Jonathan Chait

Donald Trump Is Not Very Smart

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Donald Trump's insistent Birtherism has raised the question of whether he is cynically manipulating an issue he knows to be false or is simply a dope. I vote for dope. Consider his threats to run an an independent if he fails to win the GOP nomination:

“I think the Republicans are very concerned that I [may] run as an independent,” Mr. Trump said. His support is highest among the conservative wing of the party, not least because he is among the so-called “birthers” who doubt that President Obama in fact was born in the U.S. “It’s a very important issue,” Mr. Trump said of demanding that President Obama show his birth certificate, which has separately been reviewed by the media and deemed legitimate. “I’m not ashamed of having raised that issue.”

“I am very conservative,” said Mr. Trump. “The concern is if I don’t win [the GOP primary] will I run as an independent, and I think the answer is probably yes.” Mr. Trump said he thought he “could possibly win as an independent,” adding, “I’m not doing it for any other reason. I like winning.”

Trump probably thinks is is some kind of clever threat -- you Republicans better nominate me, or else I'll run a third-party candidacy. Obviously, it's a self-inflicted wound. If Trump is actually trying to run for president, his vulnerabilities include an obvious lack of loyalty to the GOP. Threatening to run against the party if he fails to get his way doesn't help.

There are a great many questions that can be easily explained by letting go of the assumption that people in positions of wealth and power must have some intelligent reason for what they're doing. I hate to constantly bring everything back to the role of luck in market outcomes, but this is a fundamental philosophical divide with wide-ranging implications. My belief is that a capitalist economy will produce, through sheer luck, a great deal of rich dopes. Donald Trump is a great case in point.

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