Trump talks Islamist terrorism with Hugh Hewitt, doesn’t distinguish himself

Donald Trump went on Hugh Hewitt’s show today. How did it go for Trump? It could have gone better.

Hugh began by asking Trump whether he is familiar with General Soleiman. The following exchange ensued:

DT: Yes, but go ahead, give me a little, go ahead, tell me.

HH: He runs the Quds Forces.

DT: Yes, okay, right.

HH: Do you expect his behavior…

DT: The Kurds, by the way, have been horribly mistreated by …

HH: No, not the Kurds, the Quds Forces, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Forces.

DT: Yes, yes.

In other words, Trump thought that General Soleiman might be the leader of the Kurds.

Later, when Hugh asked him about “Hassan Nasrallah, and Zawahiri, and al-Julani, and al-Baghdadi,” Trump admitted that he did not yet “know the players without a scorecard.”

Trump argued that his ignorance about key terrorist players doesn’t matter because “by the time we get to office, they’ll all be changed; they’ll be all gone.” That’s a ridiculous claim. As Hugh pointed out, Nasrallah, for one, has been around forever and is firmly entrenched.

But Trump wouldn’t know this because he has no idea who Nasrallah is, and little idea about the situation in Lebanon.

Trump complained that Hugh was asking him “gotcha questions.” If Trump had been able to answer them, he wouldn’t have complained.

Moreover, Trump is quick to boast that he knows this or that important player personally, often adding that the player in question is a “friend.” In fact, he did this in the interview with Hugh when the subject of Benjamin Netanyahu came up.

It seems fair, then, to test the limits of Trump’s knowledge of key international players.

But does it matter whether Trump knows who Nasrallah, Soleiman, etc. are? The names aren’t terribly important when a candidate is this many months away from possibly becoming president. However, Trump’s unfamiliarity with them suggests a weak understanding of the specifics of the Middle East. His claim that these figures will be gone by the time he becomes president underscores the problem.

The problem isn’t insurmountable, however. As Trump told Hugh, he can learn this stuff.

What can’t be learned is sound instinct. Fortunately, Trump displayed pretty good foreign policy instincts throughout the interview (e.g., regarding the Kurds and Israel). Read the transcript and see whether you agree.

Hugh wasn’t being unreasonable when he told Trump that “on the front of Islamist terrorism, I’m looking for the next commander-in-chief, to know who Hassan Nasrallah is, and Zawahiri, and al-Julani, and al-Baghdadi.” It would be good if Trump were more knowledgeable about the Middle East.

But Trump wasn’t being unreasonable when he countered that he will know this stuff by the time (if it comes) that he is commander-in-chief.

I just wish he’d stop whining when confronted with questions he’d rather not be asked.