We humans like to pride ourselves on our intelligence, especially relative to other animals. We are clearly animals in some sense, more closely related to our nearest ancestors, the great apes, than some would like to admit, but we also have a crucial differential — our huge brains — that allows us, along with our opposable thumbs, to manipulate our environments to the point of creating reliably warm, dry places to sleep every night and lots of them, to create devices that allow us to travel at speeds vastly exceeding what any animal can achieve unaided, and to ensure our food supply to the point that two of our biggest problems in the United States are now obesity and food waste — at the same time.
We can see signs of intelligence in other animals. Elephants mourn their dead. Crows exhibit high level ability to solve problems. Dogs can learn any number of tasks with appropriate training.
And individual humans vary considerably in their intelligence, from the ability to figure out the most difficult problems in the known universe to lacking the ability to care for themselves. We have a very long period of development early in our lives when, no matter the level of intelligence we end up with as adults, most of us go through periods when someone has to keep a close eye on us to make sure we don’t hurt or kill ourselves by accident, if only because of our lack of knowledge about how the world works. Small children exhibit some of the same characteristics as less intelligent animals. They will engage in the same activity repeatedly, to the exhaustion of any adults who are participating. They will sometimes refuse to follow the most reasonable directions. They can get deeply absorbed in whatever is in front of them, to the point of failing to notice some impending danger. They can point out non existent dinosaurs.
President Donald Trump is more like a rabid dog than a human in terms of the level of intelligence he exhibits.
Like a dog, he has a bad habit of barking immediately and loudly at whatever apparent threat appears in front of him at any given moment while ignoring any threat that is too abstract or distant for him to grasp. So he promised during the campaign that he would “bring coal back.” This ridiculous idea was a cheap attempt to appeal to a group of voters who feel aggrieved right now by offering an entirely unworkable solution that ignores long term economic and environmental realities. Unsurprisingly, Trump is not having much luck bringing coal back, which was never a very good idea to begin with.
Lots of animals have some form of social order that they enforce among themselves. The metaphor we use of a “pecking order” borrows from animal practice to describe crude forms of internal governance by humans. But we know of no animals besides humans who have the level of abstract thinking and writing to compose what we in the United States have, a constitution that provides both methods and ideals of governance the authors of which expected to govern a huge abstraction, a nation state, indefinitely into the future. Trump often exhibits an almost total lack of understanding of the provisions of the U.S. Constitution.
So he repeatedly, during the campaign, promised to prohibit all Muslims from entering the country, apparently unaware that such an idea obviously violated the prohibition in our Constitution against any action of government that interferes with religious belief or practice. He did finally arrive at a version of his Muslim ban that tempered the obvious religious discrimination sufficiently for the Supreme Court to let it stand, but only after nearly every federal trial judge who looked at it easily declared it to violate the Constitution, and only after his staff had toyed with the idea enough to make it pass legal muster — barely. Trump denounced one of the officials who struck it down as a “so-called judge,” apparently not appreciating that our Constitution is at some pains to insulate those judges from political pressure precisely to ensure that they will strike down any law, from any source, that they find violating the Constitution, or otherwise allow officials from either the legislative or the executive branch to impose their preferences onto judicial decisions.
He has admired the President of China for getting himself declared President for Life, musing aloud that we might try that in the United States someday, which betrays a profound ignorance of the basic point that we only founded the United States as a nation because we wanted to be shut of the King of England, who is not a president, but gets the job through the blind, blunderbuss method of being born at the right time to the right family and holds the position for life. He seems unaware that our Constitution allots the president four year terms for a reason, that there was talk of making George Washington king while he was president, which Washington rejected, and that we have since then decided to limit the president to two terms by amendment, and that, if we did decide to have a president for life, given that he did not win the popular vote, he would not at all be a good candidate for the position.
This is Trump, not barking, but running heedless after something he saw and decided he wants, almost graduating from rabid dog to toddler in terms of how he behaves, but still far short of what we can reasonably expect from the president of the United States and still far, far below the standard that every other occupant of the office, even the worst, set in the two hundred twenty eight years between the ratification of the Constitution and Trump’s accession to the presidency.
Donald is a lower animal, or at best a toddler, which is not a good comparison because most toddlers learn as they grow and eventually become more or less responsible adults. We have no way of knowing what, but when Trump was a small child, maybe an infant, maybe a toddler, something very bad happened to him that badly stunted his moral and intellectual development and it is far too late to correct the problem. The result is a physically mature human being who is entirely unable, for lack of moral and intellectual development, to discharge the duties of president of the United States in a responsible and intelligent manner. He should never have run for president, much less assumed the office, but such is our reality. His loyal supporters will never admit his obvious failings because they are mostly lacking in moral and intellectual maturity themselves, they think Trump is a good person because he is rich, and he has the poor taste to utter their vicious thoughts that they do not feel comfortable stating themselves.
We cannot know now how long the Rabid Dog Presidency will last, but we can hope it will end soon and relatively peacefully.