Kids might actually start believing their parents when they’re told you could grow up to be president. After all, it happens that they now have a president who actually acts and talks like a fourth-grader.
As far as I know, the “fourth-grader” appellation first appeared in summer of 2015 in an analysis of the level of the vocabulary in Trump’s campaign speeches. Subsequent academic analysis of grammar and readability of political speeches varied the level between third and sixth-grade levels.
Trump clearly doesn’t like detail. His speeches rarely go beyond generalities where whatever he’d do was going to be “great,” “tremendous,” “historic,” “best ever” or , like health care, “beautiful.”
In politics, simplified speech is often necessary to get a point across in a short period of time. And it can be an advantage for those seeking to be seen as a plainspoken alternative to verbose elites.
But Trump has taken it to a lower level. I don’t take characterizing a president as a fourth-grader lightly. This is a powerful person who is the face of the country. Nor should we view the ascribed level of speech as an indicator of his intelligence.
It is the simplistic, childish mentality that comes with it that’s so troubling. It isn’t the grammar or limited vocabulary we need worry about. It’s not that he talks like a fourth-grader. It’s that he acts like one. Like a narcissistic, impertinent one with no compunction about lying – and who has a Twitter account.
Take for example the crass tweets attacking two MSNBC hosts, Joe Scarborough and fiancé Mika Brzezinski as “low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe” and describing a meeting with her during which “she was bleeding badly from a face-lift.”
White House associates portrayed it as showing toughness and willingness to fight back against those calling him unfit for office. Excuse me, but tweets like that don’t show how tough you are and attacking someone’s intelligence or appearance isn’t the way to show you’re fit for the presidency.
Trump fights back the way a pre-adolescent bully does, with personal insults accompanied by hints of braggadocio and superiority. His critics are always failures, losers, sad, pathetic, dumb or ugly.
However, this fourth-grader lacks adult supervision. That’s because he happens to be the supervisor. He hires and fires the adults around him.
When Trump staged his first full cabinet meeting so all members could take turns praising him and blessing their opportunity to serve him, many compared it to propaganda common to cult dictators. But one could easily see it more akin to a birthday party (it was held two days before his 71st birthday) with adults fawning over a child yet to learn humility and the ability to cope with complexities.
Some adults in his party are showing signs of getting fed up with the thin-skinned, petulant child. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) called the Scarborough-Brzezinski tweets “embarrassing.” Sen. Lindsey Graham, (R-SC) tweeted that Trump “represented what was wrong with American politics…” Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) told Trump “This isn’t normal and it’s beneath the dignity of the office.”
There are no signs, though, Trump is inclined to change the behavior or language that have brought him fame, wealth and power. Instead he and his enablers are intent on justifying such behavior as not only normal, but as acceptable and admirable.
To which the response must be: “What are you, a ten-year-old?”