In 2009 the Italian newspaper La Repubblica started to publish a daily set of ten questions to then Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The questions related to numerous allegations of corruption and Berlusconi’s evasive and inconsistent responses to them. The questions were never answered.
Although Berlusconi has been compared to Trump in terms of his populist appeal, his explicit corruption, his gaffes, vanity, sexual venalities and ongoing hairline issues, he was a much more astute and wily operator than Trump. Berlusconi was malevolent and arrogant, but not stupid or mad; Trump appears to present a perfect shitstorm of evil intentions and mental and emotional instability, together with profound and wilfull ignorance of the world, his role in it and how he is regarded by all thinking people.
If Trump were to be posed a similar set of questions in relation to his own crimes and the lies he tells to disguise them, he would struggle to understand the questions. His limited vocabulary, inability to concentrate and lack of attention to detail don’t appear to allow him to deal with matters of any complexity or depth, and his stupidity is such that he appears to have very little awareness of how his staggering dishonesty is apparent to all, for all that he is given a free pass by his supporters*. He is, to an extent, aided and abetted by those sections of the media which have sought to normalise his presidency, treating him as a legitimate holder of the office and – partly thanks to the understandable need of media organisations to maintain cordial relations with and thus access to the White House – rarely holding him to account for the outright lies that he espouses. Nonetheless, many have speculated about what might happen if he were to be truly put on the spot. I therefore present these questions – none of which, I feel with some certainty, he would be able to answer in a meaningful way – in an attempt to plumb the depths of his ignorance, for it is within that dark, dismal chasm that we now all dwell.
1. What is the capital city of Iran?
2. Which country is your present wife from?
3. What are the opening words to the US Constitution?
4. Can you name 3 presidents before Kennedy and give their terms of office?
5. What does the term ‘balance of payments’ mean?
6. What is the name of your predecessor’s autobiography?
7. When did you last see your grandchildren?
8. What is the current population of the United States?
9. When did Kim Jong Il die?
10. What is the address of the White House?
11. Why was the American Civil War fought?
12. Can you name any one of the four soldiers who died in Niger two weeks ago?
13. What is ‘Leaves of Grass’?
14. Who composed the national anthem?
15. Can you name three leading US newspaper columnists?
16. Can you describe how climate change is supposed to work?
17. What is the name of the current Prime Minister of Canada?
18. What is the name of the athlete who inspired the #takeaknee movement?
19. What does the word ‘nuclear’ mean?
20. What is the territorial status of Puerto Rico?
21. What do you remember of the Oath of Office?
*Of course there will always be a hard lump of supporters who will never abandom him, maybe best thought of less as deplorables and more as unflushables.