Donald Trump Is Really Learning a Lot at the White House Academy for Government Studies

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I’m just writing these down for posterity:

Trump on health care: “I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.”

Trump on China and North Korea: “[President Xi] then went into the history of China and Korea….And Korea actually used to be a part of China. And after listening for 10 minutes I realized that it’s not so easy. You know I felt pretty strongly that they have a tremendous power over China….But it’s not what you would think.”

Trump on the Export-Import Bank: “I was very much opposed to Ex-Im Bank, [but] it turns out that, first of all lots of small companies will really be helped….So instinctively you would say it’s a ridiculous thing but actually it’s a very good thing and it actually makes money. You know, it actually could make a lot of money.”

So far, Donald Trump has learned that health care is complicated; Korea used to be part of China; and the Ex-Im bank helps small companies too.

On health care, Trump gets solid marks. It is complicated. On the other hand, pretty much everyone except Trump already knew this. And the graders would have liked him to demonstrate a little more familiarity with why health care is complicated. Still, it’s a good first step. Let’s give him him a B-.

On Korea, Trump didn’t do so well. Is it true that Korea “used to be a part of China”? Sort of, in the sense that, back in the day, China repeatedly invaded Korea with varying success. At times it was a vassal state, at other times it wasn’t. But Trump talks as though maybe Korea was a province of China until maybe World War II or something. It’s actually been more than six centuries. Still, I’m feeling generous, so I’ll give a gentleman’s C-.

The Ex-Im bank is even more problematic. The bank itself claims that “more than 90 percent of EXIM Bank’s transactions—more than 2,600—directly supported American small businesses.” But take a look at dollars:

This comes from a longtime opponent of the Ex-Im Bank, so take it with a grain of salt. Small businesses do a little better on other metrics. Still, there’s not much question that agitprop aside, the Ex-Im Bank is primarily a tool for gigantic corporations. On the other hand, Trump is right that it makes money and doesn’t cost the taxpayers anything. But I still think I have to give him a D on this for his core claim.

Overall, then, Trump is learning, but he’s not learning especially well. So far I’d give him about a C-. He really needs to spend more time on his homework and less time watching TV.

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In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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