What’s the Matter with Trump?

Street art of Donald Trump. Photograph Source: Tyler Merbler – CC BY 2.0

His transmission seems to be slipping, at least one of his cylinders is misfiring, the brakes are not grabbing and the stability of the “very stable genius” appears to be wobbling. Why? Did he really have “mini-strokes” in November?

Or are the reasons for his fantasies simply that he’s behind in the polls against Joe Biden and that neither his overdone baloney convention nor his desperation law-and-order campaign are getting much traction? Or all of the above?

What raises concerns about Trump’s state of mind two months before the election are his recent embrace of some wild conspiracy theories, his talk of “dark shadows” controlling Biden, his saying people were out to get him in a “coup,” his charging that “thugs” in “dark uniforms” were aboard a plane departing Washington, and his telling people to vote twice as a check on whether mail-in voting works.

That’s a lot of baggage, but there may be worse to come: His condemning those in the military who got wounded or died in battle.

Is he even more worried now that Jeffrey Goldberg, editor of The Atlantic, wrote a story in his magazine that surely damages Trump’s standing with the military, citing four sources as saying the president castigated as “losers” and “suckers” those who were wounded or killed while fighting on the French battlefield during World War I. He vociferously denied those comments. But, judging from his past, all lies. Didn’t his mother ever tell him the story of the boy who cried wolf?

As for the conspiracy theories, regardless of whether he is serious or playing us – he’s notorious for adopting conspiracy theories and sharing them – his statements to the Fox News host Laura Ingraham and reporters are unsettling and dangerous because he is, after all, the president. Who knows what can come of this, what actions, not only words spewing from a mouth running with indecipherable phrases?

As an example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the country should be ready for a COVID-19 vaccine in late October or early November. But the media, which have recorded Trump’s more than 20,000 lies, became skeptical, speculating whether it was a ruse engineered by the president as an October surprise to con the electorate into thinking salvation from the pandemic was near.

The skepticism was real because who knows what to believe anymore from an impeached president whose lying has been so pervasive that facts and the truth emanating from the White House have been squashed for nearly four years in favor of falsehoods and misleading statements to help keep him and his Republican party in power. How can one trust what he says?

Trump seemed to go off the deep end in the Ingraham interview Aug. 31 when she asked him what he meant when he said Biden was being controlled.

He denied it was a conspiracy theory and said, “People that you haven’t heard of. They’re people that are on the streets. They’re people that are controlling the streets. We had somebody get on a plane from a certain city this weekend and, in the plane, it was almost completely loaded with thugs wearing these dark uniforms, black uniforms with gear and this and that. They’re on a plane.”

Reporters asked him about that the following day. His response was muddled.

“I can probably refer you to the person (his witness) and they could do it,” Trump said. “I’d like to ask that person if it was OK. But a person was on a plane said there were about six people like that person, or more or less, and what happened is the entire plane filled up with the looters, the anarchists, the rioters, people that were obviously looking for trouble.”

“This was a firsthand account of a plane going from Washington to wherever,” he said.

What to make of this rambling discourse? It was similar to his lengthy monologues that hop from topic to topic during coronavirus briefings and news conferences.

On Aug. 29, the president retweeted a segment of a program from One America News Network, which favors Trump, that accused demonstrators of fomenting a coup against him, according to The New York Times. The network spouts conspiracy theories.

“According to the mainstream media,” the tweet said, “the riots and extreme violence are completely unorganized. However, it appears this coup attempt is led by a well-funded network of anarchists trying to take down the President.” There was no idea of who in the mainstream media was reporting this.

In a more serious vein, the Times reporter Michael S. Schmidt, who won two Pulitzers, wrote in his book “Donald T rump vs. the United States” that Vice President Mike Pence was told to be on standby when Trump suddenly went to an Army hospital in November for unstated reasons. He later said he was there for a physical checkup.

But Joe Lockhart, President Clinton’s press secretary, tweeted a suggestion that Trump may have had a stroke that was kept secret from the public.

Trump shot back with an angry tweet: “It never ends,” he wrote. “Now they are trying to say your favorite President, me, went to Walter Reed Medical Center, having suffered a series of mini-strokes. Never happened to THIS candidate.”

Wrong. It’s the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

And who said anything about mini-strokes? Is that what happened?

Richard C. Gross, who covered war and peace in the Middle East and was foreign editor of United Press International, served as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.