Donald Trump, the most confident man in America, held a town hall meeting Thursday in New Hampshire where he declared himself the winner of Wednesday night’s debate. Many observers believe that honor goes to Carly Fiorina. But such bravado has helped him earn unparalleled support in the Republican presidential primary, especially among those who believe America’s standing in the world is slipping. Who cares if Trump’s knowledge of the world beyond our borders falls short of his competitors’? As one female supporter at the rally told NPR, after being asked about Trump’s foreign policy weaknesses, "He’s very strong about what he tells us that he will do…. He's a smart cookie. They say he learns very fast. So it won’t be a problem."
Who is “they”? Who says that Trump learns very fast?
Trump himself, of course.
When conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt pressed Trump earlier this month about not knowing who Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah was, Trump argued that it was pointless to know who the current Middle Eastern leaders are because they’ll likely all have changed by the time the next president is elected. By then, Trump said, he will be on top of things. “I will know far more than you know within 24 hours after I get the job,” he claimed.
Then, at the second GOP debate on Wednesday night, when asked to defend his poor performance on Hewitt’s show, Trump again tried to soothe detractors by saying, “I will know more about the problems of this world by the time I sit [in the White House].” Trump tried to present his ignorance as an advantage: “You look at what’s going on in this world right now by people that supposedly know, this world is a mess.”
Whenever pressed by the media for specific policies, Trump’s response is the same. “I don’t think the people care,” he said at the Iowa State Fair last month. “I think they trust me. I think they know I’m going to make good deals for them.” Again and again, he says it’s all about trust. Democrats, and some of his Republican opponents (like Lindsey Graham), see these assurances as pure bluster. But not Newt Gingrich, who told CNN earlier this month, “I think he learns faster than any other political figure I’ve known except Bill Clinton.” And surveys suggest that GOP voters do indeed trust Trump: A Washington Post/ABC News poll released this week found that 60 percent of Republicans think Trump is honest and trustworthy.
Then again, that same poll found that 59 percent of Americans overall think Trump is not honest and trustworthy. Even in electoral politics, confidence only goes so far.