When they are sworn in, office-holders take an oath including these or some variation of these words, "I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic..." Obviously, a person who doesn't know the Constitution is not competent to support and defend it.
Donald Trump is a prime example of why it is important that an office-holder should have at least a working knowledge of the Constitution and American history. Perhaps Trump wouldn't have had such autocratic tendencies if he knew what our nation's Founders intended. More than once Trump has made proposals contrary to the U.S. Constitution. As Winston Churchill wrote, "Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it."
Examples of Trump's historic ignorance
Shortly after the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, Trump told Fox News that the U.S. government should close mosques. That's a textbook example of the kind of action expressly prohibited by the First Amendment—which protects religious liberty.
Soon after Trump was elected, then-House Speaker Paul Ryan suggested that President Donald Trump's constant conversations with former FBI Director James Comey were excusable because he's "new to this." The senior Republican senator from Maine, Susan Collins, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, also explained that "he just does not fully understand or appreciate the boundaries."
Another Republican used the same rhetoric about political inexperience to excuse Trump's possible obstruction of justice. After all, is it obstruction if you don't know you're actually obstructing? "We have a president that’s not from the political class," noted Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz., when asked by NPR whether he welcomed Trump's investigation at the hands of special prosecutor Robert Mueller. "The learning of the discipline use of language and what certain words mean in our context. If you're not from this world, you may not have developed that discipline."
Trump said he'd "met with the president of the Virgin Islands" to discuss the hurricanes that have devastated Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the island. But Trump could not have spoken to the "president of the Virgin Islands" because, of course, he is the president of the U.S. Virgin Islands, whose residents are U.S. citizens.
Trump dismissed as “phony” a section of the Constitution that bars federal office holders from accepting gifts from foreign governments. "You people with this phony Emoluments Clause," he said. (See video below)
Trump complained that Twitter violated his First Amendment rights when they "censored" his tweets either by blocking them or labeling them as untrue. In reality, the First Amendment says, "Congress shall make no law...prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press". Private websites, newspapers, etc. are free to make editorial decisions and may choose to publish or not publish submissions.
After he lost the election, Trump exhibited ample ignorance and hostility to the American electoral process as prescribed in the Constitution. His string of losing lawsuits challenging the outcome of the election are legendary. Vice President Mike Pence finally had to tell Trump that the Constitution did not allow him to change the results of the election during the largely ceremonial certification process.
When it comes to American history, Trump is also an ignoramus. Trump was amazed to learn that Abraham Lincoln was a Republican. "A lot of people don't know that!", he has often exclaimed. Trump asked Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, "Didn't you guys burn down the White House?" (No, that would be the British in 1814.)
Trump isn't unique in his ignorance of American history. Tommy Tuberville, the incoming Republican senator from Alabama, didn't learn much about World War II. Tuberville told his supporters about the military record of his father, an American G.I. who landed on Normandy Beach in D-Day. The new senator described how his father took part in "liberating Paris from socialism and communism." In actuality the Nazi regime of Germany occupied Paris and France at that time.
We can weed out the worst candidates
To avoid having nincompoops running for political office, especially for higher office, who don't know and don't understand the U.S. Constitution or American history, I have a simple proposal. Candidates for office should know as much about the Constitution and our history as we expect naturalized citizens to know. Therefore, during candidate debates, the candidates should be asked by the moderators to answer a few of the questions as found on the U.S. Citizenship Test.
Trump would not have had the discipline to study the Constitution and American history if he knew he'd be asked questions during the debate. The very stable genius's fragile ego wouldn't have allowed him to look stupid on stage, especially when he could lose in a public intelligence contest to his opponent. Remember, Trump is a guy who hired somebody to take his SAT's to get into college.
Is it too much to expect candidates to publicly answer questions like these?
Before he was President, Eisenhower was a general. What war was he in?
During the Cold War, what was the main concern of the United States?
How many amendments does the Constitution have?
How many justices are on the Supreme Court?
How many U.S. Senators are there?
How old do citizens have to be to vote for President?
If both the President and the Vice President can no longer serve, who becomes President?
If the President can no longer serve, who becomes President?
In what month do we vote for President?
Name one American Indian tribe in the United States.
Name one branch or part of the government.
Name one of the two longest rivers in the United States.
Name one problem that led to the Civil War.
Name one right only for United States citizens.
Name one state that borders Canada.
Name one state that borders Mexico.
Name one U.S. territory.
Name one war fought by the United States in the 1800s.
Name one war fought by the United States in the 1900s.
Name the U.S. war between the North and the South.
Name two national U.S. holidays.
Name your U.S. Representative.
The Federalist Papers supported the passage of the U.S. Constitution. Name one of the writers.
The House of Representatives has how many voting members?
The idea of self-government is in the first three words of the Constitution. What are these words?
There are four amendments to the Constitution about who can vote. Describe one of them.
There were 13 original states. Name three
Under our Constitution, some powers belong to the federal government. What is one power of the federal government?
Under our Constitution, some powers belong to the states. What is one power of the states?
We elect a President for how many years?
We elect a U.S. Representative for how many years?
We elect a U.S. Senator for how many years?
What are the two major political parties in the United States?
What are the two parts of the U.S. Congress?
What are two Cabinet-level positions?
What are two rights in the Declaration of Independence?
What are two rights of everyone living in the United States?
What are two ways that Americans can participate in their democracy?
What did Martin Luther King, Jr. do?
What did Susan B. Anthony do?
What did the Declaration of Independence do?
What did the Emancipation Proclamation do?
What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution?
What do we show loyalty to when we say the Pledge of Allegiance?
What does the Constitution do?
What does the judicial branch do?
What does the President's Cabinet do?
What group of people was taken to America and sold as slaves?
What happened at the Constitutional Convention?
What is an amendment?
What is freedom of religion?
What is one promise you make when you become a United States citizen?
What is one reason colonists came to America?
What is one responsibility that is only for United States citizens?
What is one right or freedom from the First Amendment?
What is one thing Benjamin Franklin is famous for?
What is the "rule of law"?
What is the capital of the United States?
What is the capital of your state?
What is the economic system in the United States?
What is the highest court in the United States?
What is the name of the national anthem?
What is the name of the President of the United States now?
What is the name of the Speaker of the House of Representatives now?
What is the name of the Vice President of the United States now?
What is the political party of the President now?
What is the supreme law of the land?
What major event happened on September 11, 2001, in the United States?
What movement tried to end racial discrimination?
What ocean is on the East Coast of the United States?
What ocean is on the West Coast of the United States?
What stops one branch of government from becoming too powerful?
What territory did the United States buy from France in 1803?
What was one important thing that Abraham Lincoln did?
When do we celebrate Independence Day?
When is the last day you can send in federal income tax forms?
When must all men register for the Selective Service?
When was the Constitution written?
When was the Declaration of Independence adopted?
Where is the Statue of Liberty?
Who did the United States fight in World War II?
Who does a U.S. Senator represent?
Who is in charge of the executive branch?
Who is one of your state's U.S. Senators now?
Who is the "Father of Our Country"?
Who is the Chief Justice of the United States now?
Who is the Commander in Chief of the military?
Who is the Governor of your state now?
Who lived in America before the Europeans arrived?
Who makes federal laws?
Who signs bills to become laws?
Who vetoes bills?
Who was President during the Great Depression and World War II?
Who was President during World War I?
Who was the first President?
Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?
Why did the colonists fight the British?
Why do some states have more Representatives than other states?
Why does the flag have 13 stripes?
Why does the flag have 50 stars?
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