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Opinion

Trump’s careless ignorance could make him the world’s most dangerous man

Donald Trump has the whole world in his hands.
Top of the Ticket cartoon
(David Horsey / Los Angeles Times)

There is a good reason that Donald Trump failed to win the endorsement of a single serious newspaper (the Ku Klux Klan “Crusader” does not count). It is not because the press is uniformly liberal; there were plenty of traditionally Republican and conservative editorial boards that could not bring themselves to support Trump. It is because people who work on newspapers deal in facts, and the fact is that the president-elect is woefully unprepared for the office he has won.

That is the core reason I have been so critical of Trump and will continue to be.

This is not a knee-jerk aversion to any and all Republicans (I used to be one myself). If George H.W. Bush had beaten Bill Clinton back in 1992, I would not have worried that the country was in dangerous hands. Bush the elder, besides being a complete gentleman, was a seasoned practitioner of statecraft. If Sen. John McCain had won in 2008 or Mitt Romney in 2012, I would have been disappointed, but I would not have thought the election of either man would be perilous for us all (although having Sarah Palin a heartbeat away from the presidency would not have been reassuring).

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It is Trump who is uniquely scary, not because he is a Republican and not because of his personal demerits. The nation can survive a president with a record of using women as sexual toys (Trump will not be the first). The nation can survive a president who is rude and bullying. The nation can even survive a con man. But it will be much harder to steer clear of harm with a president who seems to have no idea how little he really knows about very important things.

For all his experience as a businessman, his ideas about economics are neanderthal. Those who actually understand the intricacies of the global market fear he will provoke a disastrous trade war if he follows through on his threats to tear up trade deals and slap high taxes on imports.

His fantastical promises to bring back jobs in the coal mines and manufacturing plants were further proof of his dim-bulbed grasp of economic realities. Yes, those promises raised hopes and won him votes in the Rust Belt states — and probably won him the election. But he was fooling those voters and probably fooling himself. Global competition is the force that diminished the old industries and no new trade deal will change that reality. Manufacturing may well rebound in this country, but it will be built on robots and automation. The high numbers of jobs that once provided a middle-class lifestyle for men without a college degree will never come back.

In the final days of the campaign, Trump repeatedly mocked U.S. military leaders for announcing in advance their plans to retake regions of Iraq held by Islamic State militants. “Whatever happened to the element of surprise?” Trump asked repeatedly, as if war were a game of hide-and-seek. Letting Islamic State leaders know the attack was coming gave them a chance to run away, Trump said. Military strategists responded by pointing out that Islamic State commanders on the run actually made much better targets and that was just one of several good reasons to broadcast intentions.

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Trump is no military genius, although he has famously claimed to know more than the generals. If he carries that delusion with him into the White House, it could lead to catastrophe. So could his failure to understand the immense value of the NATO alliance. So could his simple-minded admiration of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Low-information voters have given us a low-information president. Trump’s lack of sophistication and his apparent disinterest in doing the hard work it takes to understand the complexities of economics, international relations and military strategy is the most alarming aspect of his looming presidency. His character flaws and reactionary tendencies are hardly insignificant, but his willful ignorance of vital knowledge is what may make him the world’s most dangerous man.

David.Horsey@latimes.com

Follow me at @davidhorsey on Twitter.

MORE FROM DAVID HORSEY

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