The President is not an evil genius

Theo Dawson
4 min readJun 10, 2018

If I hear one more person say that they think President Trump is deliberately hiding his intelligence or is some kind of evil genius, I will scream (again).

When it comes to President Trump, I can find ZERO direct evidence to support any claim of high intelligence or even high quality thinking. And although — as others have argued — there is plenty of direct evidence of pathological lying, ethnocentricity, misogyny, and narcissism, these traits do not depend in any way on a high level of intelligence.

Summary of research to date: National Leaders’ thinking: What we’ve learned so far

Here are a few arguments I’ve heard in support of the hidden intelligence theory:

  • “If he isn’t brilliant, how did he get so rich?” This argument depends on the assumption that you can’t be born rich unless you are really smart.
  • “He couldn’t be a successful business man without being smart.” Seriously? Donald Trump was born to wealth and the power that comes with it. With that kind of a head start, you don’t need to be all that smart to be successful in business — you can hire smart people.
  • “Look what happened to Wall Street when the tax bill went through. He must know what he’s doing!” This argument depends on the assumption that a positive trend on Wall Street is adequate evidence that a tax law has had a positive impact.
  • “He passed the Montreal Cognitive Assessment!” Unfortunately, this just means that the President shows no signs of dementia.

In reality, the direct evidence of Trump’s intelligence demands the conclusion that he thinks like an indulged, self-centered, and confused teenager. As I have shown elsewhere, President Trump’s arguments are linear (like those of most teenagers) and the elements included in his arguments — when he bothers to go beyond simply stating his opinion — are simple causes or effects (typical of linear thinking). Here are a two recent examples of President Trump’s arguments — the best I could find:

You know, people would have one job, and they were petrified to leave their job… and now you’re going to have choice because there are a lot of jobs. We have a lot of job openings. And people that weren’t hiring for years and years and years — all of the sudden, we have jobs. (Roundtable on tax reform held in Cleveland, May 6, 2018).

In this statement, the President, in a round-about way, was expressing the idea that, “If unemployment is low, then people don’t have to be afraid to leave their current jobs” This is a linear, “if, then” argument, with one condition and one outcome.

China’s hurting us very badly on trade, but I have been soft on China because the only thing more important to me than trade is war. New York Times, Dec 28, 2017.

Here, President Trump prioritizes war over trade. He appears to mean something like, “I will push hard for a better trade deal, but I won’t push hard enough to start a war, because war is worse than a bad trade deal.” This is also essentially a simple “if, then” argument, with one input (pushing for a good trade deal) and one outcome (possible war).

I had to read three long interviews and several articles to come up with only two examples of arguments that included both an opinion and a reason for that opinion. For the most part, President Trump does not make arguments in which he explains his opinion. He simply states opinions.

In my search through interviews and articles, I also found it difficult to locate coherent arguments. As others have pointed out, the President’s language is imprecise, the connections he makes are unclear, he repeats himself, and he often uses words in ways that suggest he does not understand their meaning.

Evil genius or indulged, self-centered, and confused teenager?

Despite mounting evidence from both words and actions, some very smart people still seem to think that our President is hiding his intelligence. From my perspective, this looks an awful lot like a case of denial. The only excuse I can find for this belief is that it’s easier to live with than the alternative: We have elected a President who thinks like an indulged, self-centered, and confused teenager.

What’s keeping me up at night is no longer that Donald Trump is our President. Now, it’s the number of otherwise intelligent and educated people in positions of power or authority who claim to believe this man has the mental capacity for his role.


Theo Dawson

Award-winning educator, scholar, & consultant, Dr. Theo Dawson, discusses a wide range of topics related to learning and development.