There was so much evil and so much stupid in the Trump administration that I had almost forgotten about the Greenland purchasing nonsense. On the stupid side of the ledger of the worst president in American history, this is at the very top. And now we have a good reminder of it.
One of the odder moments of Donald J. Trump’s presidency came when he publicly floated the idea of buying Greenland. It caused a predictable furor, generated gales of late-night television jokes and soured relations with Denmark, which rejected the idea of selling the giant Arctic territory.
But it was no passing whim. While many assumed at the time that it was just Mr. Trump being Mr. Trump, expressing a far-fetched thought that came into his head, in fact the idea had been planted by one of his billionaire friends and became the subject of months of serious internal study and debate that flabbergasted cabinet secretaries and White House aides.
The notion came from Ronald S. Lauder, the New York cosmetics heir who had known Mr. Trump since college. “A friend of mine, a really, really experienced businessman, thinks we can get Greenland,” Mr. Trump told his national security adviser. “What do you think?” That led to a special team being assigned to evaluate the prospects, resulting in a memo that laid out various options, including a lease proposal akin to a New York real estate deal.
Ah, yes, makeup billionaire foreign policy. What could go wrong?
The Greenland idea was just one of many that left aides trying to find ways of steering Mr. Trump away from paths they deemed bizarre or reckless. After an early Oval Office meeting where he expounded on his interest in Greenland, one mystified cabinet member was struck by the delusional nature of it. Other advisers tried to keep the idea from leaking out for fear that it would cause a diplomatic incident.
Mr. Trump’s mercurial approach to the presidency so baffled John F. Kelly, his second chief of staff, that Mr. Kelly secretly bought a copy of a best-selling book by a group of psychiatrists questioning Mr. Trump’s mental health. Mr. Kelly told others that the book was a helpful guide to a president he came to consider a pathological liar whose inflated ego was in fact the sign of a deeply insecure person.
Mr. Kelly often regaled others with stories of Mr. Trump’s ignorance about basic historical facts and his inability to absorb information. But it was Mr. Trump’s flawed judgment that most rattled Mr. Kelly, and he concluded that the problem was not that Mr. Trump did not know right from wrong, but that “he always does the wrong thing.”
Mr. Kelly grew so disaffected from Mr. Trump that he snapped at him when the president refused to lower the flag after Senator John McCain’s death. “If you don’t support John McCain’s funeral, when you die, the public will come to your grave and piss on it,” Mr. Kelly told Mr. Trump, according to interviews for the book.
Oh John, let me assure you that people will be pissing on Trump’s grave either way.