Failed real estate mogul and reality TV star-turned-president Donald Trump went off script during a speech in Japan today and admitted he did not know how many countries there are in the world before taking the oath of office.
“So my relationship with Shinzo [Abe, the prime minister] got off to quite a rocky start because I never ran for office, and here I am,” Trump told a state banquet. “But I never ran, so I wasn’t very experienced. And after I had won, everybody was calling me from all over the world. I never knew we had so many countries.”
For the record, there is no single answer to the question of how many countries there are in the world because it depends on whom you ask.
The United Nations has 193 “member states,” but recognizes more than 40 territories. The United States does not recognize Palestine as an independent state, but does recognize the Holy See, which is not a UN member.
Exactly no one is surprised to hear Trump confirm that he was entirely unfamiliar with the details of international political geography as a candidate. After all, his campaign’s improvised foreign policy advisory group was a mess that brought Carter Page, George Papadopoulis, Sam Clovis, and their attendant Russian collusion scandals into the White House.
But his off-the-cuff remark is consistent with other admissions to ignorance that Trump has made as president.
“Nobody knew that health care policy could be so complicated,” Trump said during February. In reality, everybody who knew anything about health care policy understood that complex interrelationships between insurers, providers, and manufacturers required a nuanced approach so as to avoid damaging industries that make up one-sixth or more of the US economy.
In late April, Trump told Reuters that “I thought [the job of president] would be easier.” Apparently, no one had eve told him that the presidency is a difficult, frustrating, and lonely job surrounded by a Secret Service bubble. However, he cannot say that his predecessor didn’t try to warn him.
Trump clearly does not understand or appreciate the Constitution he swore to uphold. When Steve Bannon decided to discuss the 25th Amendment in the context of efforts to remove him from office, the alleged president reportedly asked “what’s that?” Other comments make it clear that the concept of “separation of powers,” as with the judiciary or the Department of Justice, mean nothing to him.
Yet the most glaring examples of Trump’s profound ignorance are his foreign policy adventures.
During the campaign, he repeatedly declared NATO was “obsolete.” After learning what NATO actually is and does, he no longer thinks that.
Asking the Chinese president to end North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, Trump received a history lesson from Xi Jinping. “After listening for 10 minutes, I realized it’s not so easy,” Mr. Trump told the Wall Street Journal. “I felt pretty strongly that they had a tremendous power over North Korea,” he said. “But it’s not what you would think.”
Or rather, it was not what he thought, because what he thought was racist nonsense. When he declared his candidacy, Donald Trump knew nothing about the world except that he was terrified of Muslim countries, hated Latin ones because of immigration, and was angry at Asian ones for stealing American jobs.
Now Donald Trump is visiting Asia as president, literally a bore in a China shop.
Today’s remarks come on the heels of his inane comment yesterday that Japan is “a country of samurai warriors” that ought to shoot down North Korean missile tests, presumably by swinging their katana swords through the sky.
Here is video of Trump’s speech cued up to the 14:07 mark, where he admits to his prior ignorance. Watch:
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