The Herman Cain “Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan” Prize (named for the short-lived GOP frontrunner who didn’t know squat about foreign policy) is hereby awarded to Donald Trump. He earned it yesterday when he flunked certain basics on a conservative radio show.
As if we’re surprised.
Remember when the GOP touted itself as the foreign policy party? Remember when Republicans – especially their frontrunners – paraded their global smarts? Prided themselves for talking knowledgeably about the key players worldwide? That was the tradition dating back to Eisenhower, but, my oh my, how things have rapidly devolved. Now they’re stuck with a frontrunner who has no idea who runs the world’s major terrorist groups – and who thinks it’s “ridiculous” to even be asked.
That’s what happened yesterday on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show. And Hewitt is hardly a “mainstream media” adversary. On the contrary, he has veteran conservative creds and spent most of the ’12 election cycle polishing Mitt Romney’s shoes. Even yesterday, he found several occasions to stroke his guest. When Trump riffed about walling off America from Mexico, and promised to make his wall “good looking,” Hewitt duly slobbered: “You know that stuff. You know every developer in Manhattan. You know everything about building buildings. You could build the wall. I have no doubt about that.”
But Hewitt also believes that any prospective president from his favorite party should have at least some working knowledge of who the bad guys are. His 20-minute stint with Trump got weird right away:
Hewitt: “Are you familiar with General Soleimani?”
Trump: “Yes, but go ahead, give me a little, go ahead, tell me.”
Hewitt: “He runs the Quds Forces.”
Trump: “Yes, okay, right….The Kurds, by the way, have been horribly mistreated by – “
Hewitt: “No, not the Kurds, the Quds Forces, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Forces.”
As Homer Simpson would say, “D’oh!”
That initial exchange apparently put His Lordship on edge. It got worse, minutes later, when Hewitt asked: “On the front of Islamist terrorism, I’m looking for the next commander-in-chief to know who Hassan Nasrallah is, and Zawahiri, and al-Julani, and al-Baghdadi. Do you know the players without a scorecard, yet, Donald Trump?”
For the record: Nasrallah runs Hezbollah, Zawahiri runs Al Qaeda, al-Juliani runs the Al-Nusra Front in Syria, and al-Baghdadi runs ISIS. Trump whiffed on all four.
Here’s how he answered Hewitt’s question: “No, you know, I’ll tell you honestly, I think by the time we get to office, they’ll all be changed. They’ll be all gone. I knew you were going to ask me things like this, and there’s no reason, because number one, I’ll find, I will hopefully find General Douglas MacArthur in the pack. I will find whoever it is that I’ll find, and we’ll, but they’re all changing, Hugh. You know, those are like history questions. Do you know this one, do you know that one…”
“They’ll all be changed…they’ll all be gone” by the time Trump ascends to the throne? Um, Nasrallah has been running Hezbollah since 1992.
Minutes later, Hewitt tried to make nice: “I’m not trying to quiz you on who the worst guy in the world is.”
But Trump was still ticked off: “Well, that is a gotcha question, though. I mean, you know, when you’re asking me about who’s running this, this this, that’s not, that is not, I will be so good at the military, your head will spin.”
The vibe was calm for a while… until Hewitt decided to reengage: “I want to go back to the beginning, because I really do disagree with you on the gotcha question thing, Donald Trump. At the (upcoming CNN) debate (where Hewitt is slated to be a questioner), I may bring up Nasrallah being with Hezbollah, and al-Julani being with al-Nusra, and al-Masri being with Hamas. Do you think if I ask people to talk about those three things, and the differences, that that’s a gotcha question?”
Trump: “Yes, I do. I totally do. I think it’s ridiculous.”
Hewitt: “That’s interesting. I just disagree with that. I kind of figured that – “
Trump: “All right, I think it’s ridiculous. I’ll have, I’m a delegator. I find great people. I find absolutely great people, and I’ll find them in our armed services, and I find absolutely great people….But when you start throwing around names of people and where they live and give me their address, I think it’s ridiculous, and I think it’s totally worthless. Well, and by the way, the names you just mentioned, they probably won’t even be there in six months or a year.”
Hewitt (hang in there, Hugh!): “I don’t know, Nasrallah’s got such staying power.”
Trump: “…In that case, first day in office, or before then, right at the day after the election, I’ll know more about it than you will ever know. That I can tell you.”
Hewitt (hang in there, Hugh!): “So the difference between Hezbollah and Hamas does not matter to you yet, but it will?”
Trump: “I will when it’s appropriate. I will know more about it than you know, and believe me, it won’t take me long.”
Yeah, squash that impertient media bug! Denounce him as “a third-rate radio announcer”! Although, the truth is, Hewitt got off easy. At least Trump didn’t accuse him of having blood coming out of his whatever.
Bottom line is, Trump thinks a gotcha question is anything he’s ill-equipped to answer. His acolytes in the electorate probably don’t care, because they know even less about foreign policy than he does. But some of us have the sneaking suspicion that, once you strip away the brass and bluster, he’s little more than Sarah Palin in drag.