It seemed racist — didn’t it? — when President Donald Trump blasted out a tweet insulting the intelligence of two prominent African-Americans:
”Lebron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon,” wrote Trump of the NBA superstar and the CNN talk show host. “He made Lebron look smart, which isn’t easy to do.”
This was one day after Trump spoke to a rally in Pennsylvania and, for the umpteenth time, ripped Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., who is black, as having a “very low IQ.”
But rather than try to look into Trump’s heart, let’s look instead at The New York Times’ database of all the insults Trump has hurled on social media at people, places and things since June 2015.
As it turns out, that catalog of castigations shows no pattern of racism in Trump’s view of his critics’ intelligence.
Former Vice President Joe Biden is “not very bright.” Former rival Hillary Clinton is “very dumb.” Actor Robert De Niro is “a very low IQ individual.” Ohio Gov. John Kasich is a “dummy.” Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is “one of the dumbest and worst candidates in the history of Republican politics.” Republican political strategist Rick Wilson is “dumb as a rock.” U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., is “without a properly functioning brain.” And of liberal Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Trump tweeted, “her mind is shot.”
All are white.
Also white are many of the print and TV pundits whose mental acuity Trump has attacked. These include David Brooks of The New York Times (“one of the dumbest of all … “), Megyn Kelly of NBC (“very bad at math”), Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC (“dumb as a rock”), George Will of The Washington Post (“dopey”), Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard (“dummy”) and the late Charles Krauthammer (“a dope”).
The insult database was last updated July 10, but if we include the recent tweet about James and Lemon, I count 46 subjects of intelligence-based insults from Trump, 41 of them white. And, for those looking out for sexism, 32 out of the 46 are male.
(Note, I didn’t count those whom Trump called “clueless” or “lightweight,” but the basic patterns would still have prevailed if I had.)
This data set does not show Trump is a racist. It shows he is a child. It shows he’s an unimaginative, thin-skinned counterpuncher who lashes out lazily at those who disagree with him with insults that appear to be deeply ironic.
From all appearances, Trump himself is not a smart man, his Ivy League degree and claims to being a genius notwithstanding.
He spoke as though he thought famed abolitionist orator Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) were still alive. Many times he’s told audiences that the F-35 stealth fighter is literally invisible in combat. He’s exhibited confusion about the difference between HIV and HPV, between climate and weather, and between England, Great Britain and the United Kingdom.
He boasts about how little he reads, and his Twitter feed is rife with misspellings and punctuation errors. Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson did not deny reports that he called Trump “a (expletive) moron,” and in the recent behind-the-scenes book “Fire and Fury,” author Michael Wolff quotes top White House officials name-calling Trump a “dope” or an “idiot.” One of his former professors at the University of Pennsylvania reportedly said, “Donald Trump was the dumbest g——— student I ever had.”
Unfair? In some ways, sure. There’s more than one way to be smart, and Trump has exhibited a facility for manipulating people and playing on their weaknesses that has resulted in many successes in real estate along with his astonishing political victory.
But Trump himself seems to favor the intelligence quotient (IQ) standard for intelligence, even though it’s based on tests that don’t measure his brand of savvy. Not only has Trump mentioned IQ in criticizing De Niro and Waters, he’s also used that measurement to attack or challenge Brzezinski, Tillerson and Mayor Sadiq Khan of London, none of whose test scores he knows, of course.
“Sorry losers and haters, but my IQ is one of the highest -and you all know it!” he tweeted in May 2013. “Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure, it’s not your fault.”
IQ tests are intended to be diagnostic — they measure reasoning ability, comprehension, information processing and so on, not whether the subject knows if or when Frederick Douglass died — and are an imperfect predictor of future performance in school and on the job. One ostensibly immutable number can’t possibly measure a person’s potential or gauge his worth.
Still. Truly smart people tend to do well. And it’s time for Trump to put up or shut up. He can take a genuine, monitored IQ test — not an online imitation — in about 90 minutes. That’s less time than it takes to play nine holes of golf or watch an episode of “Fox and Friends.”
Bring in those whose intelligence Trump has questioned on Twitter and have them take the test as well, with the results revealed immediately afterward on a live reality TV special.
My money would be on the “losers and haters.” Yours?
Eric Zorn is a political writer for the Chicago Tribune