Donald Trump said recently that he would scare the Pope with the specter of the Islamic State to show him who his real enemies are:
“I’d say, ‘ISIS wants to get you. You know that ISIS wants to go in and take over the Vatican — you have heard that. That’s a dream of theirs.”
“I’m going to have to scare the pope,” Trump said. “The pope, I hope, can only be scared by God, but the truth is — you know, if you look at what’s going on — they better hope that capitalism works, because it’s the only thing we have right now. And it’s a great thing when it works properly.”
It is doubtful the Pope is overly terrified of ISIL, and the idea that one evil forgives another belongs in the same grade level as Trump’s speaking ability, which is to say the fourth grade, as linguistic analysisby Politico’s Jack Shafer demonstrates:
Run through the Flesch-Kincaid grade-level test, his text of responses score at the 4th-grade reading level. For Trump, that’s actually pretty advanced…Flattening the English language whenever he speaks without a script, Trump relies heavily on words such as “very” and “great,” and the pronouns “we” and “I,” which is his favorite word. As any news observer can observe, he lives to diminish his foes by calling them “losers,” “total losers,” “haters,” “dumb,” “idiots,” “morons,” “stupid,” “dummy” and “disgusting.”
The image of Donald Trump trying to intimidate Pope Francis with language like that, or through a great show of capitalism, boggles the mind.
But then, this is Donald Trump we are talking about, The Donald, who’s favorite word is “I.” As David Brooks writes in a New York Times op-ed, Trump has given us “Ego as ideology.” Albeit a “third-rate ego” according to Salon’s Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg, and a “grotesque egoism” as former Carter speechwriter Walter Shapiro would have it.
However you describe it, it’s a whopping big ego, if he thinks he can master this Pope. According to Brooks,
“In the Trump mind the world is not divided into right and left. Instead there are winners and losers. Society is led by losers, who scorn and disrespect the people who are actually the winners.”
And who scorn capitalism. You know where that leave’s the Pope in Trump’s world.
Yet Trump cannot bring himself to believe that the Pope actually disapproves of capitalism, as though he were only joking about how capitalism “can be really toxic and corrupt,” and is “the dung of the devil” and the tyranny of “absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation.”
According to Trump, who retains the illusion that deep down, everybody likes him, “I’ve seen a lot of what he’s opposed to, and I don’t think the pope is opposed to capitalism.”
But then, Trump also said that UFC champion Ronda Rousey likes him, telling CNN’s Chris Cuomo,
“I tell you what. I know some women that are just…Ronda Rousey is an example, who likes me! I’d take her on my side as a fighter.”
It is not easy to explain Trump’s need to be liked, though Jeffrey Kluger took a shot at it recently at Time Magazine:
The problem with being Trump is the same thing that explains the enormous fame and success of Trump: a naked neediness, a certain shamelessness, an insatiable hunger to be the largest, loudest, most honkingly conspicuous presence in any room—the great, braying Trumpness of Trump—and that’s probably far less of a revel than it seems.
Well…good. It’s no revel for us either.
Rousey’s response to CNN was, of course, an unequivocal rejection of the Trumpness of Trump:
“I wouldn’t vote for him. I just really wouldn’t trust that guy with running my country, that’s all. I’m not going to get into specifics of it, but I don’t want a reality TV star to be running my country.”
I’ve got a feeling Pope Francis wouldn’t vote for Trump either. But he might forgive him. And that’s fine. That’s his job. However, the American people cannot forgive Trump, and those like him, for what they have done to our country.
Shafer says we should not interpret Trump’s speaking level scores “as a marker of low intelligence,” but it took a 14-year-old girl to explain the Fourteenth Amendment to the ego-driven tycoon. That makes her a couple of grade levels more advanced than Trump.
As Rousey explained, we need more than a reality star. Because hard as it is to be Trump, it will be a lot harder for us – and the world – for him to be Trump in the Oval Office, where he is pretty sure his fourth grade rhetoric will be law.