Donald Trump has lost his grip on reality: Editorial
Last week we learned that Donald Trump is morally unfit to be president of the United States. This week we’re learning something just as disturbing – that he may have only a tenuous hold on reality.
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Last week Americans and people around the world learned that Donald Trump is morally unfit to be president of the United States. His response to the tragedy in Charlottesville showed he was unwilling to stand up for basic decency.
This week we’re learning something just as disturbing – that Trump may have only a tenuous hold on reality. The frightening prospect that the man with his finger on the nuclear button may actually be mentally unwell is forcing itself onto the public agenda.
Anyone who watched Trump’s extended rant at a campaign-style rally in Phoenix, Ariz., on Tuesday night could not help but wonder if the president is losing his grip. For 75 minutes he lashed out at his perceived enemies, flagrantly misrepresented his multiple attempts at a response to Charlottesville, and indulged himself in extended bouts of self-pity.
Words hardly begin to capture the profoundly unbalanced nature of Trump’s diatribe. Unleashed before a crowd of supporters, unscripted by his handlers, he turned live on TV into a caricature of himself, the proverbial car crash you can’t stop watching. At one point he was boasting pathetically about living in “a bigger, more beautiful apartment” than the “elites” he believes have it in for him.
This has gone beyond the usual calculated lashing-out at enemies in ways designed to gin up Trump’s so-called “base.” There’s no longer any obvious method to the madness. For an increasing number of people, there’s just madness – in the literal meaning of the word.
This is very touchy stuff for Americans. The presidency is a revered institution and the idea that the man in the Oval Office could be unhinged (a word now being routinely used to describe Trump) is profoundly threatening. For the rest of the world, it’s almost as upsetting, considering the crucial leadership role the United States still plays.
And yet… the Washington Post this week carried the headline “It’s time to talk about Trump’s mental health” atop an article by its Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Eugene Robinson. “It is uncomfortable to talk about the president’s mental health,” he wrote a day before the Phoenix rant. “But at this point it is irresponsible not to.”
James Clapper, a top intelligence official under presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, called Trump’s speech “downright scary and disturbing…. I really question his ability… his fitness to be in office.”
A Democratic senator, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, was caught on a live microphone telling another senator, Susan Collins, that “I think he’s crazy. I mean I don’t say that lightly and as a kind of a goofy guy.” To which Collins, a Republican, responded: “I’m worried.”
Other Republicans are treading more lightly but the cracks are starting to appear in their support for Trump. Republican senator Bob Corker of Tennessee raised eyebrows by saying Trump “has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence to be president.”
In the White House itself, a picture is emerging of an erratic president held up by a coterie of generals and surrounded by aides who see their job as saving America from the top guy. The online site Axios quotes its White House sources as saying they must stay because of the “urgent importance of having smart, sane people around Trump to fight his worst instincts…. ‘You have no idea how much crazy stuff we kill’.”
Some commentators are calling for action under the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gives the cabinet and vice-president power to relieve the president of his powers if he’s unable to carry them out.
The fact that this is even being seriously discussed shows how far things have gone. Far from growing into the job, Trump is deteriorating, lashing out as his support leaks away.
As ever, the key to his survival is support from his fellow Republicans. That may finally be weakening: the New York Times reports authoritatively that the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, is feuding bitterly with Trump and has “privately expressed uncertainty” that his administration can be saved.
Regardless of political calculations, it doesn’t deserve to be saved. After Charlottesville, Trump forfeited any moral claim to lead his nation. And after Phoenix, there’s ample reason to believe he no longer has a firm grasp on reality.