Washington (CNN)In the last six days, President Donald Trump has granted extended interviews to 12(!) major media outlets. And, in almost every one he's managed to say something -- or a lot of somethings -- that has created controversy and raised real questions about what he actually knows (and what he doesn't.)
Trump's 100-days interviews prove it: He needs to stop talking so much
It all began last Wednesday when Trump sat down with Reuters. Not only did Trump wax nostalgic about his "old life" and admit that being president is a lot harder than he thought, he also managed to ramp up the rhetoric against North Korea by telling the interviewers that "there is a chance we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea."
And it ended -- maybe? -- on Monday with excerpts of Trump's interviews with CBS' John Dickerson and SiriusXM's Salena Zito as well as a new interview with Bloomberg. In those interviews, Trump said, among many other things, that "I don't stand by anything" and insisted that his allegations about President Obama wiretapping Trump Tower during the 2016 election had been proven. (They haven't.) He also demonstrated only the loosest understanding of US history regarding Andrew Jackson's life and the causes of the Civil War.
In between those bookends, Trump claimed in various interviews to have had among the most successful first 100 days in presidential history and suggested it might be time to change the "archaic" rules of the Senate.
Taken as a whole, this run of interviews -- ostensibly aimed at touting Trump's accomplishments over his first 100 days in office -- look like a very bad idea, showcasing the worst Trump traits and sending the news cycle veering wildly off the course onto which the administration had hoped to steer it.
Trump is not a big details person. He has made clear that he has zero interest in reading briefing books to get up to speed on an issue, preferring shorter, bullet-pointed lists heavy with charts, graphs and maps. He views himself as a sort of cheerleader-in-chief -- the face of the United States whose main job is to talk tough and lead. The specifics of how certain policies actually get done is not something with which he's terribly concerned.
He is also given to exaggeration, at best, and complete misrepresentation of the facts at worst. He simply, well, says stuff -- facts be damned.
Given those two tendencies, sitting down with a dozen media outlets is not a good idea. Given room to roam, rhetorically, Trump does so -- answering hypotheticals, wandering down rabbit holes and exposing the fact that he is simply not terribly well versed in the meat of many of these issues.
Take Trump's answers to CBS' John Dickerson regarding the details of the healthcare bill currently in front of Congress -- and, specifically, on whether or not the revised bill mandates that insurance companies cover people with pre-existing conditions. Here's Trump's answer (the full transcript is here):
"Pre-existing conditions are in the bill. And I just watched another network than yours, and they were saying, 'Pre-existing is not covered.' Pre-existing conditions are in the bill. And I mandate it. I said, 'Has to be.'"
Except, at least according to the most recent version of the bill, they're not. In fact, the way Republican negotiators won over support from the conservative Freedom Caucus was to agree that states could waive the pre-existing condition mandate. If, suddenly, that is back in the bill, the Freedom Caucus support walks.
Trump just isn't engaged at that level of depth with the legislation. The issue is the creation of high risk pools in states that might opt out of covering everyone with pre-existing conditions and how people could pay for what would likely be very expensive coverage. And, because Trump doesn't know the details, he just wings it and, in the process, muddies an already-difficult challenge of convincing wavering Republicans to be for a bill that may never go anywhere in the Senate.
Time and again, Trump's lack of preparation and lack of curiosity about the nitty-gritty details about a particular piece of legislation or a geopolitical reality -- he offered controversial Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte a meeting at the White House, for example -- keep getting him into trouble.
He needs to talk less, not more. Or he needs to study more before he talks more. Being president is not the sort of thing you can make up on the fly. This series of interviews suggest that's exactly what Trump's doing -- and explain why he's had so much trouble in his first 100 days.