Dumb?–and Dumber!!

Robert De Niro has once again opened up on Donald Trump, telling Late Show host Stephen Colbert that Trump is "a dumb bell," "wannabe gangster," and a "total loser."

Setting aside "wannabe gangster" as a below the belt shot from an entertainer who has been paid to impersonate thugs, enquiring minds might want to know by what criteria does a Hollywood actor call someone 'dumb' and  'loser.'

Dumb implies some combination of low IQ, ignorance, lack of education, and clueless behavior that results in repeated failure.  Donald Trump graduated from the Wharton School of Business of the University of Pennsylvania with a BS in education.  De Niro is a high school dropout.  Trump built a business empire, while DeNiro worked for directors who worked for producers who worked for companies the president could have purchased and made a good living pretending to be people he wasn't.  Hitchcock famously referred to actors as "cattle," and while this shocks critics and filmmakers who have to pretend that mugging for the camera is some kind of art, Hitchcock's opinion of the mummers and muggers was shared by John Ford and other directors.  (The great actor Vin Diesel complains about the contempt for actors!  Enough said.)

The second charge is "total loser."  Now, in most people's parlance, loser--much less total loser--is used to indicate people who fail in everything.  They fail in their career, have no decent job, and--if they have any money--are saddled with debt.  De Niro, an entertainer at the point of winding up his career is certainly no loser in the conventional sense.  He has made a good living and is esteemed by his peers in a business that generally commands little respect among men and women of any discretion.  Show people, we used to call them.  People who put on make up and pretend to do things they cannot do.  People who shamelessly pretend to have sex in order to entertain people of the lowest class and caliber.

Then there is Mr. Trump, whose enemies might describe as a robber baron and whose admirers regard as a business genius.  To gain some perspective, consider that a man who buys and builds up a fastfood outlet and makes a decent living out of it--such a man is generally not described as a loser, and his life's path is certainly preferable to those of  pornstars, lounge singers, and movie geeks who get paid to pretend to do disgusting things.

What about men who built corporate empires and get elected, by hook or crook, to the position that is  frequently described as Leader of the Free World?   Even the most despicable human being who succeeds in gaining such an office cannot be described as a loser except by little men who envy them their success.  (I am speaking only of that success in the world that film stars and politicians seek.)

Years ago, I liked Robert De Niro in several movies, especially in Martin Scorsese's King of Comedy.  It's a film about an obscure loser named Rupert Pupkin, who dreams of going on the Tonight show and being a top comic.  By kidnapping the host of Tonight (obviously Johnny Carson played beautifully by Jerry Lewis), Rupert Pupkin achieves his dream.  But, as anyone watching the film understands, Rupert Pupkin is still Rupert Pupkin, and poor Robert De Niro is still the pale-faced  teenage punk his friends called  Bobby Milk, too dumb and too lazy to finish high school or find a job anywhere but in the make-believe world of  Hollwyood movies that makes phony heroes of sissies like Brad Pitt and George Clooney.

Sure, Trump's behavior and speech leave a great deal to be desire--he is almost as inarticulate as Barack Obama.  In a profound sense he is a dumb bell who can never get beyond the adolescent glandular stage of men who live for testosterone highs.  If it is fair to call Trump dumb, what is the best word for someone like De Niro?  Dumber does not begin to cover it.  Indeed,  De Niro's crowning dumbness--one he shares with the dumbest of the dumb in our society--is that his nearly total ignorance even extends to his own stupidity.


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Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

3 Responses

  1. Ken Rosenberger says:

    Great article, Dr Fleming. You continue to provide the best defense for President Trump, who has so often let down his biggest early supporters. We at least knew what we were voting against in 2016. Indeed, what is the alternative? In any case, you have always reminded us not to expect too much from any politician.

    As for actors like Mr DeNiro, best to remember them as Pupkin and Young Vito, and forget their embodiments as “The Distinguished actor” or (in the UK) “Sir,” a title now bestowed on just about any celebrity.

  2. Andrew G Van Sant says:

    If DiNero has not criticized that female representative in the headscarf who has described the attack on the WTC as some people who did some things then he is a total buffoon. If you tour the WTC memorial in NYC you get to listen to a recording of DiNero talking about how great his hometown is and how heroic New Yorkers were in responding to the attack. Definitely a loser.

  3. Dominick D says:

    A buffoon who made his fortune pretending to be guys like Donald Trump.