Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.
The 2016 presidential election wasn’t just a referendum on white supremacy. It was also a celebration of know-nothingness, the crowning of a reality TV star who, unlike all 44 of his predecessors, has never previously held a position in military or in government. That leaves us with a soon-to-be commander-in-chief who, in addition to steadfastly refusing to learn anything about policy, hasn’t bothered to investigate the ins-and-outs of the job that awaits him. That ignorance was apparently on vivid display when Donald Trump met with President Obama at the White House last Thursday.
According to the Wall Street Journal, as President Obama gave Trump a survey course in what leading the country entails, “Mr. Trump seemed surprised by the scope [of the job], said people familiar with the meeting.”
Crucial gaps in Trump’s information about the task include the most basic personnel requirements. “Trump aides were described… as unaware that the entire presidential staff working in the West Wing had to be replaced at the end of Mr. Obama’s term,” WSJ writes.
For years, Trump has loudly opposed Obama’s performance in the White House, but he has been most vocal in perpetuating the racist birther lie. After observing Trump’s frightening lack of preparedness, President Obama is now said to be in the unenviable position of having to go above and beyond what’s generally expected in advising his successor.
“Mr. Obama realized the Republican needs more guidance,” WSJ notes. “He plans to spend more time with his successor than presidents typically do, people familiar with the matter said.”
Maybe having the enormity of the job finally occur to him accounts for the panic-stricken look on Trump’s face in photos taken after his briefing with the president. During his press briefing Monday, Obama spoke to the challenges that await Trump now that the campaign season is over and he has to get down to the business of actually governing.
“Regardless of what assumptions he brought to the office, this office has a way of waking you up,” the president stated. “Those aspects of his positions or predispositions that don’t match up with reality, he will find shaken up pretty quick. Because reality has a way of asserting itself.”
“Whatever you bring to this office, this office has a habit of magnifying and pointing out and hopefully you correct for it,” Obama added. “There are going to be certain elements to his temperament that are not going to serve him well unless he recognizes them and corrects for them… When you are a candidate that says something that is inaccurate or controversial, it has less impact than when you are president of the United States.”
Those comments came as close to criticism as the president would veer. A day before, Trump announced the appointment of Steve Bannon as his chief strategist and senior counselor. Bannon, chairman of Trump’s campaign, is executive editor of Breitbart, an outlet he has described as “the platform of the alt-right.” For the record, the so-called alt-right is a loose coalition of racists, white nationalists, white supremacists, neo-Nazis, internet trolls and angry white guys who think their failures in life are the fault of immigrants, black people, Jews, and women who don’t know when to shut up.
A number of groups have opposed Bannon’s appointment, based on the idea that it’s a horrifying proposition to have a white nationalist running the country. It is, however, a good indicator of what a Trump administration will look like, where it will get its ideas, which Americans it values, and how dangerous the next four years may be.
Kali Holloway is a senior writer and the associate editor of media and culture at AlterNet.
IMAGE: Barack Obama meets with Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque