As a follow up to Betty’s post below, I’d like to look at the other thing that bothered me about our Donald’s grotesque Yad Vashem/Mean Girls yearbook note.
Here’s Trump’s deathless prose:
It is a great honor to be here with all of my friends — so amazing and will never forget!
Now remember what else we’ve heard about Fearless Leeder’s work reading habits:
President Trump is getting ready to embark on his first international trip later this week and officials have encouraged him to stay on script, despite him having trouble doing so in the past, briefing him with single-page memos as well as maps, charts, graphs, photos and have purposely included his name in “as many paragraphs as we can because he keeps reading if he’s mentioned,”
And add to that the fact that there is virtually no hint anywhere that the Cheeto-faced, ferret-heedit shitgibbon has ever read a book for pleasure, or ever will:
His meetings now begin at 9 a.m., earlier than they used to, which significantly curtails his television time. Still, Mr. Trump, who does not read books, is able to end his evenings with plenty of television.
No go back and read that note, a written work he had to produce himself, on the spot, inscribed by hand.*
Diagnosing at a distance is always a mug’s game, and I’m not going to do it here. I’m not going to say that Donald Trump is functionally illiterate.
But I am going to say that nothing on the record rules that conclusion out, and his Yad Vashem embarrassment is the latest straw in the wind to suggest that Houston, we have a problem.
To get a sense of what it means to say an adult is functionally illiterate, I took a fast look at a report from 2002 from the National Center for Educational Statistics.
Please note, again, I’m not a literacy expert; I haven’t studied up on this issue; I’m just reacting to the sense that something was more than egregious in Trump’s note — it was off. So take this next quote as representative of some sort of recent informed thinking about literacy, and not as the distilled essence of a body of knowledge to which your humble blogger makes no claim.
The NCES report bills itself as a “first look” at the National Adult Literacy Survey of about 25,000 Americans conducted several years before this write up. To contextualize its findings, the report’s authors described the definitions of the five levels of literacy across three domains — prose, documents [as in, parsing forms], and quantitative operations.
So how did this survey categorize the two lowest tiers of literacy in the prose category:
Level 1: Most of the tasks in this level require the reader to read relatively short text to locate a single piece of information which is identical to or synonymous with the information given in the question or directive. If plausible but incorrect information is present in the text, it tends not to be located near the correct information.
Level 2: Tasks in this level require readers to perform single, relatively simple arithmetic operations, such as addition. The numbers to be used are provided and the arithmetic operation to be performed is specified. Some tasks in this level require readers to locate a single piece of information in the text; however, several distractors or plausible but incorrect pieces of information may be present, or low level inferences may be required. Other tasks require the reader to integrate two or more pieces of information or to compare and contrast easily identifiable information based on a criterion provided in the question or directive.
Again, I’m not going to say that Trump’s demonstrated reading skills match these brief, rather formal descriptions. But that Yad Vashem note leaves me little confidence in Trump’s ability to handle the written word, whether he’s consuming or producing prose. There’s no reference to the place he’s in. There’s no response to the content of any exhibit or display he may have encountered. There’s not a single detail. It’s a rote response to a prompt: write something about your visit in our visitor book (or some such).
Those surveyed with weak or almost non-functional literacy skills found themselves confined to a narrowed life, or worse — the NCES analysis notes that “Nearly half (41 to 44 percent) of all adults in the lowest level on each literacy scale were living in poverty, compared with only 4 to 8 percent of those in the two highest proficiency levels.” If Donald Trump had fallen victim to that kind of constraint, it would be appropriate to feel pity, and even anger on his behalf; surely as a society we should do anything we can to ensure that as near as possible to everyone masters the basic skills needed to make it through the day in 21st century America.
But, of course, Trump has never suffered as a result of his inadequacies. He is instead, as much as it pains me to type it, President of the United States. That’s a job in which much better than functional literacy is, basically, a requirement. POTUS, after all, has a kind of broad brief, a lot of issues to cover. Most of the background information most presidents have used to guide their thinking across the range of their duties comes in written form. Obama, a well-documented avid reader, still used hours of reading at night to keep up.
Trump isn’t doing that. It doesn’t appear he could do that if he wanted to. His mind appears to be a reflection of that fact — or rather, reading is a habit that trains the mind. If you can’t or won’t tackle a text more complicated than a one pager of bullet points with your name in most of them…then you can’t think at the level events in the world demand.
In other words…Trump can’t do the job he’s got. Because he’ll still act with the powers of that position, that’s not good.
TL:DR — WASF…and we need to get this malicious reboot of Chauncey Gardner out of power as soon as possible.
Oh. One last thought. If I’m right, and Trump is as he appears to be, not cognitively up to his responsibilities, there are lots of people in his own party who’ve known this for a long time. And yet, come last summer, all but a very few lined up behind him. If he’s not fit for power, they aren’t either, not because they’re not smart, but because they fail as patriots.
*To add: I found Trump’s performance reading his Islam speech to be a similar signal of problems with the written word. It seemed halting, almost frightened, as if at any turn the ‘prompter would put up one of those SAT words to gnarly for his brain to process in time for his mouth to catch up. YMMV
Image: Boris Grigoriev, Woman Reading, c. 1922.