takes it’s place.
            If we don’t prepare for the futures ahead of us, then we will be always caught in the ‘greatness’ that was.
            We need to do better and prepare our future generations more, or we will go down like the Roman Empire and we’ve only been a nation for how long?.
            Stupid people.

          • Another problem, limited mostly to high tech companies, is that they depend on foreign professionals to satisfy their skill level requirements. In other words, there are not enough engineers, mathematicians, and physicists to satisfy the demand for people with that skill set. If we ban, or limit immigration, legal and/or illegal, many high tech companies operating in the USA will have to either close their doors or move their operations overseas.

          • No kidding.
            Sadly, many of Trump’s supporters, and I get it, I truly understand, that many are satified with the way things were in the working enviroment they have or had.
            But the ways of the world change and if we don’t change with it, then we are kicked to the side of the road as old relics.
            I remember reading a column about 40 years ago in which the writter was saying the reason the dinosaurs died out is because they couldn’t adapt to the changes in the earth’s environment, whereas the rats and roaches did.
            Bill Clinton, with all of his personal faults, also apparently foresaw what was ahead, and urged folks to get themselves better educated by making it simple to get two years of college free.
            As the saying goes ‘a hint is sufficient to the wise’.
            President Obama and Michelle focused a lot on getting a good education so one can at least put themselves in a position to be competitive.
            Now we have, mostly Republicans followers, who are saying their jobs , are being taken away from them, by especially foreigners.
            Well, perhaps, the foreigners put themselves in a position to be competitive and perhaps they started young.
            And have you noticed that the GOP don’t necessarily promote higher education as vocally as the DEMS.
            What they do is change the material that is taught and often that material doesn’t accurately reflex the history of what is or was.
            Then they brainwash their supporters or use so much disinformation, tossing in already set biases in the mix that folks refuses to hear another side of the argument.
            As a friend, who is of Chinese origin said there are many American who are so ignorant that they don’t care to learn something new.
            He asked do you really think a midwestern farmer is interested in something other than what he already know how to do?
            I guess that applied to the coal miner also.
            These people are caught in in survival mode that they don’t get that in order to survive is to do exacly what they resist,
            And the GOP talk about other countries that use these tactics.

          • I foresee China making hay, financially, at our expense in alternative energy implementation. America’s GOP Party is allowing the opportunity for China to show the way forward in regards to responding to Climate Change, thus enhancing their stature.

            Which will allow them to have even more leverage in world affairs—an unfortunate set of circumstance given China’s human rights abuses.

          • That is already happening. China quadrupled its investment in alternative energy sources and climate change in its current budget…while we continue to see “energy independence” by allowing Canadian shale oil to flow in the USA, and we continue to support coal mining. The impact of our myopic strategy is that China will, indeed, become the dominant economic super power in the area of alternative energy development, the creation of good paying jobs in that sector of the economy, and it is likely to emerge as a reliable and credible international partner to the rest of the world.

          • In the book, “The Hacking of America”, the point was made about how Putin was able to see immediately how to use Trump as a convenient pigeon to allow for inserting itself, via software and operatives, into America’s cyber infrastructure. Putin and his intelligence operatives went to work immediately to implement cyber-war techniques prior to the Election.

    • A true intellectual who’s got brains upstairs like Stephen Hawking doesn’t need to boast of how smart they are. Most of us would like to think we’re smarter than we actually are but I’d like to think I know right from wrong. What the truth is to a blatant lie and have some humility and admit when I’m wrong. Most people try to learn from their mistakes and try to correct the mistake. In Trumps case no admission of being wrong and just compounds the problem and does it over and over until he’s succeeded. That is the true definition of insanity

  4. People who are actually smart don’t talk about how smart they are. Rather, they talk about how much they do not know.

  5. On the one hand Trump’s insistence that he is smart, the smartest, yugely intelligent is indicative of a very insecure person. On the other hand, he believes in eugenics and absolutely believes that he received superior genes. I think his intense hatred of President Obama is because he recognizes his inferiority to him on every level. What really sticks in Trump’s craw was Obama’s acceptance by the East Coast elite establishment that has and will always exclude the orange, merit less, short fingered vulgarian.

  6. Trump isn’t the only one suffering from the malignancy of having to assert so frequently how smart he is. Others have done this in less overt ways—which are insidious and pernicious in a silent way, contributing to what many psychologists call “Identity Threats” which are a result of long-term stigmatization of groups—something which depraved and degenerate minds like those of Arthur Jensen, Shockley, and Herrnstein, in their efforts to assert and promote superiority on the bases of the mythical social grouping called “Race”, perpetuated . (Although Francis Galton was instrumental in accelerating the notions of “Race” and “IQ”, his purpose was more utilitarian than promoting a Racist Agenda).

    Weak-minded individuals who felt a need to perpetually pump themselves up by boasting of higher IQ scores, notwithstanding that all of humanity are of the same “Family”, have been doing what Trump openly does, but in quieter ways. Other “Identity Threats” are based on perpetuating the falsehood that women are less mathematically inclined.

    In “Whistling Vivaldi”, by Claude Steele, the concepts of “Group Identity”, and Identity Threats created based on stereotyping over generations, are discussed in depth, along with the effects of health of such threats, and suggestions of strategies to counteract such threats and thus mitigate the ill effects on the group’s health.

    Trump’s problem isn’t an Identity Threat, but more an unhinged ego which never learned moral restraint. A very messed up individual to put it mildly.

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