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Trump doesn’t have what it takes to be president

President Trump walks back into the White House after seeing off Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

It should now be obvious to all that Donald Trump simply doesn’t have the mental qualities needed to be a good president. Or, as we saw this week, even a competent one.

That’s why his administration has lurched from controversy to crisis from its very beginning — and why the hopes that Trump will somehow learn or grow into the job are destined to be dashed.

He can’t and he won’t, because he lacks the necessary habits of mind. Further, the need to cover up for those failings has his team misleading the press and the public.

We’ve witnessed that twice in the space of a week, first with the administration’s false tale of why the president fired FBI Director James Comey, and now with the denial of the Washington Post report that Trump had disclosed highly classified material to the Russians.


The Comey story took dramatic lurch Tuesday evening when The New York Times reported that, according to a memo the FBI director wrote after meeting with Trump, the president asked him to shut down the FBI’s investigation into Michael Flynn. The previous day, Flynn had resigned as national security adviser after misleading top administration officials about his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak. That will be yet another bombshell on Capitol Hill.

But back to the administration’s Monday denial of the Post story. That qualified as Nixonian in the obvious effort taken to call something false without actually or explicitly rejecting the most damning part of the story.

It all leads back to Trump, of course. Start with his most obvious and most important mental and moral failing: Trump has little regard for the truth. He doesn’t care about conveying accurate information when he knows it, or in learning what’s true when he doesn’t. Rather, he says whatever he finds convenient to meet the needs of the moment.

Sometimes that means misrepresenting an event or series of events. Other times, it means wild exaggerations. We will now have a special commission on voter fraud because the president simply can’t say that he was wrong in his claim that some three to five million people voted illegally in the last election — his ego-salving explanation for why Hillary Clinton beat him in the popular vote.


Move from there to his inability to pay attention to necessary detail. Trump is a man who doesn’t know how much he doesn’t know, and doesn’t care. Easily distracted, he’s clearly bored by the task of learning what a president needs to know to function effectively.

Third, he’s mentally undisciplined. On Tuesday, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster acknowledged that Trump had decided on the spur of the moment to share the sensitive information with the Russians. And asserted that Trump didn’t know the source of the sensitive information he had revealed.

Think of that: a president on a whim revealing highly sensitive information, without the consent of a cooperative source (reportedly Israel), to perhaps our chief geopolitical rival. Won’t everyone now think twice about entrusting our agencies with such intelligence?

Fourth, Trump is congenitally unable to admit when he is wrong. That means his minions must go to great lengths to find some way to justify his remarks. Witness the farfetched attempts to rationalize his claim that Barack Obama had had him wiretapped. Other times, it means pretending that something material has happened to justify a switch in Trump’s previous stand, as we saw with his reaffirmation of US support for NATO, which he had called obsolete.

An administration quickly comes to reflect the qualities of its leader. Decent people who have joined the Trump team are now regularly in dissembling mode. Here’s the sad point we’ve now reached: Absent independent verification, you simply can’t trust much of anything this team says.


Scot Lehigh can be reached at lehigh@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeScotLehigh.