The president of the United States is on Twitter mocking Senator Bob Corker as being, in his word, “liddle,” by which he means “short.” The president’s current wife’s office has issued a denunciatory statement in response to remarks made by the president’s first wife; Ivana Trump joked that she was the real first lady, which offended the third lady. Marla Maples, the second lady, has not been heard from much.
Marla Maples is the smart one.
Meanwhile, over at the State Department, the nation’s chief diplomat, former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, has been engaged in tentative negotiations with North Korea, which the president, once again taking to Twitter, dismissed as a waste of time. “Only one thing will work,” the president tweeted, threatening war via social media. Trump’s main innovation in North Korea policy has been to nickname the nation’s hereditary head of state “Little Rocket Man.” Not “liddle.”
To no one’s great surprise, it was reported that the secretary of state, in his frustration, had described the president as a “moron.” Tillerson resorted to a Washingtonian standard, the non-denial denial, and sources close to the matter affirmed his denial: He hadn’t called the president a “moron,” they said; he called him “a f***ing imbecile.”
Trump, who cannot spell “honored” or “principles” — or “tap,” “counsel,” “coverage,” “hereby,” “unprecedented,” “ridiculous,” “waste,” “judgment,” “paid,” and much else — likes to talk about his IQ. He assures us it is very high. How high? “One of the highest.” He has challenged Mark Cuban, an actual billionaire, to an IQ contest. He has blasted Chris Matthews as having a low IQ, and has claimed, on separate occasions, that his IQ is higher than those of Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Jon Stewart, Jeb Bush, and others. He suggested that Rick Wilson should be given an IQ test before he is allowed to appear on television again.
Now, he wants to challenge Rex Tillerson to an IQ-off. “I guess we’ll have to compare IQ tests,” he told Forbes, referencing the “moron” episode. “And I can tell you who is going to win.”
Best not to challenge Tillerson to a spelling contest.
Rex Tillerson is not a fool, even if, like the rest of the Cabinet, he is not going to escape the Trump administration with his reputation intact. There are two ways to think about the responsible men serving in the Trump administration. It may be that men such as Tillerson, John Kelly, and James Mattis — the men who “separate our country from chaos,” as Senator Corker put it — are enduring this pageant of buffoonery because they feel a patriotic duty to ensure that somebody in the executive branch knows what he is doing. It may be that men such as Mike Pence and Steven Mnuchin are ordinary sycophants who are willing to demean themselves in exchange for proximity to the Oval Office. I do not think that Rick Perry, who was an excellent and admirable governor of Texas, probably spent much of 2016 hoping that he would one day become secretary of energy.
The human heart is unquantifiable. The human brain less so.
Give the man an IQ test.
Donald Trump has been badly burned by his two gambling bankruptcies, but maybe he would be open to a wager: If he actually scores 132 or better on a properly proctored IQ test, which would make him a MENSA candidate, I’ll vote for him in 2020—and if he fails to score 132, he’s off the ballot. That’s a fair bet, I think.
And the president certainly sounds confident about his IQ. Maybe Rex Tillerson, who used to run one of the ten biggest multinationals on earth, is the fool, an oaf who just doesn’t recognize brilliance when he sees it. Maybe we shouldn’t have much faith in people who went to the University of Texas, who obviously are in no position to judge a man with Trump’s impeccable credentials.
What say you, Mr. President? Ready to put up or shut up?
— Kevin D. Williamson is National Review’s roving correspondent.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story inaccurately stated that Trump had claimed to have an IQ of 132.