Well, we don’t have to imagine, because it has happened over and over again. And Trump’s geographic flubs have often been much more substantial than a slip of the tongue.
Trump’s claim Wednesday that the border wall was being built in Colorado (which borders New Mexico but not Mexico) is merely the latest example of him failing pretty simple geography or at least geography that you’d expect a president to know.
Like “57 states,” it might have just been a momentary mix-up — one that we probably shouldn’t read too much into! — but it’s hardly alone.
He also tweeted about violence in Paris and then declared, “Germany is a total mess-big crime."
There was the time he pronounced Tanzania, “Tan-ZAY-nee-uh,” like Tasmania (or the cartoon “Taz-Mania”). It’s pronounced “Tan-zuh-NEE-uh."
Trump’s troubles with Africa didn’t stop there. One of his most famous flubs was referring to the country of “Nambia” — twice. Aides clarified that he was referring to Namibia, not Zambia or Gambia.
Some of Trump’s other flubs or potential flubs in this arena include referring to Paradise, Calif., as “Pleasure” twice during the wildfires there. He has referred to the Persian Gulf as the “Arabian Gulf.” (That might have been deliberately provocative — a dig at Iran — but it doesn’t appear to be U.S. government policy; the White House still refers to it as the Persian Gulf.)
The French newspaper Le Monde has reported that Trump accused the leaders of the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania of being responsible for the war in Yugoslavia in the 1990s. The leaders apparently deduced that he had mixed up “Baltic” with “Balkan.” (The Baltics border the Baltic Sea in northern Europe, while the Balkans are much further south, near the former Yugoslavia.)
Trump reportedly did this despite first lady Melania Trump hailing from Slovenia, which used to be part of Yugoslavia.
Perhaps Trump’s most persistent struggle with European geography, though, has to do with the United Kingdom. Trump has repeatedly suggested that the “United Kingdom,” “Great Britain” and “England” might be interchangeable and that one or the other might have simply fallen out of favor in contemporary usage.
“I have great respect for the U.K., United Kingdom. Great respect,” Trump said in August 2018. “People call it Britain. They call it Great Britain. They used to call it England, different parts.”
In an interview with Piers Morgan during August’s Group of Seven conference in France, Trump made similar comments, prompting his friend to clarify that “United Kingdom” and “Great Britain” were not interchangeable. Trump then insisted that he knew the difference, but “a lot of people” don’t:
TRUMP: You have different names — you can say “England,” you can say “UK,” you can say “United Kingdom” so many different — you know you have, you have so many different names — Great Britain. I always say: “Which one do you prefer? Great Britain? You understand what I’m saying?’
MORGAN: You know Great Britain and the United Kingdom aren’t exactly the same thing?
TRUMP: Right, yeah. You know I know, but a lot of people don’t know that. But you have lots of different names. The fact is you make great product, you make great things. Even your farm product is so fantastic.
During the same trip, Trump disclosed that he had quizzed new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson about the differences.
“We have been with, I guess I would start out by saying ‘England,’ right,” Trump said. “You know, I asked Boris, where’s ‘England’? What is happening with ‘England’? They don’t use it too much anymore; we talked about it. It was very interesting.”
The White House has also mixed this up, tweeting that Trump was departing the U.K. even though he was leaving England for Scotland. For those unfamiliar, England is the largest state in both the U.K. and Great Britain. “Great Britain” incorporates Wales and Scotland, while the “United Kingdom” adds those two and Northern Ireland. (There are many other intricacies, but those are the basics.)
Even residents of the U.K. apparently mix these things up from time to time. And politicians are hardly immune from such flubs. There is a long history of world leaders, for example, referring to the continent of Africa as a “country.” Trump’s failures, though, are particularly conspicuous, given he leads a party that was so joyous that the last guy misspoke about the number of states in the United States.
There are many times during the Trump presidency where we could have asked, “What if Obama did this?” In this case, we pretty much know the answer.