Trump was so unable to understand the nuances of international trade policy that European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker was forced to use a set of flash cards to explain the ideas to him in a White House meeting.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Juncker “flipped through more than a dozen colorful cue cards with simplified explainers” and “had at most three figures about a specific topic” as he spoke to Trump about trade between America and the European Union.
An EU representative who confirmed the details of the meeting told the Journal, “We knew this wasn’t an academic seminar. It had to be very simple.”
While wrangling over tariffs with Trump, Juncker reportedly had to tell him, “If you want to be stupid, I can be stupid, as well.”
Trump has put farmers and other businesses in America in a world of hurt, thanks to the trade war he declared on much of the rest of the world with the argument that his tariffs will work to extract more favorable trade agreements.
In reality, other nations have responded with tariffs of their own, increasing the price of American exports like pork and soybean, and leading foreign buyers to purchase their goods through other channels. U.S. companies and farmers are losing billions of dollars in sales as a result.
The disclosure of the flash cards’ pivotal role in a major diplomatic exercise amplifies previous concerns about Trump’s suitability for office.
Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reportedly referred to Trump as a “moron” and considered resigning in part because Trump’s lack of knowledge motivated so many decisions.
His chief of staff, John Kelly, called Trump an “idiot,” according to eight different sources. Similarly, former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said Trump was a “dope,” an “idiot,” and said he had the intelligence of a “kindergartener.”
Of course, Trump has also presided over an objectively unstable presidency while calling himself a “very stable genius.”
Juncker understood that billions of dollars in international trade, along with millions of jobs around the world, relied on getting through to Trump. So, he brought flash cards to do the trick.
Despite Trump’s protests and statements, the flash card diplomacy lays bare what foreign leaders are working with.