Cows! Squirrels! Airplanes! The Many Thoughts of Donald Trump

A Boeing 777-300, flown by Emirates. Want to know what's good and bad about this airplane? Of course there is only one expert to consult. (Paul Spijkers via Wikimedia)
Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Last night I mentioned the resemblance between Donald Trump’s frequently distractable discourse—I don’t like mosquitos! Back to Mike Pence!—and Danny DeVito’s famous “Cows!” scene in Throw Momma From the Train. As a public service, I offer a glimpse of Cows once more:

Many readers have written in to say that the closer comparison might be Dug the Dog, with his “Squirrel!” scene from the great movie Up. You be the judge:

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During one of Trump’s Cows! / Squirrel!  interludes in his interview with the Washington Post, he offered the following observations about plane-crash news that was flickering across the screen:

[Trump looks at a nearby television, which was tuned to Fox News.] Oh, did they have another one of these things go down? It’s terrible that crash. Never liked that plane, structurally. I never thought that plane could—

The dash-mark at the end is when the interviewer, Philip Rucker, tries to bring Trump back to the topic at hand.

A reader in the Northwest took particular note of Trump’s comments:

I’m a stress analyst at Boeing and I just wanted to let you know that we’ve been chuckling at Trump’s latest quote from his interview with Philip Rucker: “Never liked that plane, structurally...”

I assume he was referring to the Emirates 777-300 that crashed in Dubai. I’m with many of my co-workers in hoping that a reporter asks a follow-up question on what, precisely, Mr. Trump dislikes about the structural design of the 777.  I’m sure his answer would delight and entertain! Or, more surprisingly, he might be well versed in shear flow theory. Who knows!?

The reader’s email had the subject line “Donald Trump—Structural Engineer.” Other possibilities would include: “Donald Trump—New Frontiers in Bullshit” or “Donald Trump—It’s Even Worse Than You Think.”

But on reflection, I like plain old “Donald Trump—Structural Engineer” for its understated charm. What Donald Trump doesn’t know about an airplane matches what he doesn’t know about everything else.