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Just how bad are Donald Trump’s grades?

His apparently native intelligence may be a hoax. He's getting schooled.

Donald Trump really likes to brag about his brains. To listen to him, he has kind of a supercomputer whirring away there beneath the plume of iridescent hair. He can do anything better than anyone else, whether it’s spending a few hours learning about nuclear strategy or winning trade wars. Besides, his uncle taught at MIT, which means that the Trump gene pool couldn’t be more robust: ‘My two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart.’ For good measure, Trump noted that his ability to win the presidency on his first attempt ‘would qualify as not smart, but genius… and a very stable genius at that!’

Well, well, well. Now it turns out that Trump went to great lengths to suppress his high school transcripts. Marc Fischer of the Washington Post has the story today, which, incidentally, suggests that Trump’s fixer Michael Cohen was telling the truth to Congress the other day, at least when it came to this little episode: ‘In 2011, days after Donald Trump challenged President Barack Obama to “show his records” to prove that he hadn’t been a “terrible student,” the headmaster at New York Military Academy got an order from his boss: Find Trump’s academic records and help bury them.’

Trump was preoccupied with demonstrating that he was brainier than the shiftless President Barack Obama — whose marks have never been publicly released and may, for all we know, be unimpressive, though his writings from the time are — but Trump was obviously terrified that someone would unearth his own (presumably abysmal) scores. Trump had real reason to worry. His self-presentation as gleaming with native intelligence may well have been based on, to use his favorite term, a hoax. As Paul Waldman observes, ‘The subtext of Trump’s repeated claims to genius and his criticisms of Obama was that electing him would replace the falsely intelligent and undeserving president (Obama) with an actually intelligent and deserving president (himself).’

For all Trump’s professions of acuity, his actual record as president is looking pretty iffy these days. For one thing, it turns out he had his namesake son sign checks to Cohen to reimburse him for his outlays to the importunate Stormy Daniels. So now Trump per et fils could be enmeshed in legal woes over the payments. Essentially, Trump had his son helping cover for his own sexual peccadilloes, thereby displaying a unique understanding, at a minimum, of what constitutes true family values.

Then there is North Korea. Trump may have fallen ‘in love’ with the despot Kim Jong-un, but the loving doesn’t seem like it’s being reciprocated. Turns out the North is rebuilding a long-range rocket site in Sohae. Trump responded with a mealy-mouthed statement today: ‘I would be very disappointed if that were happening. It’s a very early report…I would be very, very disappointed in Chairman Kim. I don’t think I will be, but we’ll see what happens. We’ll take a look. It will ultimately get solved.’

Finally, it seems that Trump’s tariffs continue to boomerang. The trade deficit, far from narrowing, hit a record high with China, reaching $419.2 billion in 2018. The overall deficit hit almost $900 billion. So much for Tariff Man. Trump may boast about his acuity, but he’s getting schooled by America’s competitors.

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