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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This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

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