Update from Philip Rucker on Trump as Aerospace Guy

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Previous items today concerned Donald Trump’s reaction to an airplane crash that was noted briefly on Fox News, while he was in the middle of a major newspaper interview. Trump said he’d “never liked that plane, structurally,” but the question is which plane he considered flawed. Had he just seen news about the crash-landing of a Boeing 777 in Dubai? Or about a Navy F-18 in Nevada? Or a twin-engine Piper Seneca in Arizona?

I asked Philip Rucker, who was conducting the great WaPo interview with Trump, whether he noticed or remembered what Trump had seen. His reply:

I wish I had a definitive answer for you, but unfortunately I do not.

Unlike Donald Trump, I was seated with my back to the TV, so I wasn't paying much attention to what was on the screen. The TV was tuned to Fox News. I recall it was a small plane crash and not the Emirates 777. It might have been the Sedona crash….  I do not believe it was a military plane, but I cannot say for certain.

The crash was only briefly on the newscast. Much of the time during our interview Fox was covering Trump.

So odds favor the Sedona crash of the Piper Seneca—in circumstances (night flight, mountainous terrain, older pilot flying on his own) that likely have nothing whatsoever to do with aircraft-structural concerns.

***

Meaning-of-Trump point: the way his mind works. Immediately after an Egyptair flight disappeared over the Mediterranean in June, Trump declared,

What just happened? A plane got blown out of the sky. And if anybody thinks it wasn’t blown out of the sky, you’re 100% wrong, folks, OK? You’re 100% wrong.

No one knows for sure now, and no one had any idea then, what had happened to that Egyptair plane. Yet Trump moved instantly to “you’re 100% wrong!” mode. Again this week, in his instant reaction to whatever crash he saw, Trump responded instantly (and probably incorrectly). And he was in a position to make this misjudgment because he was so interested in seeing news that was mainly about himself.

I know, there’s hardly any news value in pointing this out any more, but: the man doesn’t know very much, isn’t aware of what he doesn’t know, thinks poorly, yet is super-decisive. Ryan, McConnell, Rubio, Cotton, et al: Heck of a job!