Have we stopped to appreciate how crazy Donald Trump has gotten recently?
Updated by Ezra Klein on July 27, 2016 @ezraklein
Last Thursday, Donald Trump gave a pretty normal convention speech. It was darker, grimmer, and more pessimistic than most, but it was free of Trump’s odder tics — he stayed on teleprompter, he bit back his riffs, he didn’t try to settle old scores or freelance on major policies. Perhaps this was the pivot. Perhaps Trump would settle down now that the nomination was his.
The very next day, Trump walked out and gave one of the craziest, most self-destructive press conferences in political history. He was off script. He was unhinged. He was settling scores.
“I don’t want [Ted Cruz’s] endorsement,” he said, for absolutely no reason. “If he gives it, I will not accept it. Just so you understand. I will not accept it. It won’t matter. Honestly, he should have done it, because nobody cares and he would have been in better shape for four years from now if he’s gonna — I don’t see him winning anyway, frankly.”
He continued: “All I did was point out that on the cover of the National Enquirer there was a picture of [Rafael Cruz, Ted Cruz’s father] and crazy Lee Harvey Oswald having breakfast. Now, Ted never denied that it was his father. Instead he said, ‘Donald Trump!’ — I had nothing to do with it!”
Cruz, of course, did deny that it was his father. But the funnier, weirder part of that riff is Trump saying ,”I had nothing to do with it!” He both repeats and rejects that claim a few minutes later.
“This had nothing to do with me,” Trump said. “Except I might have pointed it out, but it had nothing to do with me, I have no control over anything. I might have pointed it out. But nobody ever denied — did anyone ever deny that it was his father? It’s a little hard to do, because it looks like him.”
Yes, it has nothing to do with Trump, except he’s the presidential candidate who keeps bringing up a conspiracy theory with literally no evidence behind it. You could write a dissertation on how bizarre this defense is, and what it means that Trump appears to believe it, or thinks someone else might believe it.
But don’t lose sight of the wild forest amid all of Trump’s screaming trees: There was no reason for Trump to say any of this. Trump had just accepted the Republican Party’s nomination for president. Cruz had been vanquished, booed off the stage. Trump’s opponent, now, was Hillary Clinton. But he couldn’t help himself. He couldn’t stay on message, he couldn’t suppress the crazy, for 24 hours.
At the conservative Weekly Standard, Stephen Hayes was just agog. This is “not about tactics or messaging,” he wrote. “It’s about something simpler and something much more important: Donald Trump is not of sound mind.”
Trump’s press conference today was similarly bananas. He walked out onstage and blasted the job Tim Kaine had done in … New Jersey? Of course, Tim Kaine was the governor of Virginia. Trump seems to have literally confused the Democrats’ vice presidential nominee with Tom Kean, the former Republican governor of New Jersey.
Unwilling to stop there, Trump went on to comment on the hack of the Democratic National Committee’s emails, which most experts think was conducted by Russia. “Russia, if you are listening, I hope you are able to find the 33,000 emails that are missing — I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press,” he said.
So, yes, Donald Trump went out and asked a foreign government to conduct cyber espionage in order to help his campaign. This came only hours after his running mate, Mike Pence, had warned of “serious consequences” if Russia truly was behind the DNC hack. Apparently those serious consequences would be … future assignments from Donald Trump?
This isn’t normal behavior from a major American politician. It’s not even particularly normal behavior from Donald Trump. After he picked Mike Pence, empowered campaign chair Paul Manafort, and gave a structured convention speech, there looked to be a chance that Trump was unveiling a new, more sober persona for the general election. But he can’t do it. He can’t suppress his own mania for even a week.
It’s weird to keep saying this, but this is not okay. This is not a man with the temperament, the steadiness, the discipline to be president. The issue here isn’t left versus right, or liberal versus conservative, or Democrat versus Republican. It’s crazy versus not crazy. Donald Trump, of late, has been acting pretty crazy. That’s not acceptable in the job he’s running to fill.