President Trump is not what you might call a “reader.” When asked what books he reads, he once offered that he was perusing This One, and That One, You Know. On another occasion, he told Tucker Carlson he was “looking” at a book about Andrew Jackson, but kept getting distracted after half a page by “some emergency.” (Later, he seemed to think Jackson was alive during the Civil War, which some speculated was due to miscomprehension from only reading the first page of a Jackson biography.) And after he assumed office, it quickly emerged that he insisted complex policy and intelligence briefings be condensed to one page with lots of graphics and maps.
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That last part might seem like an imminent danger to national security and/or your healthcare, but it nearly proved a huge bonus for The Literary President. In a borderline terrifying White House behind-the-scenes today, The New York Times reported that senior aides to the president are now afraid to leave him alone in meetings with foreign leaders, for fear he’ll cause the odd international incident. But beyond that, there was this final paragraph, in which three White House staffers described what would have been their best defense of the president after he leaked top-secret intelligence directly to the Russians:
In private, three administration officials conceded that they could not publicly articulate their most compelling — and honest — defense of the president: that Mr. Trump, a hasty and indifferent reader of printed briefing materials, simply did not possess the interest or knowledge of the granular details of intelligence gathering to leak specific sources and methods of intelligence gathering that would do harm to United States allies.
See? He didn’t mean to do it—he just didn’t do the reading!
It would be amazing if something like this ever appeared in The Paper of Record in reference to any head of state, much less the President of the United States. But this is how we roll now. If only White House officials weren’t too embarrassed to say the president doesn’t read and, as a result, just doesn’t know anything. That could actually have improved public perception of their boss’ catastrophic fuck-up.